Important Bird Areas

Vermillion Bottoms-Lower Cannon River IBA

Minnesota

The Vermillion Bottoms ?V Lower Cannon River IBA is located in Dakota and Goodhue Counties. It extends along the Mississippi River from the Hwy 61 bridge in Hastings (river mile 814) downstream to the Hwy 63 bridge (river mile 790.5) in Red Wing and west along the Cannon River to approx. Welch. This IBA is primarily a floodplain forest with a total of about 25,000 acres, which includes about 11,000 acres of forest. There are about 10,000 acres of public lands in the IBA.

This IBA follows the project area of a Minnesota DNR interdisciplinary planning effort (Subsection Forest Resource Management Plan) for southeastern Minnesota that included the Vermillion Bottoms and Lower Cannon River area. The management plan that resulted from this planning effort is used as the basis for this IBA nomination, and much of the data and information in this nomination comes from the management plan.

This IBA is accessible by public roads and boat.

Primary public lands within the project area include the Hastings Scientific and Natural Area, the Cannon River Turtle Preserve Scientific and Natural Area, the Gores Pool Wildlife Management Area (owned by the US Army Corps of Engineers and leased to the state DNR, Division of Fish and Wildlife), other Army Corps of Engineers land, the Espen Island Wildlife Management Area, and the Collischan Bottoms State Forest, a unit of the R.J. Dorer Memorial Forest. Independent School District #256 owns several large parcels in the Cannon River bottoms. In addition, there are several parcels owned by the State Treasurer/Auditor, several by the State Department of Transportation, and several tax-forfeited parcels.

This IBA is located within the Eastern Broadleaf Province, Paleozoic Plateau and Minnesota and NE Iowa Morainal Sections, and St. Paul Baldwin Plains and the Blufflands subsections.

Ornithological Summary

Located at the junction of the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers, the Vermillion Bottoms ?V Lower Cannon River IBA is a critical migratory corridor for waterfowl, forest songbirds, raptors, and waterbirds. This IBA is one of the top four sites in Minnesota for rare forest birds. It has the highest numbers of two special concern bird species in southeast Minnesota: red-shouldered hawks and cerulean warblers. It also provides important nesting and/or migratory habitat for peregrine falcons, bald eagles, and Acadian flycatchers, and includes a bald eagle winter roost site and two colonial nesting sites for great blue herons and great egrets. A total of 14 birds of conservation concern have been documented in the site by the Minnesota County Biological Survey. In addition, peregrine falcons, which are state threatened nest in nest-boxes nearby and use the project area for feeding. Area-sensitive rare forest birds have been documented throughout the project area. A total of 153 bird species have been recorded breeding or migrating through the project area.

Located within the Eastern Broadleaf Province, the most heavily populated part of the state, this IBA is part of the Blufflands and St. Paul-Baldwin Plains subsections, identified by Tommorrow??s Habitat for the Wild and Rare as top two subsections for species in greatest conservation need in the state. The Blufflands subsection, within which most of this IBA lies, has 55% of the avian Species of Conservation Concern, and the St. Paul Baldwin Plains has 60%.

MN-1d. Migratory bottleneck
125 species have been recorded migrating through this area. Bardon (The Loon 73:(4) pp 231-235) documented a total of 100,332 birds including over 75,000 waterbirds, and 5,315 raptors (notably 2,188 Bald Eagles and 1,757 Red-tailed Hawks, 19 of which were the Harlan??s subspecies) migrating over the Precott-Hasting area 11 March ?V 25 April 2001.

MN-2a. Endangered, threatened or species of special concern
This site is particularly important for Red-shouldered Hawks and Cerulean Warblers. Significant breeding populations of these two species are found here. Other species in this category which can be found here are (* indicates confirmed breeding species) : American White Pelican, Bald Eagle *, Red-shouldered Hawk *, Peregrine Falcon, Wilson's Phalarope, Franklin??s Gull, Forster??s Tern, Acadian Flycatcher*, Cerulean Warbler*.

MN-2b. Species of conservation concern
.Other species in this category which can be found here are (* indicates confirmed breeding species) : American Black Duck, Northern Pintail, Canvasback, Lesser Scaup, Least Bittern *, Northern Goshawk, Swainson??s Hawk, Red-headed Woodpecker *, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, Cape May Warbler, Black-throated Blue, Bay-breasted Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler *, Connecticut Warbler, Canada Warbler, Dickcissel, Bobolink.

MN-3. Rare, threatened, or unique habitat assemblages

Floodplain Forest

Upland Deciduous

Oak Savanna

Conservation Issues

Tommorrow's Habitat for the Wild and Rare lists habitat loss and habitat degredation as being threats to 82% and 88% respectively, of the species of conservation concern in this area. Urban development and recreational pressures are intense in this part of the state.

The planning group that created the Technical Guidance Document for the Vermillion Bottoms and Lower Cannon River Area Floodplains identified the following 11 management issues. They also compiled 18 management goals and 27 specific management actions designed to accomplish these goals.

Issue 1. Even-aged Forest.
Issue 2. Reed Canary Grass Prevents Forest Regeneration
Issue 3. Reduced Habitat Diversity From Presettlement Patterns
Issue 4. Forest Health
Issue 5. Degraded Conditions for Forest Interior Birds
Issue 6. Fragmented Ownership - With fragmented ownership, it is hard to develop a consistent, landscape-based management plan, and forest stand data are generally not available from private lands.
Issue 7. Missing Tree Species
Issue 8. Disturbed Hydrologic Regime
Issue 9. Proposed Increased Flow to Vermillion River
Issue 10. Special Habitat Needs for Priority Wildlife Species
Issue 11. Need for Research -

Habitat

Vermillion Bottoms-Cannon River IBA contains one of the largest expanses of floodplain native plant communities in southeast Minnesota. These communities include floodplain forest, lowland hardwood forest, mixed emergent marsh, wet meadow, and calcareous fen. The calcareous fen occurs on the Cannon River only. Floodplain forest dominated by silver maple and emergent marsh dominated by river bulrush occupy large portions of the project area. Because flooding of the Vermillion River is relatively natural (without impoundments), the shallower wet meadow and lowland hardwood forest communities are present in this site but are absent to uncommon in much of the Mississippi River floodplain. Most of the forests in the project area are 50 to 70 years old, originating after logging following lock and dam construction, and are dominated by silver maple.