Minnesota Buffers for Wildlife and Water-IV
The Clean Water Fund and OHF were used together to secure easements on buffer areas. Seven easements were recorded for a total of 606.5 acres. These acres represent 303.1 acres funded by OHF and 303.4 acres funded by non-OHF sources. Only the OHF acres are being reported in this final report to be consistent with the approved accomplishment plan.
Minnesota's primary strategy to mitigate the loss of CRP contract acres is to target expiring contracts for enrollment into continuous CRP practices (like buffers) and permanent easements for the most beneficial practices (e.g. wetland restoration, grasslands, and buffers). This program model is a proven strategy to provide landowners with an option to keep targeted conservation on the land when economic incentives may lead to a switch to row crop production. This program established permanent buffers that provide both improved wildlife habitat and water quality. For example, a buffer of 100 feet generally serves to protect water quality, while an additional 100 feet for wildlife greatly enhances nesting opportunities for wildlife. Establishing a minimum of 200 feet on each side of a stream for a total of 400 feet, plus the open water, creates a block of habitat for nesting birds and a critical link between other permanently protected habitats.
Criteria used to evaluate and prioritize buffers funded under this phase of the program included building upon Clean Water Fund buffers, 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 the type of water resource being buffered. A RIM Buffers application process for landowners was utilized for the program. The process built upon the established RIM Buffer enrollments supported by the Outdoor Heritage Fund and Clean Water Fund in the previous funding cycles. In future years, it is hoped that a broader buffer initiative (full field or all land within the floodplain of larger order streams) will create increased demand for this program as wider buffers provide better habitat. Further, buffers that are put in proximity to other grasslands also function at a higher level for grassland nesting birds and other wildlife.
The $2.2 million from OHF was used for perpetual RIM easements that built upon RIM buffers funded through the Clean Water Fund allocation of $2.2 million. This creates an equal partnership of both programs to accomplish a single project with enhanced outcomes that could not otherwise be obtained with a single funding source.
$2,200,000 in the second year is to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire permanent conservation easements to protect and enhance habitat by expanding the clean water fund riparian buffer program for at least equal wildlife benefits from buffers on private land. Up to $112,500 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. Lands with easements acquired with this appropriation may not be used for emergency haying and grazing in response to federal or state disaster declarations. Conservation grazing under a management plan that is already being implemented may continue. A list of permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the final report.
Protected 303 acres (in easement)
CleanWater Fund, Clean Water Fund