Enhanced Public Land – Grasslands - Phase III
$2,160,000 the second year is to the commissioner
of natural resources for an agreement with
Pheasants Forever to enhance and restore grassland
and wetland habitat on public lands. A list of
proposed land restorations and enhancements must
be provided as part of the required accomplishment
Increased waterfowl and upland bird migratory and breeding success - Outcomes will be measured by resource professionals and evaluated by using the best science available to land managers. .Improved condition of habitat on public lands. Outcomes will be measured by resource professionals and evaluated by using the best science available to land managers. .Improved condition of habitat on public lands - Outcomes will be measured by resource professionals and evaluated by using the best science available to land managers. .
Federal, Private, PF
We propose to enhance 6,500 acres of grassland and wetland habitat to increase the productivity of game species and other wildlife on Minnesota lands open to public hunting including Wildlife Management Areas (WMA), Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA), and National Wildlife Refuges (NWR). We will accomplish this by working with our partners to follow best practices to conduct wetland restorations, conservation grazing, invasive tree removal, prescribed fire, and diversity seeding in the prairie, forest/prairie transition, and metro regions.
Greater than 95% of Minnesota’s prairies have been lost to the plow and development. Many of the remaining acres of native and restored grasslands have been degraded from lack of fire and spread of invasive trees. Many wetlands are now in need of repair while others can be enhanced or restored. This project aims to address the loss of productivity on WPAs, WMAs, and NWRs that are open to hunting so they can reach their full potential for wildlife production. Research has shown that trees are detrimental to prairie/grassland wildlife and will be removed with this proposal. Common species that degrade this habitat include but are not limited to Siberian Elm, Box Elder, and Eastern Red Cedar. The trees provide perches for avian predators such as red-tailed hawks, great-horned owls, and crows, and dens for red fox, raccoon, and skunk. Predators like these are highly effective at predating both nests and nesting birds, especially in fragmented habitat. Wetlands will be restored/enhanced by removing drain tile, and constructing/repairing earthen dams and/or water control structures. Wetlands targeted for enhancement are vital to providing food, cover, and space required for breeding waterfowl and are essential to water quality and aquifer recharge.Research has shown that a diverse mixture of native grasses and forbs is ideal for nesting and brood rearing of upland nesting birds along with being essential for pollinator species. Many WMAs, WPAs, or NWRs were purchased in sub-optimal habitat condition (e.g. monotype of brome grass) or were restored using low diversity seed mixes that are less productive for wildlife. We will use a site-specific combination of techniques (e.g. cultivation, tree removal, herbicide, and prescribed fire) to bring back productivity to these public lands. In close collaboration with the land managers, we will seed a diverse mix of native grasses and forbs that are well adapted to site conditions. Mowing will be used as needed to manage annual weed pressure to ensure establishment. Conservation grazing is an important enhancement tool for sites that are difficult to conduct prescribed fires or need to target specific enhancement needs (e.g. cool season grass suppression, tree invasion, etc.). Permanent infrastructure with a lifespan of 30+ years will be installed to conduct conservation grazing plans written to benefit wildlife. Prescribed burning is the primary management tool for managing grassland habitat for waterfowl, game birds, and songbirds. It increases vigor, sets back invasive woody species, and removes built up residue.Our goal is to make every acre of public land as productive as possible. By adding capacity to enhance habitat on WPAs, NWRs and WMAs, we will strive to help our collective public land management entities so that they no longer need mechanical or chemical treatments and high-quality habitat can be sustained with prescribed fire only. An RFP and ranking process has been developed in previous phases that allow us to identify, rank and deliver the projects that have the most impact for grassland and wetland wildlife.