Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Corridor Project
$2,105,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for agreements to acquire lands in fee in the Mississippi Headwaters and for agreements as follows: $76,000 to the Mississippi Headwaters Board; and $2,029,000 to The Trust for Public Land. $1,045,000 the second year is to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire permanent conservation easements and to restore wildlife habitat, of which up to $78,000 is to establish a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of proposed acquisitions must be included as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Increased availability and improved condition of riparian forests and other habitat corridors - An increase of lineal shoreland habitat permanently protected by easement or fee acquisition. An increase in the percent (%) of minor watersheds habitat being permanently protected..Rivers and streams provide corridors of habitat including intact areas of forest cover in the east and large wetland/upland complexes in the west - An increase of lineal shoreland habitat permanently protected by easement or fee acquisition. An increase in the percent (%) of minor watersheds habitat being permanently protected..
The Mississippi Headwaters Board will work with conservation partners to protect and preserve targeted habitat in high quality shoreland areas and provide access on the Mississippi River, headwater’s reservoirs, and connecting corridor tributaries through fee title and permanent easements.
The Mississippi River is known as "America's River." It is the largest river in North America, and provides drinking water, industry, and recreation for millions of people, and is the embodiment of Minnesota’s outdoor traditions. Strategic and well placed public ownership is essential to maintaining the hunting, fishing, and game habitat along the Mississippi River. Public lands adjacent to private property are in danger of losing habitat connectivity because of the continued development pressures on private lands which result in further fragmentation. Land accessibility to these lands is essential to ensuring high quality, memorable experiences while hunting and fishing within the Mississippi River Corridor. Riparian corridors and tributaries are of particular value to resident and migrating wildlife populations, providing connectivity to multiple habitat types.
As loss of habitat in western Minnesota and the Dakotas occurs, and climate change causes the drying up of existing wetlands, the Mississippi flyway will take on a more important role. The Mississippi flyway is the longest migration route of any in the western hemisphere, and is well timbered and watered to afford ideal conditions to support migrating birds. The Mississippi Headwaters supports more than 350 species of animals, mammals, and birds and is an important national treasure which must be preserved.
The Mississippi Headwaters Board will use targeted land acquisitions and permanent conservation easements to accomplish the goals of this proposal. All acquisitions will be approved by the local governmental unit and the Mississippi Headwaters Board where the property exists. The Mississippi river and its connecting tributaries and headwaters lakes are essential to wildlife, bird, and waterfowl transportation and sustainability. The Mississippi Headwaters Board will work with the Trust for Public Land to protect the priority lands using fee title acquisitions; and the Soil and Water Conservation Districts in the counties of Clearwater, Beltrami, Hubbard, Cass, Itasca, Aitkin, Crow Wing, and Morrison to implement the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program through the Board of Water and Soil Resources to gain permanent conservation easements. These actions will protect against fragmentation of forest land, and provide access to existing public land. Parcels identified as potential acquisitions of the Mississippi river are shown on the attached map. The Mississippi Headwaters Board will administer, provide updated reports to the council, coordinate efforts, and develop a consistent process that utilizes county support to ensure that the program and spirit of this proposal is met. The Department of Natural Resources or individual counties will hold the fee title acquisitions, and the Board of Water and Soil Resources will hold the permanent easements. A local Project Technical Committee will review potential acquisitions and easements after ranking is concluded.
This Mississippi Headwaters Board has developed 4 priorities for acquiring land.
1. The acquired parcels or easements will be targeted toward the Mississippi River; precise in protecting access to public lands; and provide multiple benefits such as hunting, fishing, and outdoor heritage opportunities.
2. The acquired parcels or easements must meet the Mississippi Headwaters Board natural value criteria of identifying and promoting protection of critical habitat flora and fauna as described in the Mississippi Headwaters Board Comprehensive Management Plan.
3. Acquisition and easement priorities will focus on parcels that provide access and are adjacent to existing County, State, and Federal public lands along the Mississippi River to increase habitat and corridor connectivity.
4. Parcels will be ranked by technical committee, and a brought before the Mississippi Headwaters Board for final approval. Parcels will be ranked according to habitat, public access, parcel location, parcel size and cost, and supporting plans.
During the spring of 2015 the MHB Executive Director Tim Terrill visited all eight joint powers board member counties to share the new direction the MHB was taking with regard to river protection. This “Move the Needle” campaign was well received by all of the constituent counties. These public presentations resulted in very positive local media coverage.
The Nature Conservancy has been coordinating county, state, and federal partners in addition to the non-profit conservation community to develop a science supported decision support tool to help guide water protection priorities in the Mississippi Headwaters region. This group called the North Central Conservation Roundtable (NCCR) completed the prioritization tool such that it can be used in conjunction with the MHB river corridor assessment data recently developed in 2013-14. The NCCR continues to meet quarterly in an effort to coordinate partners, programs, and opportunities to protect forest and water resources in the Headwaters region to maximize hunting and fishing habitat.