Critical Shoreline Habitat Protection Program, Phase 1
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 the most threatened. In order to preserve this important component of Minnesota's natural heritage, the Minnesota Land Trust proposes to implement the a Critical Shoreline Habitat Protection Program. This program will protect essential lakeshore and stream-side habitat and help fulfill the goals of the DNR's Aquatic Management Area program, the State Conservation and Preservation Plan and many others.
In this phase of the program, the Minnesota Land Trust will strategically concentrate its activity on important aquatic resources within northeast Minnesota's Arrowhead region, including DNR-designated high priority trout streams and lakes. The Land Trust will protect more than 50,000 feet of threatened shoreline habitat by acquiring 9-12 conservation easements which will permanently protect a rich mosaic of naturally vegetated shoreline, forest habitat and wetlands on more than 1,000 acres. The program will target projects which will help fill the gaps in existing public ownership, contain the highest-quality habitat, and provide the greatest leverage to the state. The Arrowhead region is prioritized in this phase of the program because it has immensely important shoreline habitat and aquatic resources for fish, game and wildlife (including the highest concentration of trout streams in the state) and because it has a high concentration of landowners interested in placing conservation easements on their properties.
The problem being addressed by this program is one identified in most state and local conservation plans, including the Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan: the development and disturbance of the state's remaining sensitive shoreline habitat. Science conducted by the DNR and others indicate that the shoreline 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 landscapes due to the intensity of lakeshore development.
This opportunity being addressed is one of having multiple landowners in the Arrowhead region who are ready and willing to grant conservation easements on exceptional shoreline habitat, thus providing high-leverage, immediately-tangible protection on these diminishing habitat types. The lull in the real-estate market has given many landowners an opportunity to reflect on the future of their lands, thus providing a narrow window of time to invest in these shoreline protection projects at a fraction of the cost of full fair market acquisition.
In addition, another benefit of this project is that while it is focused on the habitat benefits of the shoreline, more than 1,000 acres of family forest and substantial acres of wetlands will be protected, thus providing additional conservation benefits for the state's modest investment.
These conservation easements secured under this program will be perpetual and drafted to further prevent the fragmentation and destruction of exisiting habitat. These easements will ensure that the sensitive shoreline habitat under easement will remain ecologically viable and productive for fish, game and wildlife. The conservation easements acquired will prohibit land use and development that negatively impacts the important habitat values and will require habitat management plans to ensure that long-term management will maximize the benefits of the shoreline and associated forested uplands. Furthermore, the Land Trust will seek opportunities to work with the landowners and other organizations to conduct restoration activities and secure angler access if appropriate.
The budget outlined below covers expenses necessary to complete the goals of the program, including funding for personnel to negotiate and manage the conservation easement transactions; funding for a limited number of easements acquisitions; project-related expenses such as title work, mapping and appraisals; conservation easement stewardship funding for monitoring and defending the easements, and a very small amount of funding for travel. It is anticipated that this funding will be very highly leveraged through the landowner donations of conservation easements and the Minnesota Land Trusts' own fundraising efforts.
To date more than 40 families have confirmed their desire to work with the Land Trust on protecting their properties and related shoreline habitat within the target areas.These 40+ potential properties represent more than 130,000 linear feet (25 miles) of shoreline habitat and more than 4,600 acres of forest land. These projects include the following targeted lakes and rivers: 1) 2 properties on DNR high-priority trout lakes, including Kemo and Moosehorn lakes; 2) 25 properties on signature Border Lakes, including Lake Vermillion, Burntside Lake and Rainy Lake; 3) 8 on North Shore trout streams such as the Knife, French, Flute Reed and Stewart Rivers; 4) 3 on Lake Superior; and 5) the remainder on other important water bodies in the region.
Under this program, the Land Trust will prioritize these existing potential projects and seek additional opportunities for the protection of high-quality shoreline habitat. It is anticipated that the projects will be completed in FY 2011 and FY 2012, with the highest priority projects moving forward as soon as possible upon funding. Finally, with the assistance of stewardship funding, the Land Trust will monitor its easements annually and enforce them as necessary into the future.
As part of its long-term stewardship obligations, the Land Trust will work to educate the landowners to use best management practices for their shoreline and connect the landowners with other partners such as the DNR, Trout Unlimited or others who may be able to improve the habitat quality. The Minnesota Land Trust will also work with these partners in identifying other potential projects which would have multiple public benefits.
Final Report: http://www.lsohc.leg.mn/FY2011/accomp_plan/3a.pdf
$816,000 in fiscal year 2011 is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with the Minnesota Land Trust to acquire permanent conservation easements protecting critical shoreline habitats in Koochiching, Cook, Lake, and St. Louis County portions of the northern forest area in northern Minnesota and provide stewardship for those easements. A list of proposed conservation easement acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. The accomplishment plan must include an easement stewardship plan.
Protect 30,700 of shoreline and 1,330 acres of habitat