This collection houses the report and comprehensive data on undisturbed (native) lands in the Prairie Couteau and Lac qui Parle regions of southwest Minnesota. This report was was generated for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources by South Dakota State University.
Pete Bauman, Ben Carlson, and Tanner Butler
We employed simple GIS methods utilizing the Minnesota Farm Service Agency’s Common Land Unit (CLU) cropland data layer from 2013, along with 2013 USDA National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP) county mosaic aerial imagery, to evaluate over 5 million acres of land in 14 southwest Minnesota counties, including all or portions of 10 counties within the Minnesota portion of the Prairie Coteau region and the entirety of four counties in the Lac qui Parle region. We utilized the CLU cropland layer to first identify and remove any areas with a cropping history, regardless of current land use. We then analyzed the remaining land in approximately one mi2 sections in order to identify and remove additional historic or current land disturbances. The remaining land tracts were then categorized as potentially ‘undisturbed grassland’ or ‘undisturbed woodland’ by simple reason of deduction. Finally, we removed all known water bodies > 40 acres as defined by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Public Waters Basin Delineation.
Overall, 402,253 acres (8.0%) were designated as potentially undisturbed in the 5,055,319 evaluation area. Within the Lac qui Parle region of Minnesota, we estimate there are 147,409 acres of potentially undisturbed land remaining of the 1,694,414 acres we evaluated (8.7%). Within the Prairie Coteau landscape we estimate there are approximately 230,608 acres of potentially undisturbed land remaining of the 2,822,332 acres we evaluated (8.2%). Within the narrow 545,703 acre MN River Prairies landscape area we estimate there are approximately 25,469 acres (4.7%) of potentially undisturbed land remaining.
Of the total 5,055,319 acre analysis area, approximately 4,051,457 acres (80.1%) were deemed to have a cropping history in the FSA CLU data while 491,634 acres (9.7%) indicated some type of land disturbance other than a CLU crop code.
Within the total 5,055,319 acre evaluation area, only 290,412 acres (5.7%) were found to have some sort of permanent protection from conversion (some of these acres have a disturbance history). Only 104,169 acres (2.1%) of the evaluation area are both potentially undisturbed AND had some level of permanent conservation protection status.
Of the 1,517 wind turbines identified in the total analysis area, 96 (6.3%) were located adjacent to potentially undisturbed areas.
Finally, we evaluated disturbance histories on MN Department of Natural Resources Sites of Biodiversity Significance (SBS) and Native Plant Communities (NPC). Of the total 321,106 acres within MCBS SBS layer, 51,833 acres (16.1%) had a CLU crop designation while 35,373 acres (11.0%) were excluded due to some type of disturbance other than CLU crop codes. Of the 91,813 acres within the MCBS NPC layer, 3,737 acres (4.1%) had a CLU crop designation while 3,997 acres (4.4%) were excluded due to some type of disturbance other than CLU crop codes.