Accelerate the Waterfowl Production Area Program in Minnesota, Phase 1
Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will cooperate to permanently restore and conserve approximately 800 acres of grassland and 400 acres of wetland as Waterfowl Production Areas in western and southern Minnesota. All lands acquired through this grant proposal will be owned and managed by the Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) are managed as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System. However, land acquisition and restoration have not kept pace with habitat needs. This LSOHC project will add to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's acquisition of Minnesota's valuable wetland and grassland habitats. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will immediately identify and prioritize lands to be acquired by Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited. PF and DU will complete landowner contacts, appraisals, and purchase agreements. Lands will be deeded to and managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as WPA's. Under this management, restoration of native grasslands and wetlands will be completed and protected in perpetuity. Approximately 800 acres of grasslands and 400 acres of wetlands will be protected. Acquisition will occur in 18 months and habitat restoration will occur over the next two years depending on funding and seedbed preparation needs. Waterfowl Production Areas will be open for public recreation according to the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act. This project will be part of the Waterfowl Production Area program that has successfully protected similar habitats in Minnesota for 50 years.
Pheasants Forever and Ducks Unlimited, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, acquired 12 parcels of land from willing sellers totaling 1,522 acres within priority wildlife habitat complexes throughout the prairie and metro regions of the state. Partners were highly successful at securing parcels as evidenced with a 86% acquisition completion rate (12 out of 14 projects closed) because appraisal values were competitive due to the fact most transactions were completed before the agricultural market boom in 2012. All of the acquired parcels are additions onto existing permanently protected wildlife habitat complexes creating an even larger benefit to waterfowl and the myriad of wildlife species that depend on these wetland / grassland habitats. All parcels have been donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and are now protected and managed in perpetuity as Waterfowl Productions Areas (WPA) under the National Wildlife Refuge System. Each parcel is open for public recreation, including hunting, as defined by the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act.
Each acquired parcel has also been restored and/or enhanced to as a high quality as practicable to ensure the maximum amount of benefits to migratory birds and other wildlife species. Wetlands restorations of various types, including seasonal wetlands, were restored by breaking drain tile lines, filling drainage ditches, constructing earthen dams, and installing water control structures. Invasive tree removal work was completed on many of these newly acquired lands and all agricultural fields restored to grasslands were restored using a broadcast or drill seeded method with a diverse mix of native grasses and forb species. In addition, 100 acres of wetland and grasslands were restored and 302 acres of prairie were enhanced on existing Waterfowl Production Areas in Pope and Traverse Counties, MN. These restored and permanently protected acres will provide critical habitat for breeding/migrating waterfowl as reproductive and winter habitat for grassland game and non game species.
The work completed in this project has accelerated investment into permanently protected wildlife habitat complexes through the highly successful USFWS Waterfowl Production Area program. The outcomes of this project protects, maintains, and increases waterfowl and other wildlife populations within these areas. Furthermore, this work helps to improve water quality, reduces soil erosion, and provides public areas for Minnesotans to recreate in the outdoors, something so fundamental to ensure Minnesota’s future outdoor heritage.
$5,600,000 in fiscal year 2010 is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Pheasants Forever or successor to acquire and restore wetland and related upland habitats, in cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited, Inc. or successor to be managed as waterfowl production areas. A list of proposed acquisitions and a list of proposed projects, describing the types and locations of restorations, must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.