A unique, maybe even unlikely, partnership is achieving great conservation milestones in the state of Minnesota. From the Department of Defense, to local townships, to national timber companies, and a Minnesota utility company, these partners have united to achieve two intertwined goals: 1) to help local army base, Camp Ripley, achieve its mission to safely and effectively train soldiers, and 2) to conserve forestland for wildlife, a cleaner watershed and improve public recreation.

So, how will these goals come to fruition? By acquiring and conserving land within and near the Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape.


Much of the land surrounding Camp Ripley is made up of pristine forest, agricultural land, and natural land. In fact, the installation’s Sentinel Landscape encompasses 40 minor watersheds, 50 miles of the Mississippi River, 49,000 acres of waterway, the Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, and 42,000 acres of public land. By protecting land within the boundary of the Sentinel Landscape, Camp Ripley’s partners have helped improve the quality of water entering the Mississippi River, preserve critical habitat corridors for wildlife, bolster local agricultural economies, and enable Camp Ripley to conduct year-round training activities with limited restrictions.

Mississippi Overlook Park; courtesy of the Baxter Police Dept.


The Conservation Fund has joined forces with several entities both local and national in this effort. Partners include the City of BaxterSylvan TownshipPotlatchDeltic CorporationMinnesota PowerCass and Crow Wing counties and the Department of Defense.

With funding provided by the Department of Defense’s Readiness and Environmental Protection Integration (REPI) Program and Minnesota Environmental and Natural Resources Trust Fund, we helped the City of Baxter and Sylvan Township acquire about 700 acres of forestland within the Camp Ripley Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) priority area, which is a critical component of the larger Camp Ripley Sentinel Landscape. The partners have a near term goal of purchasing and conserving roughly 1,500 acres within and near the Sentinel Landscape boundary across both Cass and Crow Wing counties, which will be managed for forestry and wildlife habitat, and some of which will utilize funding from the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund. The Fund is also working with Minnesota Power to add forest land to the Sylvan Township park system.


Land protected in the Sentinel Landscape prevents potential development that could hinder soldier training and military operations at Camp Ripley. It also preserves the land’s ecological value such as native jack pine, red pine, and white pine trees, multiple waterways, and habitat for wildlife species like the state-threatened Blanding’s turtle and Minnesota’s highest concentration of red-shouldered hawks.

Acquired lands will be available for community recreation along the Mississippi River and beyond. Roughly 200 acres will be added to the existing Baxter Overlook Park and will also be used as an outdoor forest classroom area for Baxter schools.


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