The Natural Lands, encompassing over 430 acres surrounding the St. Olaf college campus, is centered on three primary goals: conservation, education, and recreation.
Much of the areas that make up the Natural Lands have been restored from corn and soybean agriculture. We seek to foster the growth and establishment of native flora and fauna while reducing the populations of invasive species. Serving as a refuge for native species, the forests, prairies, and wetlands of the Natural Lands encompass a wide variety of niches allowing a multitude of Minnesota species to thrive. You can read more about the biomes of the Natural Lands and our management efforts on our Habitats of the Natural Lands page.
The Natural Lands seeks to provide information about native Minnesota species, land management techniques, and invasive species to the St. Olaf and broader Northfield community. The students who work in the Natural Lands as Natural Lands Technicians and Student Naturalists get hands-on experience with land management, outreach, and education. The Natural Lands is a setting for many educational events, including visits from the local Open Door Preschool and Northfield elementary schools where kids can learn about native species, plant trees, participate in Student Naturalist-led activities, and even try removing invasive species.
The Student Naturalists are responsible for a variety of activities that both educate them and the St. Olaf community, including leading ‘Walkie-Talkies,’ educational Natural Lands walks on topics of their choice, writing articles for the Natural Lands website, hosting environment-centered class sessions, and more!
A variety of student and faculty research projects are conducted in the Natural Lands, ranging from bird banding and monitoring painted turtle (Chrysemys picta) populations to analyzing soil health, water quality, and tree growth. If you wish to conduct research in the Natural Lands, please fill out a Project Permit to ensure our staff know the scope, scale, and location of your research!
The trails that span the Natural Lands are open to anyone who wishes to spend some time outdoors. Visitors can walk their dog (on a 6-foot lease please!), bike through our forests and prairies, and appreciate the scenic views at their leisure.
A number of St. Olaf sports teams and clubs also make use of the Natural Lands including Cross Country, OUTS (Oles Under the Sun), the Running Club, Disc Golf, and more.
Please follow these simple rules for your safety and enjoyment:
1. Keep your dogs on a 6 ft physical leash. Please stay on trails and remove all droppings. Field dog training is not permitted.
2. No unauthorized vehicles.
3. Please avoid trails where no bike riding is indicated. Bike riders must always yield to pedestrians and runners.
4. No camping or fires permitted.
5. No hunting or collection of plants, animals or soils without permission.
In case of emergency, call Public Safety 507-786-3666 or 911
The Henry and Agnes Nelson Family Endowment
- Created in 2000 by Donald H. Nelson to provide resources for active environmental stewardship of college-owned land and related academic activities
- Supports three goals
- The restoration and maintenance of natural habitats on St. Olaf College land
- Ensuring sustainable agriculture practices on St. Olaf-owned land
- Enabling faculty and student research, curricular initiatives, course offerings, and faculty development in biology and environmental science, with emphasis in ecology and conservation biology
Morton and Thelma Egeland Endowment for Environmental Science
- A Generous gift from Paul Egeland ’65 in honor of his parents, Morton and Thelma Egeland, has helped to support:
- Restoration and maintenance of our Natural Lands
- Faculty and student research in ecology and conservation biology
- Sustainable agriculture practices on college-owned lands
NUNATAK FUND TO SUPPORT THE ST. OLAF NATURAL LANDS
- Generous gifts from Dave Kuntz ’70 and family are supporting:
- Restoration and planting of forest and prairie lands
- Establishment of a 5th Year Intern program for graduating seniors interested in learning more about conservation and the skills needed for natural lands management.
Government Agencies and ngos
- The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has played a big role in enabling St. Olaf College to develop its Natural Lands. In 1993 St. Olaf received a $75,000 USF&WS/Ducks Unlimited grant to restore 50 acres of land to prairie and wetland through their Wetland Restoration Permanent Easement program.
- In 2001 we received $250,000 from the USF&WS/Ducks Unlimited to restore 100 acres into prairie and wetlands.
- We received a $20,000 grant from Pheasants Forever, a private organization, to help pay for prairie seed costs.
- The college also has has received support from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture through their Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). This program supports the conversion of erodible farmland into permanent cover. It provides cost sharing for plantings as well as paying a small subsidy for the farmland retired from agriculture.
For more information about making a gift to the St Olaf Natural Lands, please contact the Development Office.