Faculty, students partner with Nature Conservancy on Cold Spring fen restoration project

November 27, 2018
two men standing and posing in front of a wooded river bankChris Lenhart, right, and a Fulbright Fellow from South Africa, Yali Woyessa, at the Cold Spring site.

Faculty and students from the department have been working with The Nature Conservancy's Minnesota-North Dakota-South Dakota Chapter (TNC) over the past couple of years on several restoration projects.

Among them is the Cold Spring fen restoration project, one that will protect and restore a rare, vital habitat and benefit groundwater and surface water quality and quantity. Chris Lenhart, a department research professor and restoration ecologist with TNC, has helped with the assessment, planning, and design of the Cold Spring fen and floodplain, working with Leah Hall and other TNC freshwater team members. The project involves the purchase of land protection easements on land bordering the Sauk River in partnership with the Minnesota DNR, Minnesota Land Trust, Stearns County Watershed District and soil and water conservation districts, and the landowners. The property is 70 acres, including 12 acres of fen.

Several BBE and water resources science students have been involved with the project as well doing plant community surveys and soil and hydrologic assessment to assist in the planning of the ecological restoration project. Students from the ecological engineering design class, co-taught by John Nieber and Lenhart, created conceptual designs to redirect flow in a ditch that currently drains water away from the fen, which is found on the valley edge and lower terraces of the Sauk River.

The project has provided data and project material for M.S. students in the WRS program as well. In addition to providing real-world restoration experience for students, the partnership with TNC has provided valuable insight into current restoration and conservation practices for researchers at the U of M.

The project began in 2018 and is scheduled to be completed in summer 2021.