Accelerated Forest Wildlife Habitat Program
$1,791,000 in fiscal year 2011 is to the commissioner of natural resources for acceleration of agency programs to acquire, in fee, land for state forests and restore and enhance state forest habitat. A list of projects including proposed fee title acquisitions and restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. All restorations must comply with subdivision 9, paragraph (b).
Protected in fee 397 acres and enhanced 7,586 of forests
This program will increase populations of a variety of game and non-game wildlife species by protecting and enhancing forest habitats on which wildlife depends. This program of on-the-ground forest conservation projects will amplify the wildlife value of forest communities on DNR administered forestlands. Our forest enhancement will treat 4,472 ac. These activities are not conducted as part of the DNR's commercial timber operations. Additionally, our program will acquire 404 acres of forestland that contributes to habitat complexes and other high priorities. Acquisitions focus on forestland for public hunting, and compatible outdoor uses. At a reduced level of funding, we are focusing on management activities that will maximize wildlife habitat outcomes, especially prescribed burning, hand release, and shearing/mowing. Our program will enhance oak and create a mix of young hardwood forest with more open meadow/brush lands to benefit grouse, elk, and deer. Forest opening creation/enhancement will increase nut and berry production, provide roosting/display areas, and create feeding areas for moose, deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock, and bear. Shearing of trees and brush in large open landscape priority areas will benefit sharp-tailed grouse. Shearing and mowing of hardwoods and brush in smaller patches will benefit woodcock and deer.Our program will benefit a number of nongame species, including yellow rails, sandhill cranes, northern harriers, bobolinks, and upland sandpipers. Activities that create/enhance forest openings will provide habitat for nongame species, including least chipmunks, northern flickers, coopers hawks, and song sparrows. The less intensive timber management in our program will help protect rare native plant communities and a number of nongame species through retention and enhancement of plant species diversity and structure.
Forests face a formidable array of challenges: fragmentation, invasive species, climate change, disease, and changes in forest-based economics and recreation. While Minnesota’s 16.2 million ac of forest are diverse, the acreage and composition of forests have changed significantly. The forest acreage is about half of what it was (31.5 million ac) in the mid 1800s.
Just over half of the forestland in Minnesota is publicly owned; the State of Minnesota administers about 24%. Minnesota’s forests help maintain the state’s environmental and economic health. They are habitat for fish and wildlife, and a source of biodiversity, clean water, watershed protection, carbon sequestration, recreational opportunities, and many other benefits.
Habitat loss and degradation are identified as the primary challenge facing wildlife. Almost one-third of the state’s 292 Species in Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) inhabit forests. The management objectives in this program parallel the forest management options outlined in Minnesota’s State Wildlife Action Plan, Tomorrow's Habitat for the Wild and Rare (Tomorrow’s Habitat Plan). Implementation of these objectives in key habitats identified in the Plan will maintain and enhance native forest communities supporting game and non-game wildlife populations. Tomorrow's Habitat Plan also calls for the purchase and protection of key habitats as another tool to address the conservation needs of these species.
Protecting forests threatened by fragmentation or development provides important opportunities for collaborative conservation of larger scale areas of habitat. Restoration of newly acquired state forestlands is essential to assure that sites in state ownership are improved to increase or retain their value as wildlife habitat.
The availability of public hunting lands does not meet the expectations of a growing Minnesota population. Due to the current recession, land prices have stabilized or declined and a short-term opportunity exists to purchase more value for our expenditures.
Broad goals for this program are provided through the Subsection Forest Resources Management Planning process which includes a public participation process. No opposition was anticipated. County board approval was required for all acquisitions.
Program managers were permitted to add, delete, and substitute projects on the parcel list based upon need, readiness, cost, opportunity, and/or urgency so long as the substitute parcel/project forwarded the constitutional objectives of this program in the Project Scope table of the accomplishment plan. This final report includes the final project parcel list.