Protecting and Restoring the Tallgrass Aspen Parklands

Conserve your land while keeping it in private ownership
John Pennoyer

The tallgrass aspen parklands of northwestern Minnesota is a region with a unique mix of wetlands, woodlands, and grasslands. Through time, the region has been maintained by dynamic cycles of precipitation, fire, and grazing which provide essential habitat to birds like the sharp-tailed grouse, upland sandpiper, American bittern, least bittern, Franklin’s gull, and countless other wildlife species.

Audubon Minnesota and the Minnesota Land Trust are looking for willing landowners to participate in the Protecting and Restoring Tallgrass Aspen Parklands program. This Program is a fair market approach to the permanent protection and ecological enhancement of high quality habitat in the tallgrass aspen parklands region.

For more information

Bev Rinke
Program Manager

Apply online now.

This page will help you decide if this program is right for you. Below is information about the program, conservation easements, project selection criteria, and an application.

Why apply?

  • Protect your family’s important wildlife habitat.
  • Preserve your family’s legacy on the land.
  • Join a community of more than 550 dedicated landowners who steward over 55,000 acres of natural lands. Options to continue to graze or hay the land with rotational practices are available.
  • Receive a property-specific habitat management plan with the potential for land management assistance.
  • Receive a one-time lump sum payment and potential tax incentives.

What is a Conservation Easement?

Audubon Minnesota and the Minnesota Land Trust is seeking landowners interested in securing a lasting legacy for their lands through conservation easements.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements through which landowners agree to limit the future use and development of their property to permanently preserve its natural features.

Lands protected by a conservation easement remain in a landowner’s private ownership, with the landowner retaining the right to use and manage the land in line with the terms of the easement. Public access is not required.

When the land is transferred to a new owner, the easement stays with the land ensuring it is permanently preserved for generations to come.

Each conservation easement is individually crafted to reflect the special characteristics of the land and its uses. However, certain restrictions are required to protect the natural habitat and associated species. Contact us for more information on easement terms.

Easement Value and Compensation

Easement value chartThe program uses certified appraisers to ascertain the value of your land without the easement, and then the value of your land with the easement in place. The difference between the two is the easement value. The easement value results from the property rights that have been restricted and the appraised value of those rights.

Upon finalizing a conservation easement with the Land Trust, landowners will receive a one-time payment for the amount indicated in their application, up to 100% of the appraised easement value. Funding for the Program comes from the Outdoor Heritage fund as part of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

Audubon Minnesota and the Minnesota Land Trust are nonprofit organizations and any donation of all or a part of a conservation easement may allow the landowner to claim a federal charitable tax deduction. Please consult your attorney or financial advisor.

Requirements to apply

Property must:

  • Be located in the Program area (dark green on the map on the right). To find your property on a more detailed map, go to: and view the interactive map.
  • Be at least 80 acres in size; however, exceptions may be made for smaller tracts of native habitat.
  • Have high quality native or restored prairie, savanna, and/or wetland habitats.
  • Contain less than 10% of the proposed easement area in cultivation or be willing to have cultivated land over 10% restored
    to natural habitat.

Selection Process

Application Review

Projects that are the best fit for the Protecting and Restoring Minnesota’s Important Bird Areas Program will be larger in size and will have high quality natural lands with little development.

Landowners must indicate their desired compensation—payment per acre—for the easement on their application. Please note that the
Land Trust cannot pay more than the full appraised value of the easement.

We are able to conserve more land and may prioritize your property if you opt to donate some or all of the value of the easement.

Prioritization and Selection

Easements will be funded in order of assigned priority. Audubon Minnesota and the Land Trust will prioritize potential parcels using two sets of criteria:


  • Habitat quality
  • Size of parcel
  • Context relative to other natural and protected lands such as state wildlife management areas, national wildlife refuges, etc.
Payment per acre
  • Landowner’s desired compensation on a per acre basis and willingness to donate some or all of the value of the easement.

Ready to apply? Apply online here.

For a paper copy of the application and landowner questionnaire, contact Beverly Rinke. A PDF copy is available for download here.

Questions? Contact Beverly Rinke at or 651-917-6295.

This program is supported by Audubon Minnesota and the Minnesota Land Trust.
Audubon Minnesota

Legacy Amendment logo

Funding for this program was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.



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