Lower Mississippi River Habitat Restoration Acceleration
$1,000,000 in fiscal year 2011 is to the commissioner of natural resources to accelerate agency programs and for cooperative agreements to acquire land in the Root River watershed. A list of proposed acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. The commissioner of natural resources must agree in writing to each proposed acquisition, restoration, and enhancement. All restorations must comply with subdivision 9, paragraph (b).
Protected 151 acres of wetlands, 113 acres of prairies and 86 acres of forests.
This program resulted in permanent protection of three parcels totaling 350 acres. All three parcels are now being managed as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) by MN DNR. This exceeds the original goal of 319 acres. Acquisition of two other parcels were attempted, but the offers were turned down by the sellers.
The Lower Mississippi River Habitat Restoration Partnership is a long-term effort to restore habitat connectivity and improve water quality in critical areas along the Mississippi River corridor from the Twin Cities to the Iowa border by reconnecting tributaries to their floodplains, revitalizing backwaters and channels, and protecting and restoring floodplain forests, wetlands, and prairies that are essential to sustaining the incredible diversity of plants, animals, and human uses provided by this great river. Critical areas include the lower reaches of the Root, Zumbro, Cannon, and Vermillion Rivers, and the backwaters and channels of Mississippi River Pools 2 and 3 (St. Paul to Red Wing). FY2011 funding from the LSOHC focused on acquisition and restoration of key parcels in the Lower Root River floodplain. Acquisitions will be completed by the MN Dept of Natural Resources and restoration will be accomplished through outside contracts.
MN DNR protected lands in the SE bluffland ecological section with this appropriation, and has or will restore grassland by planting native prairie. DNR prioritizes acquisitions at sites where there is an existing habitat base to address fragmentation and to maximize habitat benefits. Potential acquisitions are scored and ranked on numerous ecological and management criteria. DNR seeks out willing landowners and conducts all transactions in accordance with state law and departmental policy. County Board approval is obtained for all WMA acquisitions.
Three properties totaling over 400 acres are now permanently protected as a result of acquisitions funded by this program. This appropriation provided funding for 350 of those acres. Additional acres were funded by a Phase II OHF appropriation. We were able to meet or nearly meet our original goals for forest and wetland acres protected, but failed to meet our prairie protection goal. The final and largest parcel acquired with this funding was dominated by wetland and forest habitat, so we fell about 20% short of the prairie goal.