MN Prairie Recovery Project - Phase VI
$4,032,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with The Nature Conservancy to acquire native prairie, wetlands, and savanna and restore and enhance grasslands, wetlands, and savanna. Subject to evaluation criteria in Minnesota Rules, part 6136.0900, priority must be given to acquisition of lands that are eligible for the native prairie bank under Minnesota Statutes, section 84.96, or lands adjacent to protected native prairie. Annual income statements and balance sheets for income and expenses from land acquired with this appropriation must be submitted to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council no later than 180 days following the close of The Nature Conservancys fiscal year. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan and must be consistent with the priorities identified in the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan.
Remnant native prairies are part of large complexes of restored prairies, grasslands, and large and small wetlands - Protection results will be measured against MN Prairie Conservation Plan goals for protected acres of native prairie and associated grassland for each geography. Enhancement results will be measured using protocols developed for the multi-agency Grassland Monitoring Network.Remnant native prairies are part of large complexes of restored prairies, grasslands, and large and small wetlands - Protection results will be measured against MN Prairie Conservation Plan goals for protected acres of native prairie and associated grassland for each geography. Enhancement results will be measured using protocols developed for the multi-agency Grassland Monitoring Network.
This project contributes to the goals of the MN Prairie Conservation Plan by protecting 800 acres of prairie/wetland/savanna habitat; restoring 150 acres prairie/wetland; and enhancing 6,000 acres of prairies, wetlands, grasslands and savanna.
Within the prairie landscape The Nature Conservancy, in conjunction with our partners, is striving to conserve sustainable populations of native animals, diverse native plant communities with low levels of invasive plant species, functioning grassland ecosystem processes (eg. fire, grazing, flood control), and healthy wetland and riparian communities. Accomplishing this task requires rapid protection of our increasingly rare native prairie tracts, restoration of degraded sites, and long-term management of those sites. The Prairie Recovery Project will build on the success of previously funded Phases by continuing to Protect, Enhance and Restore native prairie habitats in select Prairie Core and Corridor geographies.
Protect - An estimated 800 acres of prairie, wetlands, grasslands, and savanna will be permanently protected through fee-title acquisition from willing sellers in 5 prairie core/corridor landscapes as identified in the MN Prairie Conservation Plan. Acquired lands will be prioritized according to a matrix using criteria that include: amount of native prairie on the parcel, proximity to other permanently protected areas, quality of habitat and species diversity, and suitability for public recreation. Of these protected acres approximately 500 will be held by The Nature Conservancy subject to a recorded notice of funding restrictions pursuant to a grant agreement with MN DNR. The remaining approximate 300 acres will be transferred to the MN DNR as part of the Wildlife Management Area or Scientific Natural Area program. All lands will be open to public hunting and fishing as provided in the Constitution.
Enhance - An estimated 6,000 acres of grassland/wetland complex will be enhanced on permanently protected lands, including lands purchased with OHF funds and held by the Conservancy, MN DNR Management Units, US Fish and Wildlife Service lands, and private lands subject to perpetual conservation easements. The primary objectives of our enhancement activities will be to increase native species diversity and improve critical wildlife habitat. A variety of practices and techniques will be implemented to accomplish our objectives including: prescribed fire; removal of trees and woody species; invasive species control including mechanical, biological, and chemical control; overseeding with native seed; and conservation grazing, mowing, or haying. The work will be conducted via contracts with private local vendors, Conservation Corps of Minnesota crews and Nature Conservancy seasonal and permanent staff. Prairie Recovery Biologists are stationed in the primary landscapes and are responsible for identifying and prioritizing projects in cooperation with our agency partners, selecting and overseeing private vendor work and leading and directing seasonal staff. The Biologists are also responsible for participating in and leading Local Technical Team efforts to increase efficiency and effectiveness of program delivery by multiple partners at the landscape scale. Finally, the Biologists provide a critical link with the local governments and communities in which they live and work. This local connection provides an opportunity for us to quickly respond to questions or concerns as a result of our activities.
Restoration - Approximately 150 acres of cropland will be restored to diverse local-ecotype grassland and grassland/wetland complex (part of the above protected acres). Practices to be implemented includes those listed above in addition to re-seeding with native species and restoration of original wetland hydrology.
Results to date - Through Phases 1-4 we have protected 2,750 acres of prairies, wetlands, and grasslands and have enhanced more than 27,000 acres of permanently protected grasslands. The protected acres span our priority geographies. In all cases parcels were purchased that were directly adjacent to, or contributed to, the functional integrity of existing habitat complexes. Average per acre costs for acquired properties have risen over the course of the program and has averaged around $1,550 per acre. Costs vary widely across the program area with land in southern and central Minnesota costing substantially more than in the Northwest. Our enhancement projects have focused on accelerating the implementation of prescribed fire, extensive woody vegetation removal, building the infrastructure for conservation grazing systems and mechanical and chemical treatment of invasive species. Costs for enhancement and restoration work also vary depending on the practices being implemented but have averaged around $105 per acre.