As part of the Spring Lake Park Master Plan, Dakota County will reintroduce the American plains bison to the prairie.
For many years, the prairies of Minnesota were maintained by three natural processes — climate, fire and grazing. This project will add the last crucial element: grazing.
The main grazer of the prairie was the American plains bison. Bison feed mostly on grasses and focus their grazing in patches. Their grazing habits boost plant diversity by giving flowers the chance to compete with the tall grasses.
By boosting plant diversity, bison grazing stabilizes the ecosystem, a key goal for natural resources within the county's parks.
Many other prairie species benefit from grazing. The habitat for birds, butterflies, amphibians, bees and other mammals is enhanced by bison. Bison contribute to seed dispersal and further plant diversity with their wallowing behaviors. Bison are critical to the continued restoration and maintenance of prairie at Spring Lake Park Reserve.
Park visitors will have opportunities to learn about this iconic animal of the North American plains, the prairie that they are a part of and their relationship with the Indigenous cultures.
Dakota County is working with the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd Partnership with the intention of reintroducing bison to our Spring Lake Park Reserve (SLPR) in fall 2022.
The bison range project will create the infrastructure to help Dakota County responsibly manage the herd. Work involved will include fencing, gates, watering holes, a short paved trail segment with an observation station and humane animal handling facilities. Construction will be split into two phases with the fence and gates work beginning in summer 2021 and the balance of the work being completed in 2022.
The 2020-2021 budget for construction is $940,000.
Bison Fact Sheet
Fence installation started
Work to complete fence installation for the bison range has begun. See where the fence will be installed.
June–November 2021: Fencing and gates
December 2021–September 2022: Remainder of infrastructure
Dakota County Parks receives funding (roughly half of this project's costs) through the Environmental & Natural Resources Trust Fund grant.