Accelerated Native Prairie Bank Protection

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$2,541,000
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Recipient
DNR
Recipient Type
State Government
Status
In Progress
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2016, Ch. 172, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 2(f)
Appropriation Language

$2,541,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources to implement the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan through the acquisition of permanent conservation easements to protect and restore native prairie. Of this amount, up to $120,000 is for establishing monitoring and enforcement funds as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. Subject to evaluation criteria in Minnesota Rules, part 6136.0900, priority must be given to acquisition of lands that are eligible for the native prairie bank under Minnesota Statutes, section 84.96, or lands adjacent to protected native prairie. A list of permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the final report.

2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$2,541,000
Other Funds Leveraged
$0
Direct expenses
$2,522,500
Administration costs
$18,500
Number of full time equivalents funded
0.48
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Remnant native prairies are part of large complexes of restored prairies, grasslands, and large and small wetlands - - Acres of native prairie protected from conversion - Acres of native prairie protected with high connectivity to other conservation lands - Acres protected within Prairie Plan Core and Corridor Areas - Average size of protected complex .Remnant native prairies are part of large complexes of restored prairies, grasslands, and large and small wetlands - - Acres of native prairie protected from conversion - Acres of native prairie protected with high connectivity to other conservation lands - Acres protected within Prairie Plan Core and Corridor Areas - Average size of protected complex.

Project Overview

The Native Prairie Bank Program will work with willing landowners to enroll 420 acres of native prairie in perpetual conservation easements. Enrollment will focus on Minnesota Prairie Plan identified landscapes and target high quality prairies that provide valuable wildlife habitat.

About the Issue

The loss of native prairie and associated grassland habitat is arguably the greatest conservation challenge facing western and southern Minnesota. This proposal aims to permanently protect 420 acres of native prairie habitat by accelerating the enrollment of Native Prairie Bank easements.

This acceleration is necessary to address today's rapid loss of native prairie and associated grasslands and meet the habitat protection goals set forth in the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan. Minnesota was once a land of 18 million acres of prairie, today about 1.3 percent remains. The few acres of native prairie that remain in Minnesota may be areas that once were thought of as too rocky or wet for row crops but with advancements in technology and equipment, in addition to growing competition for tillable acres, this is no longer the case. Grassland-to-cropland conversion is not the only impact to native prairie. Significant degradation and loss of native prairie is also occurring due to lack of prairie orientated management, property development and mineral extraction. If the current trajectory of grassland and prairie loss continues it will be devastating to grassland dependent wildlife populations.

Recognizing that protecting grassland and wetland habitat is one of the most critical conservation challenges facing Minnesota, over a dozen leading conservation organizations have developed a road map for moving forward – the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan. This plan calls for several outcomes, one being the protection of all remaining native prairie, largely through conservation easements. One of the primary easement tools for native prairie protection in Minnesota is the DNR administered Native Prairie Bank Program easement program. The Native Prairie Bank Program was established by the 1987 legislature to protect private native prairie lands by authorizing the state to acquire conservation easements from willing landowners. To date 118 Native Prairie Bank easements have been enrolled into the program, covering over 10,000 acres. The Native Prairie Bank Program targets the protection of native prairie tracts, but can also include adjoining lands as buffers and additional habitat.

Eligible tracts are prioritized based on several factors including:

1) Size and quality of habitat, focusing on diverse native prairie communities that have been identified by the Minnesota Biological Survey
2) The occurrence of rare species, or suitability habitat for rare species
3) Lands that are part of a larger habitat complex

Native Prairie Bank easements provide enduring, long-term protection to prairie habitat by placing restrictions on future land use, including, but not limited to:

1) No topographic changes or alterations to the natural landscape (plow, drain, fill, etc.)
2) No dumping trash or garbage
3) Motor vehicle use limited to management purposes (weed control, prescribed burning, etc.)
4) No drawing of water for irrigation or other uses
5) No building or placing of structures on the protected property
6) No subdivision or dividing of the parcel
7) No introduction of invasive species
8) No pesticide use without DNR approval

In addition, a Native Prairie Bank easement grants the DNR the right to enter the property to manage the prairie as needed, as well as monitor and enforce the easements terms/conditions.

To accelerate efforts, the Native Prairie Bank Program is coordinating with Minnesota Prairie Plan partners and using the network of established Local Technical Teams (LTT's) to reach out to landowners and increase program enrollment. The LTT's are local staff from SWCD's, NRCS, DNR, USFWS, The Nature Conservancy and Pheasants Forever - to name a few. The LTT's have already begun cultivating relationships with prairie landowners and eagerly await funding to deliver this program to willing landowners - there is a waiting list. The new enrollment of 420 acres will focus on priority landscapes identified in the Minnesota Prairie Plan, which directly coincides with the location of LTT's. Through work with the MN Prairie Conservation Plan, the Native Prairie Bank Program actively seeks additional funding sources to further leverage state funds (e.g. partner on USDA Regional Conservation Partnership Program proposal).

Project Manager
First Name
Judy
Last Name
Schulte
Organization Name
MN DNR
Street Address
1241 E Bridge Street
City
Redwood Falls
State
MN
Zip Code
56283
Phone
(507) 822-0344
Email
judy.schulte@state.mn.us