The Des Moines River IBA extends from Windom, Cottonwood County,
south through Jackson County to the Minnesota-Iowa border (Figure 1). The vast majority of the IBA lies within
Jackson County, with a small portion in Cottonwood County. Cities in or near the
IBA include Jackson in Jackson County, and Windom in Cottonwood County.
The Des Moines River Valley forms an important corridor of
native habitats through an otherwise heavily cultivated portion of Minnesota. In
the more heavily-forested portion of the IBA, in and around Kilen Woods State
Park and Belmont County Park, bluffs rise 100-200 feet above the river. The Des Moines River is a designated State water
trail, with several designated watercraft campsites. The IBA includes approximately 61 kilometers (38
miles) of the Des Moines River (river miles 0 -38). There are several small lakes within the IBA,
including Boot, Cottonwood, Wolf, and Summit lakes.
<strong>The Des Moines River IBA encompasses a variety
of grassland, wetland, and forest habitat in the prairie portion of
Minnesota. As a result, bird species
diversity is very high for this region of the state. </strong>
The primary threat to this IBA is agricultural
intensification/expansion, as high commodity prices are leading to the loss of many
thousands of acres of Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) grasslands. Not only will this result in the direct loss
of grassland habitat important to birds, but the indirect detrimental effects
on water quality (e.g., soil erosion and sediment load, contaminants, etc.) in
the Des Moines River and its tributaries, along with other wetlands, will be
significant. Other agricultural
practices such as wetland drainage and pesticide/herbicide use, along with extraction
industries such as gravel mining, are also potential threats in the IBA.
Prescribed burning and/or grazing are important management tools
to maintain quality grassland habitat.
However, grazing is now being considered for the first time (or already
implemented) on state wildlife management areas in Minnesota, although it is
not known which, if any, of the WMAs within the IBA. Any grazing should be closely monitored to
ensure that grassland bird habitat is not negatively impacted.
Much of the important forest habitat in this IBA occurs in
protected areas. However, if done
improperly, selective logging/cutting of mature, closed-canopy deciduous forest
has the potential to negatively impact forest birds. Since the Des Moines River Valley is an
important corridor for migratory birds, any cellular and wind towers built
within or near the IBA have the potential to cause bird mortality.
Invasive and non-native plants/animals are a concern, although
the full extent of the threat is not well known. Invasive plants such as garlic mustard, reed
canary grass, leafy spurge, purple loosestrife, spotted knapweed, buckthorn,
and others, are all potential threats in the IBA. Garlic mustard, in particular, is known to be
a major problem in forests in and around the IBA.
Habitat cover type percentages are from the International
Coalition Land Use Cover 1990. MBS native plant communities must meet criteria for quality, area, lack
of disturbance, and other factors.
Approximately 4,700 acres of native plant communities have been mapped
within the IBA, most of which is either upland deciduous forest (1,919 acres),
or upland prairie (2,440 acres).<em></em>