N ot more than 10 miles from downtown Minneapolis lies an outdoor experience as primitive and natural as any state or national park. The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of only four urban wildlife refuges in the nation, a place where wild coyotes, bald eagles, badgers, and beavers live next door to three million people.
M innesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1976 to provide habitat for a large number of migratory waterfowl, fish, and other wildlife species threatened by commercial and industrial development. Today, the Refuge comprises 14,000 authorized acres, stretching for 44 miles from Fort Snelling State Park to Belle Plaine, Minnesota. The Visitor Center is located in Bloomington, one mile east of the Mall of America.
M innesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge also manages a fourteen county Wetland Management District (WMD), stretching from Blue Earth County to Chisago County. Within the WMD over 2,600 acres of land have been designated as Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) - lands set aside for the production of waterfowl and other wetland and prairie dependent species. WPAs, like the Refuge, are open to the public. In addition, over 2,000 acres of wetlands and grasslands are protected throught permanent easements.
T he National Wildlife Refuge System contains 546 national wildlife refuges, at least one in every state, encompassing over 93 million acres of land. Most national wildlife refuges are strategically located along the major bird migration corridors, ensuring ducks, geese, and songbirds have rest-stops on their long annual migrations. Hundreds are home to endangered species, while others host big game like caribou, buffalo, deer, and elk. M anagement of the Refuge involves restoring wetlands, grasslands, and oak savannas, enhancing aquatic plant diversity through water level management, grassland management, exotic species control, and water quality monitoring.
M innesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is well known for bird watching. Annual migrations funnel hundreds of thousands of waterfowl, songbirds, and raptors through the valley. Other wildlife-dependent recreation uses on the Refuge and WPAs include: wildlife observation, wildlife photography, hunting, fishing, environmental education, and interpretation.