Reinvest in Minnesota Wetlands Reserve Program Acquisition and Restoration
$6,895,000 in fiscal year 2011 is to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire permanent conservation easements and restore wetlands and associated uplands in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture Wetlands Reserve Program. A list of proposed acquisitions and a list of proposed projects, describing the types and locations of restorations, must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. All restorations must comply with subdivision 9, paragraph (b).
Restore and Protect 46 easements totaling 4,166 acres of protected and restored wetland and native grassland wildlife habitat complexes
The RIM-WRP Partnership permanently protected 4,166 acres of priority wetlands and associated upland native grassland wildlife habitat via perpetual conservation easements on 46 sites and leveraged over $9.8 million of federal Wetlands Reserve Program funds.
Described as the premier private lands wetland restoration easement program in the nation, the RIM-WRP partnership combined Minnesota's RIM Reserve conservation easement program and the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP). Combining RIM Reserve and WRP allowed OHF to leverage Federal Farm Bill conservation dollars to Minnesota. Utilizing both programs resulted in competitive payment rates to landowners and sharing of the costs associated with perpetual easement acquisition and restoration by both the federal and state programs.This opportunity was offered statewide but had a priority focus in the ecological provinces of the state that have experienced significant losses of wetland and associated prairies. It was delivered by local NRCS staff, local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) staff and assisted by program staff from both NRCS and the Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR). In addition, Ducks Unlimited (DU) contract employees and staff provided by Minnesota Waterfowl Association (MWA) assisted in program delivery. Since the SWCD is responsible for the local delivery of the RIM Reserve program to private landowners on behalf of the State of Minnesota, they were ideally suited to work in concert with their local NRCS staff to efficiently and effectively deliver the RIM-WRP partnership. Once an easement is acquired NRCS is responsible for maintenance, inspection and monitoring during the life of their 30-year WRP easement. The state of Minnesota assumes sole responsibility via its RIM Reserve easement once the 30-year WRP easement has expired. BWSR partners with local SWCDs to carry-out oversight, monitoring and inspection of its conservation easements.Final Summary:In 2010, 2011, and 2012, RIM-WRP sign-ups occurred. 100's of applications were generated that far exceeded this appropriation.46 RIM-WRP easements were acquired on 4,166 acres. $5.2 million of RIM funds from OHF were paid directly to landowners which leveraged over $9.8 million of federal WRP funds. Approximately 1,416 acres of wetlands and 2,750 acres of adjacent uplands have been protected.The RIM-WRP Partnership successfully demonstrated that the State of Minnesota can cooperatively work with a federal partner (NRCS) and through a local delivery system (SWCD, NRCS, DU and MWA) to implement a permanent easement protection program that yielded thousands of acres of permanently protected wildlife habitat. This significant leverage was due to the amount of easement payments, conservation plan payments, and other costs the NRCS contributed to this partnership. The NRCS made the bulk of the easement payment portion through 30-year WRP Easement acquisition, while BWSR paid an additional portion for the Permanent RIM Easement.NRCS paid approximately 75% of the restoration costs for these easements, with RIM picking up the remaining 25%. The use of NRCS Practice Standards, along with BWSR's Native Vegetation Guidelines led to very high diversity mixes being seeded. The level of wetland restoration was dependent on restorable extent that would not impact lands outside the easement area. BWSR & NRCS evaluated restoration extent during our scoring review to ensure restoration was actually feasible, then followed up with site analysis and surveys.Several easements contained CRP contracts, where looming expiration meant a risk of losing habitat that was already in good condition. We estimate that 450 acres contained CRP contracts that were set to expire. Upon execution of the WRP Easement and RIM Easement, CRP contracts were required to be terminated.BWSR and the NRCS are committed to seeing all restorations through to ensure all sites provide beneficial habitat. Sixteen easements have restorations fully completed. Due to delays with easement processing, restoration was also delayed in several cases. Thirty easements still have some level of restoration yet to occur. BWSR is held to the statutory requirement that requires restoration of the easements we acquire. This restoration includes establishment of acceptable vegetation, if the current cover does not adequately meet site goals.