Minnesota Buffers for Wildlife and Water - Phase V
$4,544,000 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 the clean water fund riparian buffer program for at least equal wildlife benefits from buffers on private land. Up to $72,500 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the final report.
Protected, restored, and enhanced nesting and migratory habitat for waterfowl, upland birds, and species of greatest conservation need - Riparian corridors are a key link in connecting existing core habitat parcels. Corridors will be scored using the the eligibility scoresheet for wildlife benefits of each parcel. .Key core parcels are protected for fish, game and other wildlife - Riparian corridors are a key link in connecting existing core habitat parcels. Corridors will be scored using the the eligibility scoresheet for wildlife benefits of each parcel. .
Clean Water Fund, Clean Water Fund, Clean Water FundClean Water Fund,
This project is the fifth phase of LSOHC funding to target riparian buffers for clean water and wildlife using the Reinvest In Minnesota easement program. The Clean Water Fund and OHF will be used equally as funding is made available.
MN continues to see a net loss of grasslands each year. Expiring CRP is the leading cause of this landscape change. This exodus is being driven by high land and commodity prices, and increased pressure for alternative uses and declining federal budgets for conservation programs. Minnesota's primary strategy to mitigate the loss of CRP is to target expiring contracts for enrollment into Continuous CRP (CCRP) practices (like buffers) and permanent easements for the most beneficial practices (e.g. wetland restoration, grasslands, and buffers). This program is one proven strategy to provide landowners with a sound option to keep targeted conservation on the land when economic incentives favor row crop production.
This partnership program establishes permanent buffers that provide both critical water quality improvements and improved nesting habitat. For example, a buffer of 100' generally serves to protect water quality, while adding an additional 100' for wildlife greatly enhances nesting opportunities for wildlife. Establishing a minimum of 200' on each side of a stream for a total of 400' plus the natural corridor that already exists 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 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. A competitive RIM Buffers application process for landowners will be used. The first four phases of this program have created landowner interest that far exceeds available funding. The goal for this new phase will be to increase funding from both LSOHC but also increase match from Clean Water Funding as well as USDA under new farm bill provisions. Wider buffers can provide longer term water quality treatment and provide better habitat. Buffers that are put in proximity to other grasslands also function at a higher level within the landscape for grassland nesting birds and other wildlife.
RIM Buffers program delivery will be supported by Minnesota's Farm Bill Assistance Partnership which includes Minnesota BWSR, USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service, Minnesota DNR, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, Pheasants Forever, LCCMR and numerous local partners. Additionally, the RIM program will be delivered through SWCD's and administered by Minnesota BWSR.
We propose that the LSOHC fund $4.544M in perpetual state RIM buffer easements that will build equally upon the RIM buffers funded through the Clean Water Fund and/or new USDA programs such as CREP. Approximately 29 easements will be recorded for a total of 1200 acres. Half of these acres will be funded by OHF and half will be funded by CWF. This creates a unique partnership program to accomplish a single project with enhanced outcomes that could not otherwise be obtained with a single funding source. In the event equal match is not available during the project period, buffer areas for wildlife will be secured with available funds.