Standing Cedars
Protects and restores fields, forests and natural habitats along the Lower St. Croix River

This site consists of 1,110.16 acres of land. It is bounded on the north and south by private land, on the west primarily by lands and waters owned by the National Park Service as part of the Lower St. Croix National Scenic Riverway, and on the east by 280th Street, a paved township road.

The National Park Service holds scenic easements on 323 acres of the site, along its western edge. Beaver Valley Camp, Inc. (BVC) owns a 27-acre parcel within a ravine midway (north and south) on the western edge. BVC retains an easement for access to 280th Street. Standing Cedars has a conservation easement on that part of BVC’s land that is within Engelwood. There are two points on the property where direct access is available to the backwaters of the Lower St. Croix River.

The site is located at the confluence of three ecoregions; the northern boreal forest, the eastern hardwood forest, and the tallgrass prairie. Pre-settlement vegetation on the site, as recorded by early land surveyors, contained remnants of habitats indicative of all three ecoregions. The habitat diversity of the existing site is also varied due to location, topography, and limited alteration by man. The most significant alterations, over time, have been the use of part of the site for agriculture, development of the southern one-third of the site as a ski resort, the lack of natural fires (thus only remnants of native prairie) and some timber harvest, as recently as 1990/1991.

The site, today, consists of about 730 acres (64%) of forestland, primarily oak, aspen, mixed northern hardwoods and miscellaneous hardwoods such as box elder, ash and hackberry. The remainder of the site consists of about 300 acres of degraded grassland (28%), in varying stages of restoration. with the remaining 8% (less than 100 acres total) consisting of six small wetland sites, degraded, but open hillside prairies and trails.

Site surveys completed within the last ten years indicate there are at least 250 plant species representing 140 families on this site. There is a ten-acre hillside prairie containing an exceptional stand of Besseya bullii, or Kittentail. Cream gentian Gentiana flavida is found in the southmost old field, and bog bluegrass Poa paludigena is limited to seep areas at the base of hills along the St. Croix River. The same survey found 52 bird species on site during the month of June 1989. Bird surveys found 92 species on site in June including the state-threatened cerulean warbler Dendroica cerulea south of the Beaver Valley Camp. We plan to initiate annual bird surveys to see what impacts we are having with management.

The elevation on the site varies from the lowest point, 700 feet above mean sea level on the banks of the St. Croix River, to the highest point, a knoll near 280th Street, at 1,100 feet above mean sea level, a difference of 400 feet. The uplands parallel 280th Street, with many ravines running generally east/west down to the river. The southern 1/3 of the site has several clearings left from use and management of the site as a downhill ski area prior to the mid-1970s.

There are two unimproved roads running from 280th street, west to the river's edge; one unimproved road running from 280th street west to the Beaver Valley Camp, Inc. property, and several barely-passable remnants of logging roads within the site. There is evidence of old field edges and fences, a few non-toxic remnants of machinery used for the ski tow ropes; one house and barn foundation- structures removed, (which never had any well). There is one underground gas line on site. One well exists near the site of the former ski chalet. 2 small cabins exist on the North end of the property. These cabins will be maintained until their use or benefit is determined.

Two known habitat surveys have been completed on the Engelwood site in the last ten years. The first was completed by Dave Crawford, Minnesota DNR Resource Specialist, in 1989. Crawford described the site in terms of eight habitat areas. The second survey, completed by Steigerwaldt Land Services, Inc. in 1990, identified seven forest and seven non-forest "cover types". Both of these were done for the Cottonwood Land Company as part of their evaluations for residential development and timber harvest. Eric Epstein and Randy Hoffman, WDNR, conducted surveys in 1991 and 1996 respectively.

An analysis of pre-settlement (early to mid 1800s) land cover (Warren, 1993) reveals that the land cover on and adjacent to this site was primarily forest and oak savanna. During the last 150 years nearly all of the former oak savanna on this site has been replaced by agricultural fields, or succeeded to forest, pasture or grassland.

In the last 25 years, because of the efforts of the former owners to consolidate individual farms and a former ski area for conversion to a planned (but never-built) residential development, and because of land and easement purchase by the National Park Service along the river, the Engelwood site has been maintained as a remarkably diverse and large parcel of relatively undisturbed habitat.

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