Dakota County Habitat Protection/Restoration Phase VII
This project will restore approximately 474 acres of permanently protected habitats, and acquire approximately 420 acres of permanent conservation easements and/or fee title lands. Project sites include converting cultivated areas to wetlands in the southern two-thirds of the County, and various habitats, including forest, grassland, riparian areas, and other wetlands throughout the County. This initiative includes identified sites and flexibility for opportunities that will arise. This project will allow the County to continue its integrated comprehensive and successful land conservation efforts through its partnership with the LSOHC and others.
Historic settlement, modern-day development, and agriculture have replaced, degraded and fragmented natural resource systems throughout Dakota County. Nearly every monitored waterbody in the County is impaired, and many habitats have been reduced to small pocket remnants. The County encompasses a wealth of high-quality soils and a vibrant agricultural economy. And even with conservative, the potential changes that could result from climate change should be considered. These large-scale impacts and trends require a comprehensive, collaborative, long-term approach to maintain and improve the County’s natural resource heritage and associated benefits. Sound plans have been adopted that collectively focus on protecting and improving the natural infrastructure.The project scope and scale encompass some of the best natural resource features found in the metropolitan region, across urban, suburban and rural landscapes. A sound fiscal and prescriptive ecological systems approach to conservation, attempts to balance the interests, rights and responsibilities of private landowners, with the public’s concerns about water and habitat quality and protection.The County effectively works with a variety of agencies, jurisdictions and organizations to implement land protection. Beginning in 2003, the County implemented its Farmland and Natural Areas Program, following two years of LCMR-funded plan development. This and other programs are now blended into a comprehensive Land Conservation Program; through which, the County developed conservation policy project evaluation criteria, and practices to acquire, monitor and administer 112 conservation easements, totaling 9,534 acres, and to assist other public entities in acquiring 20 properties totaling 1,989 acres. In 2017, the County Board approved a Natural Resource Management System Plan to restore, enhance and maintain the majority of natural resources within its parks, greenways, and conservation easements. In 2018, the County began developing a next generation, Land Conservation Plan to identify, coordinate, and prioritize future land protection and management needs on public and private properties throughout the County. All permanent easements require Natural Resource Management Plans (NRMPs) that reflect existing ecosystem health and recommend potential restoration management strategies, including workplans and budgets. A Natural Resource Management Agreement (MA) is signed by the landowner and County, identifying NRMP priorities, activities, responsibilities, shared costs, and schedules. The proposed habitat restoration and enhancement projects in this funding request are based on these workplans. This project has direct benefits to fish, game, and wildlife, beyond the increased and interconnected terrestrial habitat.The proposed and anticipated acquisition projects involve riparian areas along the Minnesota, Mississippi, and Cannon rivers (including Dutch, Mud, Chub, Darden and Pine Creeks, and Trout Brook) and Vermillion River (including North, Middle and South Creeks, the South Branch and tributaries), and shoreland along Chub and Marcott lakes. Additional habitat focuses include woodlands, wetlands, hydric soil areas, and unique landscape features and ecosystems.Environmental Audits and/or Phase I Assessments are completed for all projects, resulting in waste removal, well sealing, and septic system upgrades, if needed, as program participation conditions. Baseline Property Reports are prepared; and each permanent easement is annually monitored. Project information is entered into a data base.
$3,516,000 the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Dakota County to acquire permanent conservation easements and land in fee and to restore and enhance riparian and other habitats in Dakota County. A list of proposed land acquisitions and restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
A network of natural land and riparian habitats will connect corridors for wildlife and species in greatest conservation need - The County developed an integrated, long-term habitat protection system involving public and private lands to provide multiple public benefits. Enlarging and improving existing protected habitat complexes and providing key connections will continue to be a focus, with protected acres and shoreline as success indicators. The County will prioritize land protection and improvement efforts, in part, based on wildlife species by devoting staff time and resources to create baseline wildlife and habitat quality information and monitoring indicator and other species seasonally/annually to determine if our efforts are producing the desired results over time and to adapt or re-prioritize as appropriate..Healthier populations of endangered, threatened, and special concern species as well as more common species - A small portion of the County is included in this region. Enlarging and improving existing protected habitat complexes and providing key connections will continue to be a focus, with protected acres and shoreline as success indicators. The County will prioritize its land protection and improvement efforts, in part, based on priority wildlife species. It will devote staff time and resources to create baseline wildlife and habitat quality information and monitoring indicator and other species seasonally/annually to determine if our efforts are producing the desired results over time and to adapt or re-prioritize as appropriate..