Accelerating the Wildlife Management Area Program, Phase 3
$5,500,000 the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Pheasants Forever to acquire prairie and other habitat areas for wildlife management area purposes under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 8. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Protect in fee 278 acres of wetlands and 1,220 acres of prairies
The proposal was to accelerate the protection of 1,275 acres of prairie grassland, wetland, and other wildlife habitat as State Wildlife Management Areas open to public hunting. However, over the course of the appropriation, we acquired 10 parcels for a total of 1,498 acres which exceeded our total acre goal of 1,275 acres by 223 acres. Breaking down acres by ecological section we exceed our acre goal for the metropolitan area by 97 acres. We have a balance of $60,000 that will be returned to the Fund despite exceeding our acre goals and demonstrating the high level of efficiency Pheasants Forever operates at.
In total, we under spent on our budget, over delivered on acre goals, and over delivered on match leverage received.
Working in close collaboration with partners, Pheasants Forever acquired 1,498 acres of strategic habitat that builds onto existing protected lands and/or develops corridors for wildlife. All land acquired has been enrolled into the state Wildlife Management Area (WMA) Program and will be protected and managed in perpetuity by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. We have worked together with federal, state and local partners when acquiring the 10 parcels which will now be celebrated as new WMAs. These new WMAs 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 landowner 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 MN DNR, ranked, and prioritized on habitat goals and feasibility. Pheasants Forever's methods are formed around the principle of accelerating the Wildlife 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.
All parcels acquired have been restored and/or enhanced to as a high quality as practicable. All agricultural row crops on these parcels have been restored to native grassland/wetland complexes. The grasslands were restored using a broadcast or drill seeded method with a diverse mix of native grasses and forb species. Wetlands were restored 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.