Reinvest in Minnesota Wetlands Reserve Program Partnership, Phase 3
$13,000,000 the first year is to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire permanent conservation easements and restore wetlands and associated upland habitat in cooperation with the United States Department of Agriculture Wetlands Reserve Program. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan. The accomplishment plan must include an easement monitoring and enforcement plan. Up to $112,000 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to subdivision 15. An annual financial report is required for any monitoring and enforcement fund established, including expenditures from the fund and a description of monitoring and enforcement activities.
Protect in easement 1,890 acres of Wetlands and 3,669 acres of Prairies
federal WRP funds
The RIM-WRP Partnership permanently protected 5,559 acres of priority wetlands and associated upland native grassland wildlife habitat via perpetual conservation easements on 60 sites and leveraged over $11 million of federal Wetlands Reserve Program funds.
The Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) –Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP) Partnership accelerated the restoration and protection of approximately 6,000 acres of previously drained wetlands and associated upland native grassland wildlife habitat complexes via permanent conservation easements. The goal of the RIM-WRP Partnership was to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, while optimizing wildlife habitat on every acre enrolled in the partnership.
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.
The RIM-WRP Partnership held one to two joint meetings per year to provide program oversight and guidance and to establish payment rates for upcoming sign-ups. Specifically, the RIM-WRP Partnership used the USFWS Habitat and Population Evaluation Team (HAPET), located in Fergus Falls, to develop a GIS Wildlife Habitat Potential Model that was used with the WRP and RIM Reserve programs’ environmental evaluation. In addition, the RIM-WRP Partnership developed the Minnesota Wetland Restoration Evaluation Worksheet which was used to evaluate each easement application on its potential to restore wetland functions and values along with optimum wildlife habitat benefits.
RIM-WRP 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 Water andSoil Resources (BWSR). 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.
The RIM-WRP Partnership demonstrated that the State of Minnesota can cooperatively work with a federal partner (NRCS) and through a local delivery system (SWCD, NRCS, and DU) to implement a permanent easement protection program that yielded thousands of acres of permanently protected wildlife habitat. Significant leverage obtained 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 a high percentage of the restoration costs for these easements, with RIM picking up the remaining costs. 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.
We enrolled 60 permanent conservation easements totaling 5,559 acres of wetland grassland wildlife habitat complexes. These restored wetlands and native grassland complexes will provide critical habitat for migratory waterfowl and other wetland dependent wildlife species in Minnesota. Wetlands and adjacent grasslands provide habitat for waterfowl, pheasants, deer and non-game species, some that are threatened or endangered.
As of 8/21/18 42 easements have been restored and 18 are in the restoration process. BWSR and the NRCS are committed to seeing all restorations through to ensure all sites provide beneficial habitat. Due to delays with easement processing, restoration was also delayed in several cases. 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.
Note that due to LSOHC database architecture and migration of this old project into the "new" LSOHC database amended goals are not reflected in the "original" budget and output columns of this final report.