RIM Buffers for Wildlife and Water - Phase VI

Project Details by Fiscal Year
2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$6,708,000
Fund Source
Outdoor Heritage Fund
Recipient
BWSR
Recipient Type
State Government
Status
In Progress
Activity Type
Land Acquisition
Legal Citation / Subdivision
ML 2016, Ch. 172, Art. 1, Sec. 2, Subd. 2(g)
Appropriation Language

$6,708,000 the second year is to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire permanent conservation easements and restore habitat under Minnesota Statutes, section 103F.515, to protect, restore, and enhance habitat by expanding the clean water fund riparian buffer program for at least equal wildlife benefits from buffers on private land. Of this amount, up to $130,000 is to establish a monitoring and enforcement fund as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the final report.

2017 Fiscal Year Funding Amount
$6,708,000
Other Funds Leveraged
$6,708,000
Direct expenses
$6,694,600
Administration costs
$13,400
Number of full time equivalents funded
0.75
Proposed Measurable Outcome(s)

Protected, restored, and enhanced aspen parklands and riparian areas - Riparian corridors are a key link in connecting existing core habitat parcels. Parcels will be scored using the eligibility score sheet for wildlife benefits and also incorporating water quality benefits. Permanently protecting expiring CRP lands, enhancing habitat for wildlife and other species, keeping and filtering water on the land and protecting, enhancing and restoring habitats for at risk species will all be benefits of this effort..A network of natural land and riparian habitats will connect corridors for wildlife and species in greatest conservation need - Riparian corridors are a key link in connecting existing core habitat parcels. Parcels will be scored using the eligibility score sheet for wildlife benefits and also incorporating water quality benefits. Permanently protecting expiring CRP lands, enhancing habitat for wildlife and other species, keeping and filtering water on the land and protecting, enhancing and restoring habitats for at risk species will all be benefits of this effort..Rivers, streams, and surrounding vegetation provide corridors of habitat - Riparian corridors are a key link in connecting existing core habitat parcels. Parcels will be scored using the eligibility score sheet for wildlife benefits and also incorporating water quality benefits. Permanently protecting expiring CRP lands, enhancing habitat for wildlife and other species, keeping and filtering water on the land and protecting, enhancing and restoring habitats for at risk species will all be benefits of this effort..Expiring CRP lands are permanently protected - Riparian corridors are a key link in connecting existing core habitat parcels. Parcels will be scored using the eligibility score sheet for wildlife benefits and also incorporating water quality benefits. Permanently protecting expiring CRP lands, enhancing habitat for wildlife and other species, keeping and filtering water on the land and protecting, enhancing and restoring habitats for at risk species will all be benefits of this effort..

Source of Additional Funds

Clean Water Fund, Clean Water FundClean Water Fund,

Project Overview

The RIM Buffers for Wildlife and Water - Phase VI will protect and restore 792 acres of riparian buffers on 40 conservation easements without a CREP. It will expand Clean Water Funded easements to provide additional wildlife benefits.

About the Issue

The RIM Buffers for Wildlife and Water - Phase VI funded with OHF will protect and restore 792 acres of riparian buffers on 40 conservation easements without a Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). It will double the size of Clean Water Fund (CWF) easements to provide additional wildlife benefits on areas that are not required by law or rule to have buffers. OHF funded buffers, when linked to CWF buffers, will yield a total of 1,584 acres of buffers. Due to guidance from LSOHC, only the acres (792) and funding ($6.708 million) from OHF have been displayed in the Output Tables.

The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) and many federal, state and local agencies and non-government organizations have been formulating a 100,000 acre CREP proposal focused on wildlife habitat and water quality. A final draft proposal has been completed and is being reviewed by USDA Farm Service Agency (FSA) and state partners. In addition, an Environmental Assessment will be completed in the next few months.

Upon final agreement between the State of MN and the United States Dept. of Agriculture, MN conservation agencies and partners will embark on a seven year effort to implement a CREP to benefit wildlife habitat and provide water quality and hydrology benefits in 54 counties. This will be Minnesota's third CREP and the opportunity will be created to enroll and restore 100,000 acres of permanently protected buffers, wetlands and floodplain easements using a combination of the USDA Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) and the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Reserve program. Of the 100,000 acre total, 50,000 acres will be focused on buffers directly associated with this proposal. The CREP will be a total of an estimated $800 million of federal, state and local funding, leveraging up to four federal dollars for every state/local dollar.

If the CREP does not come to fruition stand-alone RIM Buffer easements will be secured. Restoration will also occur, when needed. Due to not having a signed CREP agreement at the time of this submittal, leverage has not been included in any of the budget figures and projected acreage outcomes represent a non-CREP stand-alone RIM option. If a CREP agreement is signed later in 2015, acreage totals and number of easements will increase by a maximum of approximately four times, and our request will shift to less easement money (since USDA will pay a majority of the payments to landowners through the CRP) and to more technical assistance, processing and stewardship money since it is estimated that easement numbers will increase dramatically.

MN continues to see a net loss of grasslands each year. Expiring CRP is the leading cause of this landscape change. This exodus is being driven by high land and commodity prices, increased pressure for alternative uses, and declining federal budgets for conservation programs. Minnesota's primary strategy to mitigate the loss of CRP is to target expiring contracts for enrollment into Continuous CRP (CCRP) practices (like buffers) and permanent easements for the most beneficial practices (e.g. wetland restoration, grasslands, and buffers). This program is one proven strategy to provide landowners with a sound option to keep targeted conservation on the land when economic incentives favor row crop production.

This partnership program establishes permanent buffers that provide both critical water quality improvements and improved wildlife habitat. For example, a buffer of 100' generally serves to protect water quality, while adding an additional 100' greatly enhances nesting opportunities for wildlife. Establishing a minimum of 200' on each side of a stream for a total of 400' plus the natural corridor that already exists creates a block of habitat for nesting birds and a critical link between other permanently protected habitats.

Criteria used to evaluate and prioritize buffers funded under this program include: buffers must build upon and leverage a Clean Water Fund Buffer, proximity to other permanently protected habitat, buffers within a designated shallow lake watershed, proximity to lands open to public hunting, plant diversity, overall size, and type of water resource being buffered. A competitive RIM Buffers application process for landowners will be used. The first five phases of this program have created landowner interest that far exceeds available funding. The goal for this new phase will be to increase funding from both LSOHC but also increase match from Clean Water Funding as well as USDA. Wider buffers can provide longer term water quality treatment and provide better habitat. Buffers that are in close proximity to other grasslands also function at a higher level for grassland nesting birds and other wildlife.

RIM Buffers program delivery will be supported by Minnesota's Conservation Assistance Acceleration Project (CAAP – formerly the Farm Bill Assistance Partnership) which includes BWSR, USDA - Natural Resources Conservation Service, Minnesota DNR, Soil and Water Conservation Districts, Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, Pheasants Forever, LCCMR and numerous local partners. Additionally, the RIM program will be delivered through SWCD's and administered by Minnesota BWSR.

We propose that the LSOHC fund $6.708M in perpetual state RIM buffer easements that will build equally upon the RIM buffers funded through the Clean Water Fund and/or new USDA programs such as CREP. This creates a unique partnership program to accomplish a single project with enhanced outcomes that could not otherwise be obtained with a single funding source. In the event equal match is not available during the project period, buffer areas for wildlife will be secured with only available OHF funds.


Project Manager
First Name
Tabor
Last Name
Hoek
Organization Name
BWSR
Street Address
1400 E. Lyon St.
City
Marshall
State
MN
Zip Code
56258
Phone
(507) 537-7260
Email
tabor.hoek@state.mn.us