Minnesota’s Best Kept Secret!

Fun Fact:

Do you know who first said “Holy Cow” during a baseball broadcast? If you answered Minnesotan baseball commentator Halsey Hal, you either know your commentators or you’re familiar with the state of Minnesota.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota

The Bald eagles that soar over rush hour traffic, ignoring the roar of jet engines from nearby Minnesota-St. Paul International airport, are a testament to one of the Twin Cities’ best kept secrets – the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, an urban green belt of 14,000 acres and home to hundreds of migratory birds, songbirds, pelicans, wild turkey, deer, other wildlife species and an array of wildflowers.


Established in 1976 and designated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) as 1 of 14 regional priority urban wildlife refuges, Minnesota Valley NWR spans 72 miles along the Minnesota River from Henderson to the Bloomington Education and Visitor Center, which is adjacent to metro bus and light rail transit systems, the Mall of America and just south of Fort Snelling State Park. The Visitor Center provides information on a variety of educational and recreational opportunities designed to bring a connectedness to nature and the Refuge including interpretive exhibits, self-guided tours, walking, hiking, biking and jogging on the many miles of trails, canoeing, hunting, fishing at Bass Ponds — stocked with bass, bluegill, crapple and catfish, and snowshoeing and cross-country skiing during the winter season.

I’ve always thought of Minnesota Valley NWR as a place where you can escape to the tranquility of nature amidst the shadows of skyscrapers and hustle and bustle of a thriving city as shown here.

The Twin Cities area is also known for its lakes, bone-chilling temperatures and a hub for refugee resettlement. In the past two decades or so, Minneapolis-St. Paul has become increasingly diverse culturally and ethnically – approximately one-third of our nation’s Somali population resides in Minneapolis, and St. Paul is home to the largest population of Hmong Americans. In an effort to respond to this demographic transformation, soci-economic and educational gaps so many large urban regions face, Minnesota Valley’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Initiative (UWRI) has stepped up efforts to engage the surrounding communities in a way that brings a sense of excitement, adventure and responsibility for protecting this urban utopia as a vital part of the National Wildlife Refuge System, the world’s largest network of wildlife conservation.

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota
Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Minnesota

Collaborating with local school districts, community leaders and organizations including Refuge Friends, Inc., Wilderness Inquiry – recently designated an USFWS Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnership, CommonBond Communities and YouthCARE, Refuge staff provide nature-based youth employment opportunities, robust citizen science programs, environmental education training for teachers and a variety of outdoor activities that resonate with Minnesotans of all ages and ethnicities. The Minnesota Valley NWR team has embraced the challenge of connecting these diverse community groups and families to this beautiful parcel of green space with the same enthusiasm 500,000 Minnesotans looked forward to the start of deer hunting season this year. Therefore, it is my hope the lessons learned through Minnesota Valley’s Urban Initiative will serve as a model for other urban/metropolitan wildlife refuges as they explore ways to truly bring people and nature together in a thoughtful, holistic and healthy way.

We would love to hear about your experience enjoying Minnesota’s best kept secret or any other Refuge! Tag the Refuge Association in your Instagram posts at @refugeassociation or on Twitter and Facebook use the hashtag #wildliferefuge. Questions/comments or thoughts can be shared with our Urban Wildlife Refuge Program Manager, Joy Blackwood at jblackwood@refugeassociation.org or 202-577-3396.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.refugeassociation.org/2016/12/minnesotas-best-kept-secret/

1 comment

  1. Eileen McFarland says:

    Attached is an e-mail I sent to Amy Klobacher back in March of 2016 and never received a reply.

    Are you aware of the people behind the PolyMet Mining project?

    I don’t understand why the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources would even consider this project, seeing as this kind of mining has never been done without environmental complications, unless someone behind the scenes is going to benefit from this financially.

    Dear Senator Klobuchar, I’m requesting that further background checks are made into the PolyMet Mine proposal. The following is from an article I found online regarding the truth about the project. Hope you will read it. Also attached is the link to the information I’m sending.

    PolyMet is a junior mining company headquartered in Vancouver, Canada. The company has never operated a mine before, and is backed financially by the Swiss company Glencore. Glencore has a significant financial stake in the company, and has an exclusive agreement to sell the mine’s metals on the global commodities market.

    While PolyMet doesn’t have a track record to consider, Glencore does. The company was founded by Marc Rich, the financier embroiled in scandal and pardoned by President Bill Clinton. The company has been implicated in environmental disasters, labor violations, and human rights abuses around the world.

    The Chairman of the Glencore board of directors is former BP CEO Tony Hayward, the man who was in charge when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig caused the largest oil spill in history in the Gulf of Mexico. He was made infamous for saying how he would “like his life back” while the water was being polluted and whole communities were being devastated by the spill.


    I am writing in hopes you will shut down this project. Please respond with your thoughts in this matter.

    Sincerely, Eileen McFarland

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