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Northern Monkshood

Northern Monkshood, a federally-listed endangered species

Photo Credit - INHF

The Upper Mississippi Blufflands region was named by Scenic America as one of 10 "Last Chance Landscapes" in the United States. The label denotes a place of distinctive community character with both a pending threat and a potential solution.

Threats to the Blufflands region include poorly planned development and inappropriate land uses. These can negatively impact the natural resource and those who depend on it. Here’s just some of what’s at stake:

White Pelicans

American White Pelicans, one of many migrating species
using the Mississippi River Flyway

Photo Credit - Mark Blassage

Water quality

Much of the Bluffland region along both sides of the Mississippi River is characterized by highly soluble limestone bedrock and sinkholes that accept contaminants right along with rainfall and snowmelt. Underground aquifers, which hold drinking water, are extremely susceptible to such contamination. Preserving vegetative cover on the slopes and hillsides helps to filter agricultural runoff, protect aquifers and supply safe drinking water for millions.

Native species

This region’s wooded bluffs, limestone outcrops, "goat" prairies, cold-air slopes and river bottoms provide critical habitat for diverse plant and animal communities. Unfortunately, many native species are now listed as endangered, threatened or of special concern. The biggest risk to most species is habitat loss – which can be slowed or even reversed by implementing better land planning and management practices. As global climage change progresses, large north-south corridors like this are becoming criticall important for protecting native plants and wildlife. Protecting such a significant corridor provides a habitat "insurance policy" not just locally, but also nationally and even internationally.

What's at stake?

Photo Credit - Joe McGovern/INHF

International migratory flyway

The Mississippi River has been long recognized by the scientific community as one of the country's most important migratory flyways and enduring landscapes. In addition to waterfowl that follow the river, this corridor provides critical habitat for Neotropical migrants: about 350 bird species with habitats ranging as far north as Canada and as far south as Argentina . Many require the kind of unfragmented woodland habitat that the Blufflands Alliance partners are striving to protect.

Food supply

The agricultural significance of this region cannot be underestimated. The fertile soils of the basin provide food for one in twelve of the world's people. While dominated by "modern" agricultural methods, there is a growing diversification of production systems in the Blufflands including dairy and organic farms, vineyards, orchards and community-supported agriculture. These farmlands provide a framework for the reestablishment of wildlife habitat and wetland restoration on marginal lands. Yet, despite the successes, too much of our farmland and its chemicals are washing downstream - damaging not only the local resources but as far away as the Gulf of Mexico.

Outdoor recreation

Because the Blufflands Region stretches hundreds of miles through and near populated areas, even low-income people can afford the short trip to this slice of America's Great Outdoors. Some great public areas already exist and draw locals and tourists alike. For example, the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge runs for 261 miles along the river valley, serves more than 3 million people annually (more than Yellowstone) and supports a $6.6 billion annual recreation and tourism economy. The region also contains some of the richest concentrations of hiking and biking trails in the nation - including the Mississippi River Trail, a designated trail route from Minnesota to Louisana. If we can increase public access and recreational options here, more Americans can experience nature as an integral part of their lives rather than just an expensive vacation destination.