Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge, Phase IX

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2019 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$1,893,000
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Recipient
The Nature Conservancy; USFWS
Recipient Type
Non-Profit Business/Entity
Status
In Progress
Start Date
July 2018
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Counties Affected
Big Stone
Brown
Chippewa
Clay
Kandiyohi
Lac qui Parle
Lincoln
Lyon
Murray
Norman
Pipestone
Pope
Renville
Rock
Wilkin
Yellow Medicine
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2018, Ch. 208, Art. 1, Sec. 2, subd 2(d)
Appropriation Language

$1,893,000 the second 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 lands
in fee or permanent conservation easements and to
restore lands in 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, part 6136.0900,
priority must be given to acquiring 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 the
acquisitions must be consistent with the
priorities in Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan.

2019 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$1,893,000
Other Funds Leveraged
$260,000
Direct expenses
$1,848,000
Administration costs
$45,000
Number of full time equivalents funded
0.76
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

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 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/species in greatest conservation need (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..

Source of Additional Funds

USFWS NAWCA, TNC, USFWS

Project Overview

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will cooperate to permanently protect native prairie and associated complexes of wetlands and native habitats in western and central Minnesota by purchasing approximately 540 acres of fee title properties and/or permanent habitat easements. Approximately 270 acres will be native prairie. Work will be focused in areas identified as having significant biodiversity by the Minnesota Biological Survey and located in priority areas in the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan (Prairie Plan).

About the Issue

The Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge (Refuge) was established in 2000 to address the loss of America’s grasslands and the decline of grassland wildlife. The Refuge was created to permanently 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 that conversion is still a very real risk. A drop in crop prices may have slowed this, but the threat isn’t gone. It’s vital that we protect our remaining native prairies before they are lost.Progress towards the Refuge’s goal has been limited by available acquisition funding. Since 2000, the Refuge has protected 5,101 acres in Minnesota with funding from non-OHF sources. The acquisition budget from these sources falls far short of the landowner interest in working with the Refuge.Funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund (OHF) will allow The Nature Conservancy and US Fish and Wildlife Service, working in partnership, to significantly accelerate this progress. TNC and USFWS will cooperate on protecting approximately 540 acres of native prairie and associated habitat in the 49 Minnesota counties within the Refuge boundary. Of these, we expect to protect approximately 215 acres in fee title and approximately 325 acres with permanent habitat easements.This program’s work is targeted at protecting high-quality native habitat in areas with existing concentrations of native prairie, wetlands, and protected lands. The lands protected will consist of 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 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 the partners to make significant progress towards our shared goal of protecting and buffering the remaining native prairie. The first property was acquired in March, 2013. 4,320 acres have now been added to the Refuge. Of these, 2,820 acres are classified as native prairie. Additional habitat includes 460 acres of wetlands and 11 miles of stream and/or lakefront. Landowners have committed a further 530 acres. Negotiations are ongoing with a long list of interested landowners.With additional support from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, this program will continue to make real and lasting progress towards protecting Minnesota’s native prairies and the wildlife that depend on those lands.

Project Manager
First Name
Ruth
Last Name
Thornton
Organization Name
The Nature Conservancy
Street Address
1101 W. River Parkway Suite 200
City
Minneapolis
State
MN
Zip Code
55415
Phone
(612) 331-0790
Email
ruth.thornton@tnc.org