Accelerating the Wildlife Management Area Program , Phase 4
$3,300,000 in the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Pheasants Forever to acquire land in fee 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 73 acres of wetlands and 565 acres of prairies
Pheasants Forever private funding and Federal monies
The program accelerated the protection of 550 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 seven parcels for a total of 638 acres which exceeded our total acre goal of 550 acres by 88 acres. Breaking down acres by ecological section we exceed our 440 acre goal for the prairie region by 171 acres. We have a balance of $62,300 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 while using less personnel costs than proposed.
One tract of significance worth mentioning is Mel Roehrl WMA which was one of the largest permanent protection projects in this proposal at 110 acres. The Mel Roehrl WMA Addition builds on the existing 197 acre Mel Roehl WMA. Within three miles of this tract there are four WPAs totaling 491 acres, two SNAs totaling 226 acres and one 197 acre WMA. In addition there are numerous perpetual FWS conservation easements in this area. This habitat complex is a mere 22 miles from Alexandria in western Stearns County, has outstanding grassland, wetland and winter habitat and is located in an area of the county with large numbers of existing CRP tracts. Opportunities for public hunting and trapping is very high. This area is a notable pheasant and deer hunting area of the county. This tract, like many of the other tracts purchased in this proposal, are within identified priority areas by MN DNR, USFWS, and other partners. Some of the factors we use to prioritize acquisitions are Grassland Bird Conservation Areas, Fish and Wildlife habitat rankings (e.g. HAPET scores, duck nesting pair density), and stateside plans (e.g. Pheasant Action Plan, Wildlife Action Plan). In addition we use site specific factors such as rare species, native prairie, and restoration potential to decide which tracts will best benefit fish, game, and wildlife.
Final Report: http://www.lsohc.leg.mn/FY2013/accomp_plan/2f.pdf
Working in close collaboration with partners, Pheasants Forever acquired 638 acres of strategic habitat that builds onto existing protected lands and/or develops corridors for wildlife. All lands acquired have 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 seven parcels which will now be celebrated as new WMAs. These new additions to existing 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 to name a few.
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.