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Charter for Friends of Indian Heights

Indian Heights Park has been ecologically and historically an Oak Savanna.  An Oak Savanna environment is indicated by the existing oaks that are between 100 and 200 years old which have very large lower branches – as they have not competed with other trees for sunlight.  Oak Savannas serve as transition zones between Prairies and Woods in the Midwest, and many are now considered to exist in degraded states due absence of periodic wildfires which function to remove young trees and bushes from competition for sunlight with the oaks and the native forbs.

The savanna environment is special because it has high bio-diversity due to its transition zone status– and it is now rare due to the encroachment of agriculture and city life.   In fact, in 1973 the City of Rochester indicated in the purchase contract for Indian Heights Park “This particular site is the only undeveloped wooded area remaining in northwestern Rochester” (section 3 of the 1973 Purchase Agreement, Environmental Assessment of Indian Heights Park). 
The Minnesota DNR reports that in the 1890’s Burr Oak Savanna was the major ecosystems of the Rochester plateau, with Oak Savanna covering 52.5% of the area.  In the 1990’s this percentage had fallen to 0.1%; causing concern for dozens of wildlife species.   from Tomorrow’s Habitat for the Wild and Rare: An Action Plan for Minnesota Wildlife

The Midwest Oak Ecosystems Conference held in 1995 indicated:

“People are increasingly aware of the appalling rate of global species extinctions and the loss of natural vegetation. However, it is important for us to understand however that the loss of biological diversity does not occur only in exotic places such as tropical rain forests. In the American Midwest as well, we witness extinctions, the loss of species and vegetational diversity, and the breakdown of life-bearing ecosystems that such losses indicate.”  

from Midwest Oak Ecosystems Recovery Plan: A Call to Action

The Oak Savanna Foundation, in support of restoring degraded Savannas such as Indian Heights “Much of this vast savanna area was destroyed during the settlement period in the latter half of the 19th century. At most, Midwestern savannas today amount to only about 30,000 acres, most of which is degraded. Most remaining individual savannas are small, usually less than 100 acres. The rarity of oak savannas has led to them being listed as “globally imperiled.”   

The World Wildlife Fund describes the demise of Savanna ecosystems such as Indian Heights more strongly:  “The oak savanna component of the Upper Midwest forest-savanna transition is one of the world's most endangered ecosystems."   World Wildlife Fund, 2001

After gaining better understanding of the fragility of the ecosystem and its wildlife the Friends of Indian Heights (FOIH) seeks to restore the Park to its original Oak Savanna status.  Once restored, Indian Heights Park will provide a natural and cultural environment that is safe and non-threatening to rare and native flora and fauna, and is welcoming to all city dwellers on foot, snowshoe or cross-country ski.

The Park’s history as a burial ground, its current state of wilderness, as well as its location within the city limits, provides a rare opportunity to Rochester’s residents for recreation, life-long learning and quiet reflection in a friendly community.

Goals and Objectives

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