Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge Land Acquisition - Phase VIII
$2,683,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with The Nature Conservancy in cooperation with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire land in fee or permanent conservation easements and restore lands within the Northern Tallgrass Prairie Habitat Preservation Area in western Minnesota for addition to the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. Subject to evaluation criteria in Minnesota Rules 6136.0900, priority must be given to acquisitions of lands that are eligible for the native prairie bank under Minnesota Statutes, section 84.96 or lands adjacent to protected native prairie. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan and must be consistent with the priorities in the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan.
Remnant native prairies are part of large complexes of restored prairies, grasslands, and large and small wetlands - This program's work is primarily focused on the Prairie region. A small portion of the Refuge, however, falls in the Forest-Prairie Transition region. If work is done in this region, the following outcomes will be measured using GIS tools and reported: 1) Total acres protected, 2) Acres of native prairie, 3) Acres of wetland, 4) Feet of stream- and lake-front, 5) Acres within Prairie Plan priorities, 6) # of endangered/threatened/SGCN on protected properties.
.Remnant native prairies are part of large complexes of restored prairies, grasslands, and large and small wetlands - The program's top priority is protecting native prairie. The majority of lands acquired will be native prairie and associated habitats including wetlands, streams and lakes. The parcel selection criteria also favor building onto existing complexes of prairie/grassland/wetland and protected land. The following outcomes will be measured and reported for acquisition in this region: 1) Total acres protected, 2) Acres of native prairie, 3) Acres of wetland, 4) Feet of stream- and lake-front, 5) Acres within Prairie Plan priorities, 6) # of endangered/threatened/SGCN on protected properties..
The Nature Conservancy and US Fish and Wildlife Service will cooperate to permanently protect native prairie and associated complexes of wetlands and native habitats in western Minnesota by purchasing approximately 770 acres of fee title properties and/or habitat easements, with a target of 385 acres of native prairie.
The Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was established in 2000 to address the loss of America's grasslands and declining grassland wildlife. The Refuge was created to preserve and restore a portion of our disappearing tallgrass prairie. The Refuge encompasses all-or-part of 85 counties in western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa. A 2015 University of Wisconsin study confirms conversion is still a very real risk. The recent drop in crop prices has slowed this, but the threat isn't gone. Protecting our remaining native prairies before they are lost is critical.Progress towards the Refuge's goal has been limited by available funding. Since 2000, the Refuge has protected 4,970 acres in Minnesota with funding from non-OHF sources. This falls far short of landowner interest.Funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund will allow The Nature Conservancy and US Fish and Wildlife Service, in partnership, to significantly accelerate this progress. TNC and USFWS will protect approximately 770 acres of native prairie and associated habitat in the 49 Minnesota counties within the Refuge boundary. This will include approximately 385 acres of fee acquisition and approximately 385 acres of permanent habitat easements.This program targets high-quality native habitat in areas with existing concentrations of native prairie, wetlands, and protected lands. The majority of protected lands will be native prairie and associated habitats including wetlands, streams, and lakes.Potential acquisitions are reviewed using the following criteria:1) Is there native prairie on the tract? If not, is it adjacent to native prairie?2) Is the property in a priority area identified in the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan (Prairie Plan)?3) Is it adjacent to an existing complex of protected land?4) Was it identified by Minnesota Biological Survey as having concentrations of threatened and endangered species and communities?5) Is it suitable for public recreation?Because of the nature of parcel ownership, some properties acquired through this program will likely include small areas of converted or degraded habitat needing restoration/enhancement. Restoration/enhancement will be completed where needed.Previous OHF support has allowed us to make significant progress towards protecting and buffering our remaining native prairie. Since 2013, 3,800 acres have been added to the Refuge. 2,470 acres are classified as native prairie. Additional habitat includes 410 acres of wetlands and 11 miles of stream/lakefront. Landowners have committed an additional 294 acres, including 159 native prairie acres. Negotiations are ongoing with a long list of interested landowners.The Nature Conservancy (the Conservancy) may be reimbursed for salary and fringe benefits based on a provisional fringe benefits rate consistent with federal regulations and negotiated annually with the Conservancy's cognizant agency. Within 180 days of the end of each Nature Conservancy fiscal year, the Conservancy will provide MN DNR with the actual fringe benefits rate for the prior year and reconcile any overpayment made by the State. This approach is consistent with ML 2016, Ch. 172, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 8 (Payment Conditions and Capital Equipment Expenditures).