League Lines: Reclaiming Wildlife Habitat in the Midst of Urban Sprawl

Minnesota's Bush Lake ChapterWhen you are surrounded by billowing cattails, 100-year-old oaks, and the sounds of waterfowl, it’s hard to believe that you’re just minutes away from the Mall of America. These wetlands along Minnesota’s Bush Lake are a birdwatcher’s dream – and play an important role in improving water quality – thanks to the League’s Bush Lake Chapter.

The chapter’s five-acre property borders Bush Lake and a neighboring pond and wetland. Unfortunately, much of the area was overrun with invasive species such as buckthorn, a non-native tree brought over from Europe in the 1800s as hedging material. Chapter members wanted to restore this area and fill it with native plants – emergent water plants, transitional plants, and prairie and woodland species – to benefit water quality and native fish and wildlife. Deep-rooted natives would hold soil in place and filter out pollutants before they could enter the lake.

With cost-share grants from the Nine Mile Creek Watershed District, the chapter completed a series of woodland, shoreline, and wetland plantings. After clearing the area of invasives, chapter members and community volunteers planted more than 5,000 native plants that will bloom from early spring through late fall. Nearly 100 different species were planted – many specifically to benefit pollinators. In 2013, chapter members set aside multiple days to plant thousands of plants. However, so many volunteers showed up to help – from Boy Scouts to grandparents – that they were able to complete the plantings in just one day! The chapter is looking forward to continuing this restoration program in the years to come.

With permission from local government leaders, the chapter plans to dedicate the revitalized pond and wetland to former League member Richard J. Dorer, who served as Supervisor of Game for the Minnesota Department of Conservation in the 1950s. Dorer spearheaded a campaign to halt the destruction and drainage of Minnesota’s wetlands – a successful program that evolved into the state’s 1.29-million-acre Wildlife Management Area System.

After the first phase of restoration was completed this fall, chapter members saw river otters for the first time on the chapter’s property – a rare sighting in Bloomington. During the spring, thousands of birds make their nests around Bush Lake. But they aren’t the only ones that migrate to this sanctuary. Bush Lake attracts 100,000 visitors each year. It’s a good thing this lake has caring neighbors at the League’s Bush Lake Chapter.

To see more pictures of the restoration at Bush Lake and the wildlife it attracts, visit the Bush Lake Chapter’s Web site and find them on Facebook.

By Debbie Chopas