Minnesota Buffers for Wildlife and Water-III
This project is was the third request of LSOHC to target riparian buffers for clean water and wildlife using the Reinvest In Minnesota easement program. The Clean Water Fund and OHF were be used in cooperation to secure priority buffers permanently. Five hundred and thirty three acres of enhanced wildlife and water quality buffers were protected with OHF dollars and a total of 1,208 acres were protected from all sources of funding.
The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council provided a recommendation to fund the first two phases of RIM Buffers, which secured 2932 acres of permanently established buffers that will continue to provide critical water quality improvements and improved nesting habitat. The complettion of Phase III brings the total of permanently protected buffers for wildlife and water quality to 3465 acres.
This partnership program permanently added grassland habitat and reduced fragmentation by combining the efforts of the Outdoor Heritage Fund, Clean Water Fund, and bonding to secure buffers adjacent to public waters. Building upon the 100-foot RIM buffers funded through the Clean Water Fund, we added an additional buffer width (up to NRCS 393 standard for CRP buffers) to make clean water buffers more attractive and productive for wildlife. This program contributed toward the development of new habitat complexes and enhancement of existing habitats by expanding the size of narrow corridors and connecting them to large, permanently protected grasslands, wetlands, and shallow lakes. Furthermore, these wildlife buffers were targeted for landscapes with existing permanently protected habitat to accelerate progress toward achieving minimum thresholds of grass habitat required by waterfowl and other Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Many Species of Greatest Conservation Need benefit from large habitat patches and some require a minimum threshold of grassland habitat within a landscape.
Buffers are commonly viewed as simply a water quality practice, but buffers have notable positive impacts on wildlife due their unique upland and riverine habitat interaction. Not only are upland grasslands protected or restored, but detrimental impacts to stream-reliant biota is reduced. Many species of amphibians, such as southern MN's Northern Cricket Frog (endangered) rely on aquatic habitat during the breeding season and then spend most of their lives in upland habitat.
A scoring mechanism was employed to fund high quality wildlife buffer enhancements and target these funds. Buffers for wildlife under this program were prioritized based upon their ability to enhance public land habitats (e.g., WPA’s or WMA’s), protect expiring CRP lands, add key nesting cover to wetland/upland complexes, provide maximum water quality benefits, and enhance shallow lakes.
Criteria used to evaluate and prioritize buffers funded under this program include: does buffer build upon a Clean Water Fund Buffer, proximity to other permanently protected habitat, buffers within a designated shallow lake watershed, proximity to lands open to public hunting, plant diversity, overall size, and type of water resource being buffered. An open RIM Buffers application process for landowners was used. This effort builds upon the momentum established for RIM Buffer enrollments supported by the Outdoor Heritage Fund and Clean Water Fund in the previous two funding cycles.
RIM Buffers Program delivery was supported by Minnesota's Farm Bill Assistance Partnership which includes Minnesota BWSR, USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service, Minnesota DNR, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Pheasants Forever, and numerous local partners.
$3,520,000 in the first year is to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire permanent conservation easements to protect and enhance habitat by expanding clean water fund riparian wildlife buffers on private land. Up to $120,000 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund, as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. Easements funded under this appropriation are not subject to emergency haying and grazing orders. A list of permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the final report.
Protected, restored, and enhanced shallow lakes and wetlands.
Expiring CRP lands are permanently protected.
Water is kept on the land.
Increased participation of private landowners in habitat projects.
Protected, restored, and enhanced habitat for waterfowl, upland birds, and species of greatest conservation need.
Clean Water Fund