Accelerating the Waterfowl Production Area Program , Phase 4
$5,400,000 in the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Pheasants Forever to acquire land in fee to be managed and designated 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.
Protect in fee 185 acres of wetlands and 816 acres of prairies
USFWS - $2.5 million and Pheasants Forever - $335,500
This program accelerated the permanent protection of 1,001 acres of wetlands (185 acres) and grasslands (816 acres) as Waterfowl Production Areas open to public hunting in Minnesota. Over the course of the appropriation, PF acquired 5 parcels for a total of 1,001 acres which exceeded our total acre goal of 935 acres by 66 acres. Breaking down acres by ecological section we exceeded our acre goal in the prairie area by 346 acres. We are also happy to bring in $3,794,200 of non-state match dollars to this effort, exceeding our match goal of $3,320,000 by $474,200. We have a balance of $61,800 that will be returned to the Fund despite exceeding our acre goals which demonstrates the high level of efficiency which Pheasants Forever operates at.
In total, we under-spent on our budget, over delivered on acre goals and over delivered on match while using less personal costs than proposed.
Working in close collaboration with partners, Pheasants Forever acquired 1,001 acres of strategic habitat that builds onto existing protected lands and/or develops corridors for wildlife. These USFWS Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) will be protected and managed in perpetuity by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We have worked together with federal, state and local partners when acquiring the 5 parcels which will be celebrated as new WPAs. These new additions to existing WPAs not only provides access and recreational opportunities for all Minnesotans, but helps reduce erosion, improve water filtration, and provide quality habitat for many of Minnesota's non-game species.
The offers to the landowners were based on fair market values and appraisals. The acquired parcels addressed a backlog of willing sellers that now are helping slow the loss, degradation, and fragmentation of habitat in Minnesota. Parcels were identified jointly with the USFWS, ranked, and prioritized on habitat goals and feasibility. Pheasants Forever's methods are formed around the principle of accelerating the Waterfowl Production Area program in MN by targeting only the best available habitat with willing sellers. We utilize local partner expertise to focus on building a system of interconnected wildlife complexes that create habitat mosaics. We also utilize the latest geospatial layers to help determine factors such as: habitat restoration potential, landscape scale significance, presence of rare features and native habitat, and how these acquisitions fit into other priorities for our partners such as the MN Prairie Conservation Plan, the Pheasant Action Plan, or the State Wildlife Action Plan.
Hanson WPA Addition and John Giese WPA were the two largest permanent protection projects in this proposal making up over half of the total 1,001 acquired acres. The 282 acre Hanson WPA Addition builds on the existing 80 acre Hanson WPA. Within 2 miles of this tract there are 2 WPAs totaling 724 acres and 2 WMAs totaling 1,597 acres. In addition there are numerous perpetual RIM and FWS conservation easements in this area. All these tracts build around Lake Simon which is the focus area of a lot of conservation efforts including the MN Prairie Conservation plan (this area has the highest designation within this plan as a core area), Chippewa 10% Simon Lake Challenge focus area, in a Grassland Bird Conservation Area, is in a priority area for the MN Wildlife Action Plan, and scores a 20 HAPET score (which is the highest USFWS Habitat and Population and Evaluation team designation). The 320 acre John Giese WPA is an addition to the 5,000+ acre Talcot Lake WMA and 155 acre Talcot Lake WPA. In addition to being a priority area for many of the same plans above, this Talcot Lake area is a Southwest MN hot spot for all outdoor enthusiasts being comprised of marshes, bottomlands and adjacent grassland and cropland. Talcot Lake is historically important for migrating waterfowl and other species including canada geese, common yellowthroats, northern cardinals, indigo buntings, and ring-necked pheasants. Mammals include beavers, muskrats, white-tailed deer, red foxes, and minks. With the help of the LSOHC’s recommendations we were able to permanently protect these two high priority tracts helping fulfill the mission of the council and provide recreational opportunities for all Minnesotans.
All parcels acquired were restored and/or enhanced to as a high quality as practicable. The grassland restoration included using a broadcast or drill seeded method with a diverse mix of native grasses and forb species. Wetland restorations included using a combination of tile breaking, sediment removal, dike construction, and water control structures. Scattered invasive tree removal and prescribed fire were used where appropriate to enhance existing grassland habitat after protection.