Belwin Conservancy permanently protects nearly 1,600 acres in the Valley Creek Watershed. Through partnerships, public access, and innovative programming, we welcome people to celebrate and learn from our protected landscapes. In fostering connection and engagement with the land, Belwin has inspired thousands of people to protect our natural world—one hiker, one student at a time.
Land Protection and Restoration
Protecting and restoring land for wildlife and people
Belwin Conservancy’s work on the land has resulted in thriving examples of some of the world’s most threatened ecosystems, including tallgrass prairie and oak savanna. In fact, our restored prairies are some of the oldest in the region. We also protect forests, wetlands, and portions of Valley Creek, one of Minnesota’s most pristine trout streams.
Long-term and ongoing restoration activities at Belwin include prescribed burning, integrated pest management, prairie and savanna seeding, hand-pulling, seed harvesting by hand, and mechanical and chainsaw removal of invasive species to maintain prairies, savannas and woodlands.
As a result of this work, Belwin is home to a diverse array of native plant and animal species. In the midst of a rapidly developing area, Belwin serves as a buffer for wildlife, providing healthy habitat for several rare species, like the Blanding’s turtle, the rusty patched bumblebee and the Henslow’s sparrow. In partnership with several other organizations, Belwin has helped protect over 16 percent of the Valley Creek Watershed, ensuring future generations will benefit from this regional treasure.
Inspiring the next generation of environmental stewards
Since its inception, Belwin has dedicated land and facilities to educational partnerships that get learners of all ages and abilities out in nature.
Belwin Outdoor Science (BOS) is Belwin’s educational partnership with Saint Paul Public Schools. Since its formation in 1971, BOS has brought over half a million children to Belwin’s prairies and woodlands for an immersive day of science education. This experience, also extended to children from neighboring districts, amounts to 10 percent of the yearly science curriculum for Saint Paul’s third and fifth graders. In addition to mainstream students, Belwin offers adaptive outdoor education programs so students with profound physical and emotional needs can experience nature. All told, 10,000 children participate in these programs each year.
Through our partnership with Anishinabe Academy, urban Indigenous students and their families are integrating and reclaiming Native American identities, cultures and languages through authentic academic experiences. At Belwin, students and teachers work with elders from Dream of Wild Health to learn about traditional culture and medicinal plants that are found on the restored prairies and woodlands.
Public Programs and Events
Providing everyone access to nature
Each year, thousands of visitors come to Belwin to experience healthy ecosystems, visit a herd of bison on our restored prairie, and attend events that offer surprising and meaningful ways to experience the natural world. Whether it’s during a break from a soccer tournament at Belwin’s Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields, an afternoon outside with the kids, or an evening stargazing with members of the Minnesota Astronomical Society at the Joseph J. Casby Observatory, Belwin makes it easy for people to explore wild places—just a stone’s throw from a major metropolitan area.
Arts, Culture, and Ecology
Making meaningful connections to heritage and the land
Belwin’s Arts, Culture and Ecology program is designed to give people novel ways to experience nature through performance events, hands-on art making, and an artist-in-residence program. Since its inception in 2015, this multi-disciplinary program has invited thousands of guests to engage more deeply with the natural world at Belwin: Sculpt the dirt at Belwin’s Bison Festival, smell the pines as musicians play from above at Music in the Trees, and warm by the Winter Solstice Bonfire as you listen to stories old and new – all of these experiences take place each year at Belwin, courtesy of the Arts, Culture, and Ecology program.
Expanding our understanding of the natural world
Belwin has a long history of working with colleges and universities, other non-profit groups, and governmental agencies on research that furthers the understanding and recovery of natural systems in the Upper Midwest. Projects have included multiple-year bird migration and census studies, bison and prairie ecology, stream research on trout and aquatic insects, and water quality monitoring in Valley Creek.
From day one, Belwin’s model has been rooted in partnership and collaboration. Since our founding partnership with Saint Paul Public Schools, we have grown by working together with like-minded organizations to accomplish our mutual goals. Our existing partnerships include:
Providing access to land and traditional healing practices to Indigenous families in the east metro.
Providing Indigenous children and their families opportunities to learn about ecology and connect to the land through a Native cultural lens.
New land acquisition, protection through easements, creation of public hiking trails.
Providing opportunities to explore the cosmos through our observatory and viewing fields
Permanently protecting land through conservation easements.
Hosting a herd of bison that advances prairie restoration.
Arts workshops at Belwin and curation of photo exhibits.
Operating the Lucy Winton Bell Athletic Fields.
Providing students opportunities to learn about science in the outdoors.
Working together to control invasive species and to acquire and protect land.