Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge Protection
$2,041,000 in fiscal year 2011 is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with The Nature Conservancy to acquire land or permanent easements within the Northern Tallgrass Prairie Habitat Preservation Area in western Minnesota for addition to the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. A list of proposed fee title and permanent easement acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. The accomplishment plan must include an easement stewardship plan.
Protect in Fee w/o PILT 564 acres of prairies, Enhanced 488 acres of Prairie
USFWS and TNC
This program permanently protected 1,052 acres in western Minnesota by purchasing fee title properties and/or habitat easements. Of these, 564 acres were purchased in fee and 488 were conservation easements. These properties included 689 acres of remnant native prairie and 119 acres of associated wetland complexes. In addition, 4,800' of streamfront and 3,300' of lakeshore were protected. Lands and easements purchased through this program by The Nature Conservancy will be transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service and will become units of the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge to be owned and managed by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Restoration of wetlands and grasslands will be completed where needed.
The Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge was established to preserve, restore, and manage a portion of the remaining critical northern tallgrass prairie habitat and associated habitats at widespread locations throughout the western Minnesota and northwestern Iowa historic range. Only 5 percent of the original tallgrass prairie remains for preservation consideration throughout the entire historic tallgrass prairie range. Native prairie declines of 99.9% and 99.6% have occurred in Iowa and Minnesota, respectively. Grassland dependent bird species have shown steeper, more consistent, and geographically more widespread declines than any other group of North American birds.
The number of acres purchased annually has been limited due to funding shortfalls since the establishment of this refuge. The current land acquisition budget cannot keep up with the landowner interest in this program. This funding allowed us to make significant progress towards the refuge's goal and objective of protecting this vanishing habitat. This appropriation allowed us to add 1,052 acres to the existing 5,331 acres in the refuge - a 19.7% increase.
Our original proposal identified two key goals for this program: 1) Preserving and enhancing the remaining remnant tracts of northern tallgrass prairie, 2) Linking existing prairie tracts together into larger blocks to create more viable units and allow wildlife corridors.
Working together, the US Fish and Wildlife Service and The Nature Conservancy achieved the following progress towards these goals: 1) 689 acres of remnant native prairie were protected, 2) 699 acres were acquired in areas identified as critical cores or corridors in the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan, 3) The acquired parcels added to existing complexes of permanently protected land averaging 3,800 acres. Two of the acquired parcels were more isolated, but both were located in areas identified by MN Biological Survey as having significant biodiversity and adjoining properties with additional native grassland.
Beyond these accomplishments, this funding protected 119 additional acres of wetlands, 4,800' of streamfront, and 3,300' of lakeshore.