Accelerated Prairie Restoration and Enhancement on DNR Lands - Phase VII
We propose restoration and enhancement of prairie and savanna on WMA’s, SNA’s, and Native Prairie Banks in Minnesota and restoration and enhancement of bluff prairies on State Forest Land in southeast Minnesota.
Minnesota's Wildlife Management Area system, started in 1951, has over 60 years of support . Over 1.3 million acres of habitat in over 1,400 WMAs are protected by the DNR. Restoration and enhancement of habitat on WMA's are core management principles. These networks provide diverse year-round food and cover for local wildlife, as well as resources for migratory wildlife. The Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan stresses strategic habitat complexes that provide multiple benefits including water quality improvements, seed sources and local economic diversity.
Minnesota's Scientific and Natural Area program, created by the 1969 Minnesota Legislature, currently administers over 140 natural areas and 100 Native Prairie Bank easements. Most restoration and enhancement practices being applied with this proposal have been proven to provide desired outcomes on existing state-managed lands. Through this funding, the state will be able to accelerate restoration and enhancement habitat improvements on state land and lands protected by permanent easement thereby providing for improved critical wildlife habitat and a more functional prairie landscape. Habitat improvement actions enhance existing degraded habitat to directly increase the productivity of nesting habitat for pheasants, waterfowl and a variety of non-game grassland species such as meadowlarks, longspurs, Species of Greatest Conservation Need and a suite of critical pollinator species.
Although Minnesota DNR has the training and know-how to restore high quality prairie vegetation current funding has been insufficient to meet all needs. Many sites on state lands are currently not being actively managed to full potential. Furthermore exotic and/or invasive plants are encroaching into them. Woody cover encroachment is an especially troublesome problem. Enhancement and restoration of prairie requires periodic disturbance such as prescribed burning, conservation grazing, haying, inter-seeding grasslands with native species, and up to five years post-seeding management. Harvesting and using high quality seed from established prairie sites to plant at other locations has proven to be highly cost-effective.
WMA Habitat Work (approximately 5,260 acres over 5 years) – Total $1,606,972
Grassland restoration and enhancement work will be through techniques such as brush and tree removal, bareground seeding, grassland conversion, chemical treatment, mowing, inter-seeding, and burning. Seed will be obtained via harvesting of local native or restored prairie when possible and purchase of seed from vendors when necessary (following Operational Order 124). DNR will contract much of this work. Seed mixes used for prairie restoration and enhancement will be adequately diverse to provide pollinator habitat throughout the growing season. All other work will be done using Best Management Practices to ensure pollinator habitat consistent with MN Statute 84.973.
Ecological and Water Resources Habitat Work (approximately 3,190 acres over 5 years) – Total $887,000
Restoration of prairie will occur on 35 acres of severely altered lands by reconstructing native plant communities. These restorations are either in-holdings within a native prairie, or lands surrounding a native prairie. Seed will be collected from native prairies adjacent to the restorations or purchased from vendors with local seed sources. Seed mixes will be adequately diverse to provide pollinator habitat throughout the growing season. These restorations will expand existing prairie habitat and buffer native prairies from the impacts of adjacent land uses. Funding requested for restoration projects will cover all costs and activities associated with reconstructing a prairie including project design, seedbed preparation, seed harvest, seed installation, and first year weed control. Prairie enhancement activities will be implemented on 3155 acres of existing SNA's, State Forest Land and Prairie Bank Easement sites. Funding requested for enhancement projects will cover all project costs and activities including project design, contract administration, staff time, equipment and supplies. These enhancement activities will focus on native prairies, but may include some restored prairies within the project sites. Many of these native prairie sites harbor rare and unique features, or are located on steep terrain, which require low impact management techniques (e.g. hand cutting of woody encroachment). These specialized prairie management techniques, and the skilled crews that implement them, can incur higher costs than similar lower diversity grassland projects.
WMA Roving Crews (approximately 20,500 acres over 2 years) - $2,024,728
WMA Roving Crews have proven to be an effective means to accomplish supplemental habitat work. We currently have three WMA Roving Crews working in Minnesota funded through four seperate Outdoor Heritage Fund appropriations (two grassland and two wetland appropriations). The Region 4 Roving Crew is currently funded partially (75%) with the ML 2013 DNR Grasslands appropriation and these funds are scheduled to expire after the 2015 Fiscal Year. The Region 1 and 3 Roving Crews are Partially funded with the ML2012 DNR grassland appropriation, scheduled to expire after the 2016 Fiscal Year. We propose funding the Region 4 Crew with this new appropriation for 2 years, ending June 30, 2017, and Region 1 and 3 crews with this new appropriation for 1 year, ending June 30, 2017. We have estimated that the crews will spend approximately 15% of their time on restoration projects and 85% on enhancement projects.
Region 1, 3, and 4 Project Coordinators (One at 50%, two at 25% over 3 years) - $361,300
All three Regional Project Coordinators are Partially funded through the ML 2013 OHF DNR grassland appropriation through fiscal year 2016 (50% for Region 4, 25% each for Regions 1 and 3). We propose funding all three coordinators with this appropriation for three years starting July 1, 2016 and ending June 30, 2018.
$4,880,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources to accelerate the restoration and enhancement of prairie communities on wildlife management areas, scientific and natural areas, state forest land, and land under native prairie bank easements. A list of proposed land restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
A prairie restoration in Crow Wing County and a noxious weed project in Mahnomen County are on the parcel list. The projects target and perpetuate grassland dependent species..Protected, restored, and enhanced aspen parklands and riparian areas - Six month accomplishments reported by Area Wildlife Managers, Roving Crew leaders, Regional Coordinators, SNA field staff. Evaluations take place over several years post treatment using various methods..Core areas protected with highly biologically diverse wetlands and plant communities, including native prairie, Big Woods, and oak savanna - Six month accomplishments reported by Area Wildlife Managers, Roving Crew leaders, Regional Coordinators, SNA field staff. Evaluations take place over several years post treatment using various methods..Restoration and enhancement of bluff prairies and savannas.Restored and enhanced upland habitats - Six month accomplishments reported by Area Wildlife Managers, Roving Crew leaders, Regional Coordinators, SNA field staff. Evaluations take place over several years post treatment using various methods..