Natural System Corridors

Stearns County has a diversity of natural systems, including water bodies, wetlands, unique wooded areas with both natural and community value, prairie ecosystem areas, and a stretch of the Mississippi River. Combined, these natural areas are represented on the Future Land Use Plan map as a Natural Resource Overlay (see figure below). Connecting these resources together through conservation practices and land management tools will help establish stronger natural system corridors for natural habitat and plant communities. Natural system corridors can also serve as opportunities to expand the county’s trail network.

Coordinating how to preserve the function of the County’s natural systems, while also meeting the housing, economic development, and agricultural preservation goals of the County presents a signification challenge. This effort is a daunting task,requiring a collaborative approach among many agencies in helping balance development with natural preservation.


  1. Recognize natural systems as critical infrastructure, equivalent to other kinds of infrastructure in ensuring the health, safety, welfare, and quality of life for County residents, visitors, and businesses.
  2. Work with the MnDNR, The Nature Conservancy, and other entities on green infrastructure corridors to:
    • Ensure consistency with County land use priorities and park and recreation goals.
    • Work toward mutually achieving the County’s and the State’s green infrastructure priorities.
    • Set implementation priorities that integrate agricultural protections, water resources protection, and the protection of green infrastructure corridors.
Items to Consider When Planning for Natural System Corridors:

  • Use of low impact development techniques, conservation design, and selective preservation of critical areas.
  • Consider the carrying capacity (the quantity of stormwater runoff that can be conveyed and filtered) of shoreland areas that are under heavy development pressure, and how to restore some carrying capacity to lakes and rivers where waters are impaired.
  • Integrate agriculture, development, and recreation uses within the context of a sensitive natural resource area.
  • Manage the nitrate risk to groundwater that is associated with soils and geologic features, land use decisions, and various management practices.

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