Accelerating the Wildlife Management Area Program - Phase VIII
This proposal accelerates the protection of 680 acres of strategic prairie grassland, wetland, and other wildlife habitat as State Wildlife Management Areas open to public hunting.
The pressures from development, industry, and agriculture continue to mount on wildlife habitat within the farmland regions of Minnesota. In fact, despite our collective investments in conservation, it is believed that many of the agricultural counties in Minnesota are continuing to experience a net loss of wildlife habitat. This unfortunate reality is currently being exacerbated by conversion of lands expiring out of CRP. Over 500,000 acres of CRP in Minnesota are set to expire in the next four years, with lower authority to re-enroll throughout the life of the Farm Bill. Now, more than ever, is the time to accelerate our investments in permanently protected high quality public habitat complexes that will protect, maintain, and increase Minnesota’s wildlife populations. Providing public areas for Minnesotans to hunt, trap, fish and otherwise recreate in the outdoors are urgent needs and is fundamental to ensure Minnesota’s outdoor heritage and appreciation of the outdoors is passed on to future generations. In addition, these public areas help bolster the economy as hunter's in Minnesota support over 12,400 jobs and spend 733 million annually.
To help slow and reverse the loss of habitat and declining wildlife populations, Pheasants Forever (PF) and our partners will protect (fee acquisition from willing sellers) 680 acres of high priority grassland (native prairie if available), wetland, and wildlife habitat as state Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) throughout the pheasant range of Minnesota. Striving to build landscape level habitat complexes that will protect and sustain wildlife populations, many of the potential projects are additions to existing WMAs or WPAs, many of which were originally acquired in partnership with MNDNR, local PF chapters, and conservation partners.
Projects were developed and selected in conjunction with local and regional DNR staff. All projects will meet standards and requirements for inclusion into the WMA system and DNR Commissioner approval will be received for any project funded under this proposal. In addition to meeting the minimum WMA standards, additional criteria were used to develop the potential project list including:
Does the parcel contain habitat restoration potential that will result in an increase in wildlife populations?
Does the parcel build upon existing investments in public and private land habitat (landscape scale significance)?
Does the parcel contain significant natural communities or will it protect or buffer significant natural communities?
Does the parcel have the potential and focus for habitat protection and restoration in the future?
Does the parcel provide multiple benefits (recreation, access, water control, water quality, lakeshore, local community support etc.)?
All acquired lands will meet the minimum initial development standards for WMAs. In addition, providing high quality habitat and keeping future management concerns in mind, all acquisitions will be restored and/or enhanced to as high quality as practicable, with the belief that quality and comprehensive restorations utilizing native species result in lower management costs. Acquired croplands will be permanently retired and restored to diverse grasslands and wetlands. Restorations will also consider the needs of the monarch butterfly and native pollinators. Enhancement work may include undesirable woody vegetation removal, water control structure installation, inter-seeding to increase diversity and structure, managed grazing, invasive species control, or any other activity that improves the diversity and health of the prairie-wetland habitat complex.
Pheasants Forever’s network of 76 Minnesota chapters and 25,000 members have been actively involved in protecting and restoring lands in partnership with the Minnesota DNR for 28 years. WMA’s are an integral component to the comprehensive conservation strategy within the prairie region of the state. The WMAs within this proposal will not only protect, increase, and sustain wildlife habitat and populations; they will provide access and recreational opportunities, including hunting, to ALL Minnesotans, so fundamentally important to our outdoor heritage.
$5,229,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Pheasants Forever to acquire in fee and restore lands for wildlife management area purposes under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 8. Subject to evaluation criteria in Minnesota Rules, part 6136.0900, priority must be given to acquisition of lands that are eligible for the native prairie bank under Minnesota Statutes, section 84.96, or lands adjacent to protected native prairie. 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..Key core parcels are protected for fish, game and other wildlife - Number of new parcels protected. Number of parcels added to existing habitat complexes and resulting percent increase in permanently protected acres of habitat complex..