Habitat and Connections
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.
1. Maps of Northfield area with optimal corridor placement.
Map on left includes current land use patterns.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
with the Community
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
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
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.