Accelerating the Waterfowl Production Area Acquisition - Phase VII
$7,620,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Pheasants Forever to acquire land in fee to be designated and managed as waterfowl production areas in Minnesota, in cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Protected, restored, and enhanced nesting and migratory habitat for waterfowl, upland birds, and species of greatest conservation need - Number of acres of wetlands and uplands protected and restored..Protected habitats will hold wetlands and shallow lakes open to public recreation and hunting - Number and acres of wetlands protected and restored. Number of acquisitions that provide additional access to existing public lands..Protected, restored, and enhanced habitat for migratory and unique Minnesota species - Number of acres of wetlands and uplands protected and restored..
This proposal accelerates the permanent protection of 900 acres of wetlands (225 acres) and grasslands (675 acres) as Waterfowl Production Areas open to public hunting in Minnesota.
The loss of grassland and wetland habitats in Minnesota is well documented. In the agricultural region of Minnesota over 90% of our wetlands and 99% our prairie grasslands have been converted for other uses. Grant funding requested through this project will restore and permanently protect these lands for wildlife and the recreational enjoyment of the visiting public. One of the primary ways to reverse this downward trend is to permanently acquire and restore previously converted wetland and grassland habitats on those properties. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and their partners have been employing this strategy for over 50-years with the Small Wetlands Acquisition Program (SWAP). This seventh phase of the acceleration program acquires AND restores 225 acres of wetland and 675 acres of grassland habitats which will be permanently protected as Waterfowl Protection Areas managed by the Service.
Using landscape level planning tools [e.g. Thunderstorm Maps produced by the Service’s Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET)], Pheasants Forever (PF) will acquire strategically identified properties. Based on HAPET evaluation strategies, modeling predictions can be made on the numbers of nesting waterfowl, grassland nesting birds, and other wildlife the acres affected by this grant application will produce. Besides the obvious wildlife benefits, once restored, the lands acquired through this grant will provide additional water quality, groundwater recharge, and flood abatement benefits. These strategies are well tested and are supported by the greater conservation community here in Minnesota. Hunting and fishing stakeholders are very interested in increasing opportunities for hunting and fishing public access and have used WPA’s extensively in the past. To address concerns related to the erosion of county tax revenues due to public land, the Service and PF will notify counties prior to acquisition of lands. Once acquired, the Service will make a one-time Trust Fund payment to the County where the property is located. In addition, the Service will make annual Refuge Revenue Sharing payments for all fee lands within the respective Counties.
Funding for restoration of the properties will be solicited from partners. If this funding is available, budgeted Outdoor Heritage restoration funds under this proposal would be able to accomplish additional fee title w/o PILT acquisition funds. Wetlands, on the properties acquired, will be restored by either surface ditch “plugs” or breaking sub-surface tile lines. Grasslands will be restored by planting appropriate native grasses and forbs to converted grassland habitats. Grassland restoration on individual tracts may take three to five years and involve one to two years of post acquisition farming to prepare the seed base, one year for seeding and one to two years to establish.