Critical Shoreland Habitat Protection Program: Phase 2
$820,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with the Minnesota Land Trust to acquire permanent conservation easements along rivers and lakes in the northern forest region. Up to $160,000 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund, as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Protected in Easement 911 acres of habitat
Seven conservation easements were completed by this program resulting in the protection of 911 acres of high quality wildlife habitat and 28,181 feet (approximately 5.38 miles) of critical shoreline along priority lakes and rivers of northeast Minnesota. This project outcome exceeded by 211 acres that proposed for the grant. Total leverage through donated easements by landowners is estimated at $948,500, all in excess of proposed.
The natural shoreline around Minnesota’s celebrated lakes and rivers comprises one of the most biologically important systems in the state for fish, game and wildlife. It is also one of its most threatened. In order to preserve this important component of Minnesota’s natural heritage, the Minnesota Land Trust implemented Phase 2 of its Critical Shoreland Habitat Protection Program to protect important lakeshore and stream-side habitat. This project built on the success of Phase 1 of this program and helped fulfill the goals of the DNR’s Aquatic Management Area program, the State Conservation and Preservation Plan, and many other state priorities.
In this second phase of the program, the Minnesota Land Trust concentrated its activity on important aquatic resources and associated forest habitat within northeast Minnesota, including DNR-designated high priority trout streams along the North Shore, sensitive shoreline along the deep-water border lakes and other high-quality aquatic habitats in the region. The Land Trust protected more than five miles of threatened shoreline habitat by acquiring conservation easements from willing landowners that permanently protected a rich mosaic of naturally vegetated shoreline, forest habitat and wetlands on approximately 911 acres. The program targeted projects that help fill gaps in existing public ownership, contain the highest-quality habitat, and provide the greatest leverage to the state. The Land Trust accepted three fully donated easements, negotiated bargain sale purchases for three easements and purchased one easement at the full appraised value. Total leverage from donated value of the easements is placed at $948,500, all in excess of what was proposed. This value was substantiated in 5 easements through appraisal; in the remaining two (full value donations) where we don not have appraisals, an estimate of value (62% of assessed land value) was attained through a comparison of appraised fee value to easement value, and adjusted to account for deviation between appraised and assessed land value across two years of Land Trust activity.
The development and disturbance of the state’s remaining sensitive shoreland habitat continues to be a threat identified in many of the State’s resource protection plans. Investigations conducted by the DNR and others indicate that the shoreland zone—from high ground through the water’s edge and into the shallow submerged areas—is one of the most biologically diverse and important habitat types for a variety of wildlife species, including fish and waterfowl. Because so much shoreline habitat is on private land, it is also one of Minnesota’s most threatened resources due to the intensity of shoreline development and non-compatible management.
Fortunately, private landowners in northeast Minnesota have proven to be ready and willing to grant conservation easements on exceptional shoreline habitat, thus providing high-leverage, immediately-tangible protection for these diminishing habitat types. Outreach efforts from this and the previous phase of this program have generated a robust and growing pool of interested landowners seeking assistance in voluntary private land conservation through permanent easements. It is important to note that the Phase 3 of this program received funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to continue to build on the successes of earlier phases and to secure and additional 1,000 acres of natural shoreline, forest habitat and wetlands in northeastern Minnesota.