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Protecting natural resources at home and in your community

From lakes and rivers to urban parks, forests and prairies, Hennepin County has an abundance of diverse landscapes and natural resources.

These natural resources provide critical habitat for wildlife, protect water quality, offer recreational opportunities, and enhance our collective quality of life.

We all play a role in protecting our natural resources. Learn actions you can take at home and ways to get involved in your community.

Learn about your land and the natural resources in Hennepin County by exploring the natural resources interactive map.

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10 things you can do to protect Minnesota lakes, rivers, and streams

No matter where you live, your choices are powerful because our water system is connected. The raindrops that fall on our streets flow through storm drains that empty directly into our lakes, creeks, rivers, and wetlands.

Raindrops pick up chemicals, pollutants, and debris that they touch along the way. Every point in a raindrop’s path is an opportunity to improve our water quality.

See the 10 things you can do to protect Minnesota’s lakes, rivers, and streams brochure (PDF).

Sign up to adopt a drain

Water entering the storm drains on our streets flow directly into the nearest body of water, carrying leaves, grass, soil, litter, and anything else picked up along the way. This clogs stormwater infrastructure, contributes to street flooding, harms wildlife, and pollutes our waters.

You can help by adopting a storm drain and volunteering just 15 minutes, twice a month, to keep it clean. Learn more, sign up, and report your impact.

Create habitat for pollinators

Pollinators like bees and butterflies are essential for the food we eat, the health of our environment and the beauty of our world.

We rely on native bees and other pollinators to pollinate fruits and vegetables like apples, tomatoes, pumpkins, and strawberries. Pollination is also critical for the production of oils, fibers, biofuels, and dairy and meat products.

Unfortunately, pollinator populations are declining. But we can all help — residential yards have huge potential as pollinator habitat.

Ways to create habitat for pollinators:

Plant a bee lawn

Provide habitat for pollinators (and cut down on yard work!) by replacing your turfgrass with low-growing native plants.

  • Be a champion of pollinator habitat: Plant native pollinator friendly flowers at home and encourage landlords, neighbors, and local businesses to join in too!
  • Leave your gardens messy: Last year’s plants, leaves, seedheads and stems provide important winter and nesting habitat.
  • Keep flowers clean: Do not treat flowers with pesticides.
  • Learn more

    Get inspiration and tips for taking action on Clean Water MN

    Clean Water MN celebrates metro area residents who take actions to protect water. The website tells the stories of local residents acting both independently and collectively to have a positive impact on water quality. Tips, resources, and how-tos are also included to help anyone who wants to join in protecting lakes and rivers.

    We can have an even greater impact by working together and taking action in our communities. Here are some ways to get involved.

    Collect water quality data with the Wetland Health Evaluation Program

    Join a team of other interested residents who are concerned about water quality and wetlands in your area. The Wetland Health Evaluation Program (WHEP) is an environmental monitoring program focusing on assessing the condition and health of wetlands.

    Wetlands are an essential component to our environment. They act as filters for pollutants and nutrients in water as they absorb excess water therefore recharging groundwater. Wetlands are also an important habitat for amphibians, mammals and birds while migrating or raising young.

    WHEP volunteers collect aquatic macroinvertebrates, such as insects, leeches, small crustaceans, and snails. Teams also inventory the wetland plant community. Some invertebrates and plants are more tolerant to poor water quality than others, so assessing these communities helps us understand water quality. The important data collected by WHEP volunteers is used by city and county planners, engineers, and resource managers.

    Become a Minnesota Water Steward

    The Minnesota Water Stewards program equips community leaders with the knowledge and skills needed to help improve the health of our water from the grassroots level. Stewards are certified by participating in a broad training curriculum led by experts in the fields of hydrology, stormwater management, groundwater health, water policy, community-based social marketing, landscape assessment, and installation of clean water practices.

    At the end of the certification process, stewards complete a capstone project that improves the health of local water while involving and educating their community. Stewards then become a point of knowledge and influence in their communities.

    The program is offered by the Freshwater Society in coordination with partners, and Hennepin County sponsors a cohort of Minnesota Water Stewards each year. Learn more about becoming a Minnesota Water Steward.

    Take a tree steward class

    Tree steward classes cover the basics of tree biology, tree planting, watering, pruning, and tree health through a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on, outdoor field experience. Classes are offered in partnership with the University of Minnesota and host cities.

    After completing the class, volunteers have opportunities to help plant and care for trees with the county and partnering organizations.

    Classes are open to the public, and no experience is needed. The University of Minnesota provides the necessary tools and safety equipment.

    Natural resources good steward grants

    Turn your environmental ideas into reality with support from a Natural Resources Good Steward Grant. Funding is available for projects that improve water quality, enhance natural areas, and promote environmental stewardship to the community.

    Typical projects include rain gardens, stream bank stabilization, and native vegetation restoration. Grants also support unique ideas and neighborhood and community driven projects.

    Lawns to Legumes pollinator habitat grants

    Lawns to Legumes is a collaboration between Blue Thumb, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and Minnesota residents to establish residential pollinator habitat to support at-risk pollinator species.

    Lawns to Legumes focuses on promoting four planting types: pocket plantings, trees and shrubs that benefit pollinators, pollinator lawns, and pollinator meadows. The planting types require varying amounts of time, space, money, and maintenance, meaning there is a project for just about everyone!

    The program aims to protect the federally endangered state bee, the Rusty Patched Bumblebee, and other at-risk pollinators. Even relatively small plantings of native flowers can help pollinators by building and connecting important habitat corridors.

    The individual support portion of the program includes cost-share funding, workshops, landowner coaching and site visits. Learn more about Lawns to Legumes.

    Watershed grants

    Several watershed organizations in Hennepin County offer grants to individual or groups of residents for projects that protect and improve water quality and restore habitat. Find out what watershed you are located in to see if you are eligible.

    Lower Minnesota River cost share incentive and water quality restoration program

    Cost share funds are available to public or private landowners for projects that protect water quality, reduce erosion, address invasive species, restore habitat, and provide education.

    Many types of projects are eligible for grant money, including rain gardens, shoreline restoration, permeable pavers, and buckthorn removal with native restoration. The Lower Minnesota River Watershed covers portions of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, and Minneapolis.

    Learn more about the cost share incentive program.

    Mississippi Watershed Management Organization community grants

    Community grants are available to non-profit organizations, neighborhood groups, businesses, and schools for short-term or small-scale water quality projects. Eligible projects including community events, programs for youth and community leadership development, educational and technical training, art or media projects, installation of small best management practices demonstrations, community engagement, and educational signs and materials.

    The Mississippi Watershed Management Organizations covers portions of Minneapolis and St. Anthony Village.

    Learn more about the community grants.

    Nine Mile Creek stewardship and habitat restoration grants

    Stewardship grants help homeowners, associations, businesses, schools, and other organizations install projects that prevent stormwater pollution, such as rain gardens, shoreline buffers, and permeable pavers.

    Habitat restoration grants help homeowners, associations, businesses, schools, and other organizations install projects that restore native plant and wildlife habitat and lead to a healthier ecosystem. The Nine Mile Creek Watershed covers portions of Bloomington, Eden Prairie, Edina, Hopkins, Minnetonka, and Richfield.

    Learn more about the stewardship and habitat restoration grants.

    Shingle Creek cost share program

    Financial and technical assistance is available to private property owners, including businesses and corporations, groups of residents, not-for-profit and religious organizations, and public and private schools to protect and improve water and natural resources.

    Projects include rain gardens, permeable pavers, cisterns, green roofs, and converting hard surfaces to grass or native plants. The Shingle Creek Watershed covers portions of Brooklyn Center, Brooklyn Park, Crystal, Maple Grove, Minneapolis, New Hope, Osseo, Plymouth, and Robbinsdale.

    Learn more about the cost share program.

    Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek watershed stewardship grants

    Financial support and resources are available to residents and organizations for clean water projects, including rain gardens, native plant buffers, wetland restorations, rainwater reuse, erosion control or tree trenches.

    The Riley Purgatory Bluff Creek Watershed covers portions of Bloomington, Deephaven, Eden Prairie, Minnetonka, and Shorewood.

    Learn more about the watershed stewardship grants.

    City rebate programs

    Eden Prairie water conservation rebates

    Landscaping rebates are available to Eden Prairie residents for native plant landscape projects such as shoreline buffers, rain gardens or pollinator gardens designed and constructed to treat stormwater runoff.

    Irrigation and water reuse system rebates are available to Eden Prairie residents for smart irrigation systems that conserve water by tailoring watering schedules to your yard and automatically monitoring weather conditions, soil moisture levels, evaporation and much more.

    Learn more about the water conservation rebates.

    Minneapolis stormwater credits

    Credits on monthly stormwater fees are available to Minneapolis residential property owners who install rain gardens and permeable pavement. Credits are based on how much stormwater on the property is captured, and eligible properties can review up to a 50% credit on their monthly stormwater fee. Learn more about the stormwater credits.

    Entities involved in natural resources management

    Many entities are involved in protecting natural resources, and each provide different services and resources. In Hennepin County, organizations involved include 45 cities, 11 watershed organizations, and two park districts — Three Rivers Park District and Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

    Hennepin County soil and water conservation district

    Soil and water conservation districts have been established throughout Minnesota to conserve soil, water, and related natural resources on private land.

    Hennepin County is the soil and water conservation district for the county, which is a unique situation in Minnesota.

    Conservation services that Hennepin County provides include:

    • Enforcement of the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA)
    • Establishment, restoration, maintenance, and monitoring of conversation easements.
    • Delivery of environmental education and outreach programs and volunteer opportunities
    • Technical assistance to local governments
    • Development and maintenance of natural resources inventories and the natural resources interactive map
    • Financial and technical assistance to landowners for natural resources projects

    Learn more about conservation services provided by Hennepin County.

    Watershed organizations

    What is a watershed

    A watershed is an area of land that catches rain, snow, and any other form of water and drains to a common lake, stream, wetland or groundwater. Watersheds come in all different shapes and sizes. Smaller watersheds drain into larger watersheds, much like a creek drains into a river. Some watersheds cross county, state, and international borders.

    The rain water that falls on your house, lawn or driveway runs into a nearby lake, river or stream. This water, like all the surface water in Hennepin County, will flow into the Mississippi River and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico. Actions taken to protect or pollute water will impact the quality of lakes, rivers or wetlands downstream.

    Watershed districts in Hennepin County

    Watershed districts are local, special-purpose units of government that work to solve and prevent water-related problems. The boundaries of each district generally follow those of a natural watershed and consist of land in which all water flows to one outlet.

    Depending on the watershed, they may provide educations programs, grants, and technical assistance.

    There are 11 watershed organizations in Hennepin County. The find your watershed tool from the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization can help you figure out what watershed you live in.

    The watershed organizations in Hennepin County are:

    Funding and technical assistance available to rural, agricultural, and large lot landowners

    Hennepin County, in coordination with state agencies and programs, provides funding and technical assistance to landowners managing agricultural, large lot, and rural land.

    See information for managing rural and agricultural land, including a landowner guide, project funding and assistance, buffers and ditches, and inspection programs.

    If you are interested in habitat restoration or conservation, see land protection and restoration for information on conservation easements, conservation reserve enhancement programs, and wetlands.

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