DNR Grasslands - Phase XI
Grasslands continue to be the most threatened habitat in the state. This programmatic request will build on the DNR’s history of enhancing and restoring grasslands, embedded wetlands, and savannas to increase wildlife populations. The Prairie Plan, Pheasant Plan, and Wildlife Action Plan will guide our efforts and ensure we are operating in a strategic and targeted manner. This proposal will enhance and restore grasslands on parcels that are permanently protected and most open to public hunting. These include DNR WMAs, SNAs, AMAs, Native Prairie Bank (NPB) easements, State Forests, as well as federal WPAs and NWRs.
A drive through northern Minnesota takes you through forests or oak or aspen or pine of different age structures, bogs, sedge meadows, and brushland. Each of these is habitat for a wide range of species. A drive through southern Minnesota, especially in the winter finds mowed ditches and disced fields. There is little food and less cover. In many farmland counties less than five percent of the area is in public wildlife lands, often much less. Since 2007, Minnesota has lost nearly a million acres of CRP. This fall, another 203,000 acres will expire from the program. The nine county area of southwest Minnesota has lost 52 square miles of CRP since 2007. They will lose another 50 square miles in the next three years. Minnesota is scheduled to lose another 865 square miles of CRP enrollments over the five year period of this request. Wildlife and pollinator populations are a fraction of what they were even a decade ago. Water quality, especially nitrate contamination, is a human health and wildlife issue. Restoring and enhancing grasslands are one of the most effective ways to improve all of these issues. Because of the losses of grassland and wetland habitat across western Minnesota both historically and in recent years, it is that much more important that the public grasslands in Minnesota are as productive as possible for wildlife and pollinators. This programmatic request seeks funding to enhance grassland habitat on permanently protected grasslands and prairies, most of which are open to public hunting. Without periodic management to simulate historical disturbance patterns, grassland lose diversity and productivity. Invasive species may increase and woody vegetation will encroach into the grasslands, changing their very character and the species that inhabit the area. The activities listed in this proposal will use BMPs for grassland enhancement and diverse local ecotype seed mixes for restoration. Contract work for prescribed fire, woody species removal, invasive species control, grassland restoration, and other enhancement efforts. Requests includes a contract coordinator.WMA Habitat Enhancement and restoration (33,400 acres) over five years – $3,331,000This request seeks to enhance grassland habitat by continuing funding a DNR Region 1 (northwestern) Roving Crew. Building on this successful model, this year we are proposing a new Roving Crew for the south-central part of the state. Two DNR Roving Crews (31,000 acres) over 5 years - $3,661,200This request will restore and enhance native prairies on SNAs and Native Prairie Bank (NPB) easements as described above for WMAs.SNA/NPB Enhancement and restoration (1,900 acres) over five years– $1,128,800We are partnering with the USFWS to increase their capacity for prescribed fire in WPAs and National Wildlife Refuges (NWR). USFWS Prescribed Fire Enhancements (22,000 acres) over two years – $740,000We realize this is a large request. However, we also feel like we have the capacity to have a large return in habitat enhancement and restoration for this investment.
$8,861,000 the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources to accelerate restoration and enhancement of prairies, grasslands, and savannas in wildlife management areas, in scientific and natural areas, in aquatic management areas, on lands in the native prairie bank, in bluff prairies on state forest land in southeastern Minnesota, and in waterfowl production areas and refuge lands of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. A list of proposed land restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Healthy populations of endangered, threatened, and special concern species as well as more common species - Monitoring will take place with the base level monitoring conducted by DNR staff and staff from other agencies/NGOs. This includes surveys such as pheasant, sharp-tailed grouse, and woodcock, which are all dependent on open areas. .Protected, restored, and enhanced nesting and migratory habitat for waterfowl, upland birds, and species of greatest conservation need - This proposal will be primarily focused on enhancing grasslands. Migratory game and non-game birds will be some of the primary beneficiaries of this work. We are working with the University of Minnesota to incorporate graduate students into research and monitoring work. .Core areas protected with highly biologically diverse wetlands and plant communities, including native prairie, Big Woods, and oak savanna - Monitoring will take place with the base level monitoring conducted by DNR staff and staff from other agencies/NGOs..Healthier populations of endangered, threatened, and special concern species as well as more common species - Monitoring will primarily be done through studies conducted by the DNR's Ecological and Water Resources Division of key indicator species such as timber rattlesnakes..Restored and enhanced upland habitats - The multi-agency/NGO Grassland Monitoring Team (GMT) has developed standardized protocols for sampling grassland vegetation and a number of the sites on this request will be sampled over the 5 year period. .