Floodplain Forest Enhancement - Mississippi River, Phase 2
$412,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with the National Audubon Society to restore and enhance floodplain forest habitat for wildlife on public lands along the Mississippi River. A list of restorations and enhancements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Large corridors and complexes of biologically diverse wildlife habitat typical of the unglaciated region are restored and protected - This project will ensure floodplain forests remain intact within the corridor of the Mississippi River. Sustaining existing quantities of floodplain forest by diversifying age and size structure will be a successful outcome and can be measured by land cover information. .
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Reed canary grass is preventing natural regeneration of trees and threatening floodplain forests and wildlife along the Mississippi. This effort builds on previous LSOHC funding to control reed canary grass and plant trees as part of a long-term effort.
The Mississippi River from Hastings to the Iowa border contains some of the largest and most significant tracts of floodplain forest along the entire Upper Mississippi River. These forests and mixed wetlands cover tens of thousands of acres and are especially critical to many species of birds and other wildlife, including wood ducks which use these areas for nesting and feeding.
These forests are under threat. While historically diverse in the number, age, and size of tree species, much of the forest now consists of silver maple ranging from 50-70 years old. These trees are expected to live another 50-70 years, after which they will die-off and disappear. Unfortunately, when trees are removed through harvest or die naturally, reed canary grass and other invasive species move in and prevent natural regeneration. This is occurring at a number of locations within the project area, and without aggressive, long-term management these floodplain forests will be greatly reduced or in some locations disappear completely. Floodplain forest regeneration is a slow process taking decades to accomplish. By selectively controlling invasive species following harvest, blowdown, or other events and planting trees the forest can be maintained long-term. Restoring forest at small sites within larger tracts will ensure that a diversity of tree species, sizes, and ages are present. This approach over time will maintain large contiguous blocks of forest and continue to provide habitat for many wildlife species, including rare species like ceruleuan warbler and red-shouldered hawk.
This proposal seeks funding to continue implementing floodplain forest restoration and enhancement projects throughout the project area which includes the Mississippi River and lower ends of major tributaries. The number of sites needing enhancement or restoration is extensive and will take many years of consistent work to restore. Sites identified in this proposal range from 20-115 acres in size. All sites are located on public lands within Minnesota state forests, WMA's, Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, or Corps of Engineers owned lands. Each site is threatened by invasive species and natural regeneration of floodplain forest trees is not expected without aggressive management. Funding will be used to control invasive species, especially reed canary grass, using a combination of prescribed burns, mowing or forestry mulching, and herbicide applications. Past efforts to plant seedlings into existing reed canary grass fields have not been successful, so once invasive species are controlled larger-size trees suitable to each site will be planted, or direct seeding or bare root trees may be used to create high densities of seedlings. At some sites, timber stand improvement including removing invasive species like buckthorn will be used to create small openings for diversifying forest species and age structure. Deer protection will be provided for planted trees when needed. Vole guards will be installed on the larger planted trees. This combination will allow the trees to establish and over time develop a canopy that limits or prevents invasive species and maintains the overall diversity of the forest.
Priority sites were determined in conjunction with MN DNR, US Fish and Wildlife Service, and Corps of Engineers foresters and wildlife managers and are locations under serious threat of losing the floodplain forest. All of the sites are on public lands open to hunting and fishing. Three of the sites are listed with limited hunting access. These are within areas closed to waterfowl hunting on the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge. They are open to all legal hunting during other times of the year. Audubon Minnesota will serve as the project manager and coordinate the work and associated contracts. Much of the tree planting work will be done through Conservation Corps Minnesota. Audubon will work closely with state and federal managers to ensure all projects meet required standards and are part of the overall management goals for the landscape area. This work will be done in conjunction with additional partners including the US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Army Corps of Engineers, Prairie Island Indian Community, and US Geological Survey.