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Vermillion Highlands: A Research, Recreation and Wildlife Management Area

Vermillion Highlands: A Research, Recreation and Wildlife Management Area was established in 2006 by the Minnesota Legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty. Creating Common Ground, a January 2007 report to the legislature, outlines the agreement for joint management by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR), in conjunction with Dakota County and Empire Township, for the 2,840-acre parcel adjacent to the University of Minnesota Outreach, Research and Education (UMore) Park. The land is designated as a research, recreation and modified wildlife management area (WMA) that balances University research, education and public engagement; public access for diverse, high-quality recreation; and wildlife management and hunting.

Creating Common Ground identified the need to develop a concept master plan for land use and management.The scope of the concept master plan was broadened to examine the connectivity between Vermillion Highlands and adjacent public open-space properties to capitalize on opportunities for synergistic management and land use for the public good.

In keeping with the identified need to develop a cohesive plan for Vermillion Highlands, in October 2007 the three original parties selected and contracted with the Center for Rural Design at the University of Minnesota to develop a concept master plan for Vermillion Highlands. The Center was excited by the challenge to develop a model multi-jurisdictional concept master plan for Vermillion Highlands and the connectivity with the future UMore Park community, MN DNR, Dakota County, Empire Township and City of Rosemount. It was an ideal intercollegiate research effort at the urban/rural edge reflecting the Center’s mission and an opportunity to include graduate students in the planning process.

The concept master plan is intended to reflect the unified sustainability goals of the organizations represented on the Steering Committee and their respective strengths and interests. The concept master plan establishes a contemporary vision for how Vermillion Highlands will be managed, used and improved, along with an implementation strategy to achieve the vision. The Steering Committee provides overarching guidance for the three mandated uses of the property that are addressed in the concept master plan:

  • Research. Research opportunities at Vermillion Highlands are open to faculty members and students from across the University of Minnesota system and their collaborators. Research, planning and operations are coordinated by the Head of the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC) under the auspices of the Office of the Dean of the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS).
  • Recreation. Natural resource-based recreation, open space preservation, greenway connectivity and environmental education at Vermillion Highlands are integrated with Dakota County parks and open spaces via the Dakota County Parks and Open Space Department.
  • Wildlife management area. Environmental preservation and protection, wildlife management and related educational opportunities are coordinated by the MN DNR and include a focus on high-quality hunting and trapping opportunities.