What We Do

The National Wildlife Refuge System is a series of lands and waters owned and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Wildlife conservation is at the heart of the refuge system. It drives everything we do from the purpose a refuge is established, to the recreational activities offered there, to the resource management tools we use. Selecting the right tools helps us ensure the survival of local plants and animals and helps fulfill the purpose of the refuge.

  • Partnerships are crucial to our success. We work with local governments, other state and national agencies and partners to protect wildlife and the habitat they depend on.
  • We manage water levels on wetlands to provide a mosaic of habitat conditions for waterfowl, waterbirds and other wildlife
  • Efforts to control invasive species invasive species
    An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

    Learn more about invasive species
    through integrated pest management including selective cutting, prescribed burning, mowing, grazing and herbicides treatment are conducted annually to maintain native habitats
  • We protect and restore important remnant prairies and savannas by removing non-desirable woody vegetation, and promote diversity of native grassland habitat through prescribed fire
  • As development encroaches on rural areas, we convert former agricultural fields to diverse native prairie using local seed sources, utilize prescribed fire and other management techniques

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Management and Conservation

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Management and Conservation

Refuges use a wide range of land management tools based on the best science available. Some refuges use prescribed fires to mimic natural fires that would have cleared old vegetation from the land helping native plants regenerate and local wildlife to thrive. The management tools used are aimed at ensuring a balanced conservation approach where both wildlife and people will benefit. At Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge our conservation toolbox includes:

  • Prescribed fire
  • Habitat restoration
  • Invasive species controls and mitigation
  • Habitat protection from development and human impacts
  • Working with our neighbors, other agencies, and local organizations

 

Fire Management 

Refuge lands evolved with fire and continue to depend on periodic burns to remain productive wildlife habitat. Prescribed fire is one of several tools Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge uses to restore prairies and oak savannas and reduce the risk of wildfires near populated areas. 

Restoring habitat with fire 

A prescribed burn prescribed burn
A prescribed burn is the controlled use of fire to restore wildlife habitat, reduce wildfire risk, or achieve other habitat management goals. We have been using prescribed burn techniques to improve species habitat since the 1930s.

Learn more about prescribed burn
is the controlled use of fire to restore wildlife habitat. These burns are carefully planned. Fire professionals consider wind, humidity, temperature, and vegetation conditions, as well as smoke dispersion and nearby buildings, when planning a controlled fire. Safety is always the top priority. Due to weather variables, the exact days and times may not be known until the day before or the day of each burn. Ideal conditions can usually be found within a 6-week window in March, April or May; and again in October and November.        

2022 Priority Burn Areas 

Minnesota landscapes typically burned every 3-5 years, and refuge managers mimic this natural cycle by applying prescribed fire to refuge units similarly. These refuge units and Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) are prioritized for the 2022 spring burn season:   

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge 

  • Bloomington Education & Visitor Center prairies, Bloomington, MN 

  • Rapids Lake Education & Visitor Center pollinator gardens & prairies, Carver, MN 

  • Jessenland Unit, near Belle Plaine, MN 

  • Louisville Swamp Unit, Shakopee, MN 

 

Minnesota Valley Wetland Management District 

  • Erin Prairie WPA, Rice County  

  • Cobb River WPA, Blue Earth County     

  • Howard Farm WPA, Blue Earth County    

  • Kaul WPA, Blue Earth County    

  • Roberts WPA, Blue Earth County 

  • Watonwan WPA, Blue Earth County 

  • Dodge Center Creek WPA, Steele County 

  • Mud Lake WPA, Sibley County 

Benefits of Fire    

Though it appears a destructive force, many plants and animals evolved with and depend on fire. Visit any recent burn area and you’ll see new sprouts within one week, and lush, new growth of native grasses, sedges, and wildflowers within one month. The benefits of fire are numerous:   

  • Fire increases soil fertility: burning decaying plant matter releases nutrients like carbon, phosphorous, and sulfur needed for plant growth.   

  • Reduces wildfire risk: dead and decaying vegetation is ‘fuel’ for wildfires. Removing this layer decreases risk to communities.   

  • Promotes seed germination and plant growth: the black char and ash left after a burn absorbs sunlight, warming the ground and encouraging seed germination.   

  • Controls woody and invasive species invasive species
    An invasive species is any plant or animal that has spread or been introduced into a new area where they are, or could, cause harm to the environment, economy, or human, animal, or plant health. Their unwelcome presence can destroy ecosystems and cost millions of dollars.

    Learn more about invasive species
    : invasive and woody species are not adapted to fire like native plants. Fire can set back encroachment by woody and invasive and keep prairie and oak savanna ecosystems from turning into forests.    

 

Habitat Restoration

Round Lake 

Round Lake in Arden Hills, MN is managed as a unit of Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (refuge). This site includes approximately 154 acres of shoreline and lake, and an additional 29 acres upland. View map here.

The Future of Round Lake  

The refuge remains actively engaged in the clean-up of the former Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant which contaminated Round Lake. The Army has prepared a Proposed Plan to document the preferred alternative of those evaluated in the Feasibility Study for Round Lake.  

With selection of alternative 4, the refuge will be able to move forward fulfilling its goal of transforming this space into a safe and welcoming place for both wildlife and people to enjoy.  

Preferred Alternative  
  • Alternative 4 is the only alternative that supports and promotes healthy wildlife populations and allows for safe outdoor recreation on Round Lake.  

  • Removal and disposal of hazardous substances and contaminants will allow the refuge to support and build a community green space essential to wildlife and people.  

  • Alternatives that allow the contaminants to remain in the lake bottom do not support a healthy ecosystem for wildlife or people.  

History of Round Lake  

Round lake was incorporated into the U.S. Army’s Twin Cities Army Ammunition Plant (TCAAP) in the 1940s. Ownership of Round Lake was transferred from the U.S. Army to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) National Wildlife Refuge System in 1974 and the area is designated as the Round Lake Unit of the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.   

Prior to the discovery of contamination, Round Lake was considered valuable area for migrating waterfowl and other water birds. It was selected to become a part of the National Wildlife Refuge System because of its known migratory bird use, the quality of the lake and surrounding habitat, and the recognized threat from development to it and similar areas on the edge of an expanding metropolitan area.  

Active management of the lake’s water levels ceased in the mid-1980s based on a Refuge decision to use high water levels to separate wildlife and the public as much as possible from contaminants found in the lake’s sediments. At this time, public use was restricted to upland areas of the Unit.   

Once the lake is safe for people and wildlife, the refuge will expand opportunities to enjoy the entire unit. 

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In The Community

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge mission is to welcome diverse communities through meaningful connections, educational opportunities and recreational experiences, while conserving wildlife habitat in the Minnesota River Valley. The In The Community story map explores these ideas and how Minnesota Valley has continued its work in becoming a community asset.

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Our Services

Federal Recreation Passes

*There is no entrance fee or parking permit required to visit the refuge*

Staff and volunteers are issuing passes on Saturdays, 12pm to 4 pm at Bloomington Visitor Center.

For fee-based passes, we can only accept cash or check payment. We cannot accept credit card payment.

Some passes are available for purchase online. To purchase a 2022 Senior Annual, 2022 Annual, Access or Senior Lifetime Pass, visit the U.S. Geological Survey Online Store. You can find more information about these passes and fee areas, order online or plan your trip to federal public lands at Recreation.gov.

Passes available:

  • Senior Lifetime Pass ($80)
  • Senior Annual Pass ($20)
  • America the Beautiful Annual Pass ($80)
  • Military Annual Pass (Free to active military)
  • Access Pass (Free, with conditions)
  • Every Kid in a Park Pass (Free for 4th graders, with completed online voucher)

 

NOTE: Per regulations, passes may not be given as a gift and must be signed at the time of purchase, except for the America the Beautiful Annual Pass.  Picture identification will be required at the time of purchase, and some passes require additional documentation.  

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Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officers at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge help visitors enjoy the refuge and understand and obey wildlife protection laws. Refuge law enforcement officers work closely with state and local government offices to enforce federal and state hunting regulations that protect wildlife from illegal take and preserve legitimate hunting opportunities. Officers also play a role in the successful management of refuge lands and maintaining high quality visitor experiences.

Questions regarding law enforcement or violations on the refuge should be directed to a federal wildlife officer at 952-858-0711. General questions about hunting, fishing or other regulations can be directed to the visitor center at 952-854-5900, or via email at MinnesotaValley@fws.gov.

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