Literature Cited

Central Habitat and Connections

The maps of the Northfield area revealed 20 areas of “central habitat,” or nodes in the planned system of natural areas and corridors I call Northfield Habitat Corridors. Four of the largest areas include the St. Olaf Natural Lands, the Carleton Arboretum, the state game refuge north of the city, and the Wendwood subdivision near Dundas. These areas encompass a significant portion of the land in and around Northfield and are supported by a host of smaller yet well positioned islands of forest and prairie.


Figure 1. Maps of Northfield area with optimal corridor placement. Map on left includes current land use patterns.

In the maps above (Fig. 1), I marked the major habitat nodes in red and drew in the optimal corridor placement between each node. These connections are just that, optimal, and may not be suitable for the actual implementation of the plan. Nonetheless, a maximum number of connections between nodes should be the goal (Jordán 2000). In a few cases, such as the nodes along Heath Creek, connections are already in place. Where no new connections need to be made, special efforts should be made to ensure the preservation of the existing corridors.

Target Minimum Width

Width is a characteristic that can determine the success of a corridor or corridor system. Determining the proper width is a time consuming process and may not always lead to accurate results. Consequently, I consulted previous studies (see Discussion) and determined width that would also attempt to limit cost. I arrived at a target minimum width of 50 m. This number is a target and should be met whenever possible, but is flexible based on the needs of the community. As wider corridors are more beneficial, all attempts should be made to increase the width of the corridors beyond this 50 m.

Acquiring Land

The Northfield Comprehensive Plan includes as one of its guiding principles the following line: “Northfield should establish a development pattern that respects the natural environment” (Hoisington Koegler Group 2001). With this in mind, I examined the entire document in search of support for the Northfield Habitat Corridors project. Environmentally sound land use is a theme present in no fewer than four of the 14 chapters, not including an appendix on “Environmental Planning.” As such, I found many strategies, goals, and policies that will be helpful in implementing the corridor plan.

One of the easiest methods for land acquisition will be through the Northfield Park System. Chapter 11 of the comprehensive plan notes the growing trend in the Twin Cities region to preserve natural habitats and recommends that the Park System work to acquire and manage more natural open spaces. Even more beneficial is the current policy of the Department of Public Works to connect the city parks and other natural areas with greenways and trails. While these connections are not habitat corridors in the strictest sense, they do provide some of the same benefits and can be modified to be more wildlife friendly. Current policies also encourage the use of native plants in restoration projects and the natural open spaces within the parks.

The region between Heath and Rice Creeks is an area of particular concern for conservation. Future plans include mixed residential development and the possibility of a new golf course. Given the sensitive nature of these streams, we should pay special attention to their preservation. The creeks’ riparian zones also act as existing corridors, connecting four of the 20 nodes in the network. Required natural vegetation buffers along streams and waterways are already a part of city policy and could be leveraged to preserve these areas.

I have also identified the forested area within and west of the Wendwood subdivision near Dundas to be a particularly important area to preserve and enhance through corridors. The area around this patch is developing quickly and without a plan in place, it could quickly be degraded. Connecting the Wendwood forest to the natural areas to the northeast and west will only serve to enhance its value hopefully prevent its development.

Working with the Community

The corridor system shows great promise but will not accomplish anything if the necessary land cannot be acquired or preserved. Fortunately, the City of Northfield has a number of strategies that can be “targeted towards significant tree stands (woodlands), stream buffers that may serve as trail corridors, or areas with significant natural habitat/species” (Hoisington Koegler Group 2001). In addition to simple acquisition, the city can enact a conservation easement, purchase development rights, or initiate a transfer of development rights. Each of these strategies allow landowners to maintain the property rights to their land while preserving its natural spaces. Other methods include eco-friendly zoning ordinances like clustering, which places homes on smaller lots while preserving the remaining land.

The policies, goals, and strategies outlined in the comprehensive plan show that Northfield is a community which values the preservation of its natural areas. Northfield Habitat Corridors seeks to build on this enthusiasm and create a system of nodes and corridors that enhances existing habitat in the region. The plan is by no means set in stone; the optimal corridors illustrated on the maps are simply recommendations. It is the community’s decision as to how this plan is implemented. I have not outlined the course this project is to take as I believe that a collaborative effort between all interested parties will result in the best possible plan.

I strongly encourage the citizens of Northfield and the surrounding areas to consider this project. The real and potential benefits it offers will serve to make Northfield a more natural and livable community.