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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Rare & Declining Habitat

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide

Rare & Declining Habitat

Prairie smoke, a native forb, in bloom.
Prairie smoke, a native forb, in bloom.

Oak savanna at the University of Minnesota's Cedar Creek Natural History Area.
Oak savanna at the University of Minnesota's Cedar Creek Natural History Area.

Calcareous fen, a type of wetland.
Calcareous fen, a type of wetland.

Rare and declining habitats are ecosystems that once flourished but now are severely diminished or degraded. In Minnesota, they include tallgrass prairie, oak savanna, red pine and white pine forests, jack pine woodlands/forests, aspen parkland and all types of wetlands. Each of these habitats supports threatened and endangered plant and animal species.

Restoring a rare or declining habitat primarily involves establishing plants native to the ecosystem. Long-term management is needed to maintain plant health and vigor, keep out invasive species and maintain ecological benefits.

Why restore and manage rare and declining habitat?

Environmental benefits

  • Helps preserve Minnesota's threatened and endangered plants and animals
  • Increases wildlife habitat by providing food and cover
  • May connect fragmented habitat remnants
  • Diversifies the landscape
  • Perennial trees/shrubs/grass enhance soil and water quality, especially if converting highly erodible or environmentally sensitive agricultural land
  • Perennial trees/shrubs/grass replenish depleted soil organic matter and sequester carbon

Practical benefits

  • Recreational opportunities such as birding, wildlife watching and hunting
  • Scenic beauty and highly visible sign of good stewardship
  • Opportunity for additional income from native plant seeds/seedlings, sustainable logging, and salable tree/shrub products such as pine branches for wreaths
  • Costs less to maintain than crops on marginal land (less fuel, fertilizer and pesticides)
  • Protects habitat of important pollinator species that many crops rely upon, such as bees

Similar & related practices

Restoration and management of rare and declining habitats typically involves one or more of the following practices:

Another related practice is stream habitat restoration.

More information

Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Other resources

MN Board of Water and Soil Resources

MN Dept of Natural Resources

The Oak Savanna Foundation

Also see resources for Similar & Related Practices listed above.


See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District