Three Rivers Park District: Climate Change Planning for the Natural Resources Program

Managers from the Three Rivers Park District natural resources program met with NIACS staff to use the adaptation workbook in December 2017. The considerations will be incorporated into future planning efforts.

Project Area

The Three Rivers Park District manages regional parks in the western Twin Cities, Minnesota. The Three Rivers Park District Natural Resources Management department is responsible for restoring and protecting natural resources—such as native plant communities, wildlife diversity and water quality—in Three Rivers' park reserves and regional parks. The Natural Resources section includes Forestry Management, Horticulture and Landscape Management, Water Resources Management, and Wildlife Management. The Three Rivers policy for the planning and management of natural resources allows no more than 20 percent of a park reserve to be developed for active use and requires that at least 80 percent of the park reserve be restored to and retained in a natural state. In keeping with this policy, Three Rivers is actively involved in the preservation and restoration of wildlife and plant species.

Management Goals

Managers were asked to articulate the primary goals for the natural resources program as a whole and for specific programs within the larger program.

District-wide: • Restore, preserve, protect and protect native ecosystems • Decrease invasive species

Forestry: • Manage forests to ensure that the majority of species are native • Make forests resilient to change • Restore native forest communities (big woods, oak-hickory)

Wildlife: • Increase patch sizes • Increase connectivity across habitats • Provide prairie habitat • Conserve native species

Water: • Promote healthy, diverse aquatic ecosystems • Meet state water quality standards for recreation benefit.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Increase in invasive plant species in both terrestrial and aquatic areas.
Increase in pests and pathogens to both plants (e.g., bark beetles, bur oak blight) and humans (ticks, mosquitoes).
Drought stress, in particular to nursery trees.
Warmer winters, impacting wildlife, seed germination, and nutrient loading.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:


effects on the ability to manage invasive species (for example, hot temperatures can decrease effectiveness of chemical treatments)
meeting water quality standards with higher temperatures and more intense storms
changes in windows for prescribed burning
stress to nursery trees
more snow-making needed for winter recreation opportunities


a potential reduction in cross-country ski trail maintenance due to a shorter season and less snow
dead trees from storms can serve as habitat for wildlife.
potentially fewer winter fish kills

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project, including:

Drought impacts
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Supplemental watering, mulching nursery trees
Consider drought-resistant species as replacements for existing/failing plants
Forest pest and disease
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
9.5. Disfavor species that are distinctly maladapted.
Research biocontrol, new practices
Continue oak wilt control
Coordinate with outside organizations for long term strategy
Continue ash removal program and stop planting ash
Toxic algae
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
install raingardens
Work to develop new BMPs
Invasive species
1.5. Restore or maintain fire in fire-adapted ecosystems.
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Anticipate areas prime for invasive species and act quickly
Increase fire intensity and frequency
Consider assisted migration of native species that are adapted to future conditions
Increase overall diversity
Warmer winters
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Change mulching practices to protect bare roots and plantings
Manage curly leaf pondweed through more treatments, monitoring potential outbreaks, and increasing native competition
Increase season length in which invasive species are treated


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:
Seed viability of newly introduced species
Survival of introduced species
Stratify vegetation surveys on areas where invasive species are removed
Add tree health indicators to vegetation surveys

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Leslie or learn more at:


Oak, Savanna/ open woodland, Upland hardwoods, Landscape-scale planning, Urban

Last Updated

Thursday, March 15, 2018