Accelerated Shallow Lake and Wetland Enhancement and Restoration Program
$6,505,000 in fiscal year 2011 is to the commissioner of natural resources to assess, enhance, and restore shallow lake and wetland habitats, to acquire land in fee or through permanent conservation easements for shallow lake program restoration, and to provide stewardship for acquired easements in cooperation with Ducks Unlimited, Inc. of this appropriation, $1,463,000 is for the Department of Natural Resources agency program acceleration and $5,042,000 is for an agreement with Ducks Unlimited, Inc. A list of proposed projects, describing the types and locations of land acquisitions, restoration projects, and enhancement projects, must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. The commissioner of natural resources must agree in writing to each acquisition, restoration project, and enhancement project. The accomplishment plan must include an easement stewardship plan. All restorations must comply with subdivision 9, paragraph (b)
DU Private Funds, NAWCA Small Grant
Ducks Unlimited and Minnesota DNR Section of Wildlife completed 26 project affecting 7,603 acres, including three wetland restoration projects restoring 97 acres, 18 shallow lake enhancement projects enhancing 7,154 wetland acres, and five fee-title land acquisition projects protecting 352 acres.
This grant was a programmatic partnership between the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Ducks Unlimited (DU) to accelerate enhancement, restoration, and protection of shallow lakes and wetlands important to waterfowl. In partnership, DU and DNR assessed shallow lake conditions through the Minnesota DNR Section of Wildlife Shallow Lakes Program, and designed and implemented shallow lake and wetland enhancement and restoration projects using water level control structures and other means. DU also implemented land protection projects via fee-title land acquisitions to improve and buffer wetland habitats used by waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife in Minnesota.
Overall, DU and DNR completed 26 project affecting 7,603 acres. These included three wetland restoration projects restoring 97 acres, 18 shallow lake enhancement projects enhancing 7,154 wetland acres, and five fee-title land acquisition projects protecting 352 acres. DNR also completed 317 shallow lake assessment surveys to document current ecological conditions and help justify future shallow lake enhancement projects, while DU staff worked on 50 new shallow lake engineering enhancement projects to design water control structures for state DNR Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), public waters, and wetlands on federal lands managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.
Financially, DU and DNR spent $6,439,871 of the $6,505,000 appropriated for this project. DU spent the entire $5,042,000 portion appropriated to Ducks Unlimited while providing $1,205,381 in non-state financial leverage for a total expense of $6,247,381. This non-state leverage provided by DU far surpassed the minimal leverage pledged, and was comprised of a combination of private funds donated to DU from individuals, foundations, and corporations, and federal grants such as the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). Meanwhile, Minnesota DNR spent $$1,397,871 of the $1,463,000 appropriated to DNR, leaving $65,129 unspent to be returned to the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
Although we fell short of our 750-acre land protection via fee-title acquisition goal, we exceeded all other original accomplishment plan goals of 200 shallow lake assessments, engineering work on 50 new enhancement projects, restoration of 63 wetland acres, and enhancement of 7,132 shallow lake wetland acres. The shortfall in total acres acquired was due to sharply rising cropland prices during this grant period, and uncooperative landowners in the drained Moonshine Lake basin in Big Stone County that made acquisition of those lands not feasible as previously planned. The primary landowner there refused to sell his land for appraised fair market value, and DU did not anticipate the spike in agricultural land prices that made acquiring an equal number of acres elsewhere impossible. Nonetheless, DU did acquire five smaller parcels totaling 352 acres in the Prairie Section, including 100 acres of wetlands and 252 acres of uplands. These parcels have been transferred to the Minnesota DNR for inclusion into the state WMA system for long-term habitat management and public outdoor recreational use.
Importantly, DU and DNR wetland projects were highly successful and surpassed our acreage goals. DU and DNR completed three wetland restoration projects, one by DNR on Pelican Lake WMA in Wright County that restored hydrology to 25 wetland acres in the Metro Section, and two others by DU that involved restoring wetland hydrology to 45 acres on Fenmont WMA in Nobles County and 27 acres o Four Corners WMA in Martin County in the Prairie Section. Moreover, DU and DNR each completed nine additional shallow lake and wetland enhancement projects that improved wetland ecological condition and management capability, for a total of 18 projects that enhanced 7,154 wetland acres in Prairie, Transition, and Metro Sections. These were mostly structural enhancement projects where DU and DNR engineering installed water control structures to allow for temporary water level draw-downs to enhance the aquatic ecology of managed wetlands on state and federal areas (including four Waterfowl Production Areas). Most of the acres enhanced were located on the Roseau state WMA, where DNR renovated an important dike used to control water levels in a large wetland. Elsewhere, DNR seeded wild rice into 40 acres of wetlands and shallow lakes in Wright and Stearns Counties in Metro, Transition, and Prairie Sections.
All DU and DNR wetland restoration and shallow lake enhancement projects were in public waters or in basins on state DNR or federal land where DNR or the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service will manage and maintain them for both wildlife habitat and public benefit. All lands acquired by DU were transferred to the Minnesota DNR for long-term wildlife habitat management and pubic outdoor recreational use.