The Blufflands-Root River Important Bird Area, located in the very SE corner of Minnesota, is situated in the ?driftless area,? one of the most interesting geologic regions of Minnesota. The driftless area was untouched by the most recent glacial advances, but as the glaciers receded, torrents of melt water poured into streams and rivers, carving the deep, rugged valleys that currently define the area. The IBA is located primarily in Houston and Fillmore Counties but extends into Winona and Olmstead counties as well. Adjacent to the Upper Mississippi River NWR IBA, the Blufflands-Root River IBA is otherwise located in a primarily agricultural landscape and provides the only bird-friendly habitat in the region. Blufflands-Root River IBA is easily accessed from I-90 on the north, US Hwy 52 from the west, and State Highways 43, 30, 76, and 44.
Extending from the Mississippi River on the east through much of Houston and Fillmore Counties, it encompasses the Root River Valley and its primary tributaries. Much of this IBA consists of steep wooded valleys, or coulees, connecting the flat agricultural areas with the river valley below. This topography results in a mix of upland deciduous and floodplain forests, and open grasslands intersected by streams. This habitat mix supports not only a significant number of breeding species but provides important migratory stopover habitat in a landscape otherwise devoid of wildlife habitat. In addition, the area is important to the 111 species of state-listed plants and animals residing in the Root River watershed. The streams provide an exceptional trout fishery and are important to a variety of mussels, insects and other aquatic life.
The Blufflands-Root River IBA is marked by deep river valleys, steep river banks, floodplain forests and upland deciduous forests. This mix of habitats is important to both breeding and migrating species and is located in an area otherwise dominated by agriculture. The river valleys and upland deciduous forests are home to several species of special concern in MN, the Louisiana Waterthrush, Cerulean Warbler, and Acadian Flycatcher, which all nest within the boundaries of this IBA. The deciduous forests and floodplain areas provide prime habitat for Red-shouldered Hawk, Barred Owl, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Tufted Titmouse, Wood Thrush, Blue-winged Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, and Scarlet Tanager. The open grassland areas provide prime habitat for several sparrow species as well as Bobolink, and Eastern Meadowlark.
Water quality is threatened by non-point source pollution. According to the MN DNR, from 1994-2008, eleven stream reaches in the Root River watershed have been placed on the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency?s impaired waters list for turbidity. These include the Root River?s main stem from Thompson Creek in Hokah downstream to the Mississippi River, as well as substantial portions of the North Branch above Whalan and the South Branch west of Preston.
Frac sand mining is also a future concern for this area.
The IBA has a mix of private and State ownership. The state ownership is comprised of State Forest, Scientifc and Natural Areas, State Parks, and Wildlife Management Areas. Much of the Blufflands-Root River IBA is located in the Richard J. Dorer State Forest. There are 2 State Parks; Beaver Creek Valley State Park and Forestville/ Mystery Cave State Park. Four Scientific and Natural Areas comprise 825 acres; Mound Prairie SNA, Rushford Sand Barrens SNA, Pin Oak Prairie SNA, and Wykoff Balsam Fir SNA. There are 7 WMAs in the IBA; Mound Prairie WMA, Root River WMA Winnebago Creek WMA, Chisholm Valley WMA, Ferndale Ridge WMA Dr. John C. Hvoslef WMA and William Pease WMA.