Living Shallow Lakes & Wetlands Initiative Phase IV

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$4,910,000
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Recipient
Ducks Unlimited
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Status
In Progress
Start Date
July 2014
End Date
June 2019
Activity Type
Restoration/Enhancement
Counties Affected
Big Stone
Carver
Chippewa
Clearwater
Freeborn
Grant
Jackson
Kandiyohi
Lac qui Parle
Le Sueur
Lyon
Mahnomen
Martin
McLeod
Meeker
Murray
Nobles
Otter Tail
Pope
Redwood
Rice
Sibley
Stearns
Stevens
Swift
Waseca
Watonwan
Wright
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2014, Ch. 256, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 4(c )
Appropriation Language

$4,910,000 in the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Ducks Unlimited to assess, enhance, and restore shallow lakes and wetlands, including bioengineering, technical assistance, feasibility investigation, survey, and design to develop new enhancement and restoration projects for future implementation. A list of proposed enhancements and restorations to be constructed through this appropriation must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.

2015 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$4,910,000
Other Funds Leveraged
$110,000
Direct expenses
$4,840,000
Administration costs
$70,000
Number of full time equivalents funded
4.0
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Improved aquatic habitat vegetation - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers..Wetland and upland complexes will consist of native prairies, restored prairies, quality grasslands, and restored shallow lakes and wetlands - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers..Protected, restored, and enhanced nesting and migratory habitat for waterfowl, upland birds, and species of greatest conservation need - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers..A network of natural land and riparian habitats will connect corridors for wildlife and species in greatest conservation need.Game lakes are significant contributors of waterfowl, due to efforts to protect uplands adjacent to game lakes - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers, and DNR field biologists monitor waterfowl usage..Improved aquatic habitat indicators - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers, and DNR field biologists monitor waterfowl usage..Protected, restored, and enhanced shallow lakes and wetlands - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers, and DNR field biologists monitor waterfowl usage..Improved condition of habitat on public lands - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers..Improve aquatic vegetation - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers..Enhanced shallow lake productivity - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers..Protected, restored, and enhanced habitat for migratory and unique Minnesota species - Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program conducts periodic assessment surveys to document pre/post project conditions in shallow lakes as requested by DNR area wildlife managers, and DNR field biologists monitor waterfowl usage..

Project Overview

Phase 4 of our ongoing Living Lakes program will enhance 4,000 acres of shallow lakes and wetlands for waterfowl in the Prairie, Transition, and Metro Sections in partnership with Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and other agencies.

About the Issue

Minnesota has lost approximately 90% of our prairie wetlands, and many wetlands in other parts of the state, to drainage.  The prairie shallow lakes and large wetland that remain are often those that were too deep to drain years ago, and they now function as the core of Minnesota’s remaining waterfowl habitat complexes.  However, these remaining large wetlands now receive excessive water and nutrient runoff from a highly interconnected, drained landscape through which invasive fish have easy access.  As a result, many of our remaining wetland and shallow lake basins are turbid and degraded due to high, stable water levels in which nutrients collect, carp and other invasive fish proliferate. Natural water level fluctuations no longer occur, fish winterkill events are rare, and aquatic ecology functions stagnate.  The result is a lack of aquatic plants and invertebrates required to sustain migrating and breeding waterfowl and other wetland-dependent birds, especially those species such as diving ducks that exclusively rely on aquatic plant and invertebrate foods within wetlands and shallow lakes to survive. Nongame wildlife such as shorebirds and wading birds suffer too. As a result, ducks migrating through Minnesota on their way north in spring find sparse aquatic food resources, much to their detriment when they stop to breed further north due to the importance of nutrient reserves required for egg laying.  Those waterfowl that remain here to breed encounter poor brood-rearing habitat, as few shallow lakes and marshes here have high quality wetland habitat with abundant aquatic plants and invertebrate food resources on which young ducks rely.  These factors have contributed to a decline in Minnesota’s diverse waterfowl resources and, unfortunately, a decline in Minnesota’s rich waterfowling traditions.

To remedy this situation, this grant will help fund the ongoing delivery of Ducks Unlimited's “Living Lakes Initiative” to continue providing bio-engineering assisting our Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS), and other government conservation agency partners to enhance, restore, and protect Minnesota’s shallow lakes and wetlands.  This Phase 4 program funding will support Ducks Unlimited bio-engineering staff that work with these agencies to assess, design, and construct water control structures and fish barriers to improve wetlands on public land.  DU biologists will work closely with Minnesota DNR Shallow Lakes Program biologists to assess wetland conditions and identify possible management solutions, and assist DNR in garnering private landowner and public stakeholder support for project implementation, including permits and easements.  DU biologists and engineers will survey, design, and construct the infrastructure necessary to actively manage public water wetland water levels.  This grant funding will also support ongoing shallow lake technical assistance from DU staff and consultant biologists and engineers to assess, survey, and design future projects for implementation under future OHF appropriations for this ongoing, programmatic conservation initiative once permits and easements are acquired by DNR and FWS. Finally, this grant will also pay for DU costs to administer this grant.

Most enhancement work will occur in the Prairie Section and will support the state’s Prairie Plan, but one or more projects will be designed and constructed in the Metro and Transition Sections too.  Water control structures will be used by agency managers to simulate natural temporary drought cycles in shallow lakes and wetlands that rejuvenate the aquatic ecological process that produce abundant aquatic plants and invertebrates for waterfowl and other wetland wildlife.  These structures last for 30 or more years and are generally used by agency staff every 5-7 years to conduct periodic temporary draw-downs that are key to enhancing and maintaining highly productive wetlands.  During draw-downs, mudflat conditions will provide critical habitat for migrating shorebirds, and shallow emergent marshes resulting from draw-downs will benefit many wading bird and tern species too. DU may also survey, design and restore smaller wetlands on public and other protected land near shallow lakes when opportunities to do so arise. Shallow lakes are selected for enhancement by DNR and FWS managers in consultation with DU field biologists, and generally enjoy strong support from the public for improvement.  Minnesota DNR holds public meetings to share information on current conditions and management plans for shallow lakes designated for wildlife management purposes. 

Every statewide conservation plan recognizes the need for improving and protecting Minnesota’s shallow lakes and associated wetlands for optimal wildlife habitat. The Minnesota DNR’s Duck Recovery Plan is the most specific, calling for the active management of 1,800 shallow lakes and adding 64,000 wetlands to Minnesota’s landscape.  DU’s Living Lakes Initiative supports this plan through a goal of improving 300 Minnesota shallow lakes in 10 years.  Shallow lakes and wetlands are identified as critical habitat for several “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” listed in Minnesota’s “Tomorrow’s Habitat for the Wild & Rare: An Action Plan for Minnesota Wildlife”, including lesser scaup, northern pintail, and trumpeter swan. Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes Initiative directly addresses Minnesota’s Statewide Conservation & Preservation Plan Habitat Recommendations #4 and #5 on pages 78 and 80, respectively, which calls for the restoration and protection of shallow lakes (page 78) and the restoration of land, wetlands, and watersheds (page 80). 

Finally, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan’s Prairie Pothole Joint Venture prioritizes the restoration and management of wetlands and shallow lakes through goals and objectives for improved brood-rearing and migration habitat for ducks.  Many shallow lakes and wetlands prioritized for enhancement by DU are located within wetland habitat complexes identified by the US Fish & Wildlife Service’s Strategic Habitat Conservation model and are high priority basins for both FWS and Minnesota DNR wildlife managers.  Shallow lakes and wetlands which undergo temporary water level draw-downs will provide excellent mudflat habitat for shorebirds and excellent shallow water and emergent marsh habitat for non-game wading birds and terns as called for by national and regional shore and wading bird conservation plans, in addition to improving waterfowl habitat.  DU shallow lake and wetland enhancement work is performed in close coordination and collaboration with Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and other government agencies that assume operation and management/maintenance of DU engineered water control structures.

Project Manager
First Name
Jon
Last Name
Schneider
Organization Name
Ducks Unlimited
Street Address
311 East Lake Geneva Road
City
Alexandria
State
MN
Zip Code
56308
Phone
(3207629916) -
Email
jschneider@ducks.org