Natural Corridors: Healthy Ecosystems
Kathy Sidles, Sustainable Living Team
I love to walk to Frost Lake Park, and bike down the Bruce Vento Bike Trail on the east side of Saint Paul. I collect trash and pull garlic mustard along the trail and in neglected green spaces above the buried Lake Phalen Creek. I count birds and bumblebees as I work and enter data into ebird.org and bumblebeewatch.org. Chimney Swifts nest in apartment chimneys, feeding above Phalen Corridor as the creek bed it used to be, and I count them.
These natural area corridors are important. Birds and plants and insects that are part of a healthy ecosystem need connected habitats full of native plants to thrive. Wildlife genes have to flow for healthy populations.
And yet, according to the Minnesota Metro Conservation Corridors (MeCC), 60 acres of natural areas are being lost in the Metro area each day! These natural spaces are at odds with the needs to accommodate increasing city population. Upcoming plans call for denser industrial, mixed-use, and public transit corridors but this removes green spaces. For example, there is a plan to use the Vento Trail, for the Rush Line bus lanes. And the most strongly affected are often urban areas with high numbers of children, lower incomes, and diverse populations of people.
The problem with places like the Bruce Vento Bike Trail is that they don’t meet the criteria of being a regional park. Nor do other natural spaces like railroads or highway roadsides. Each year, there is tax revenue for Minnesota natural areas, with about $13 million going metro wildlife corridors. But without park status, they are not eligible for this money.
As a community, many things could be done! Ideas like expanding MeCC plans for neighborhoods along river corridors to be “green interpretive desserts.” Places like the Bruce Vento Bike Trail could become an official Regional Park, and therefore earn the protection and funding of spaces with this designation. We could improve Railroad corridors as native plant areas.
What can you do as an individual? Adopt a corridor, sign up as a volunteer, support organizations like the Audubon Society. Have your yard become part of the natural corridors for birds and bees by planting native plants that help them to thrive! Participate in our team’s plant sale/exchange on May 20 and obtain more native plants.
Connect with Unity’s Sustainable Living Team! Our next meeting on Tuesday, May 8, from 7:00-8:30 p.m., is a visioning session and all are welcome. Members Nicole Lynsey and Riley Jaimison have returned from training with Interfaith Power and Light and will help guide us as we assess our “green” priorities and plot a path forward for the group and the church. Please come share your ideas!
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