Shallow Lake and Wetland Protection Program - Phase IV
$9,040,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Ducks Unlimited to acquire land in fee for wildlife management purposes under Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 8. A list of proposed acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Protected, restored, and enhanced habitat for migratory and unique Minnesota species - Prairie tracts acquired will be restored back to native prairie and forbs, and will transferred into the state wildlife management area system to provide additional prairie habitat for migratory species. Use by migratory species will be monitored by Minnesota DNR field staff, who will also monitor public use..
DU private funds
Ducks Unlimited's Phase 4 program will strive to acquire and restore approximately 900 acres of prairie land and wetlands for inclusion in Minnesota DNR state Wildlife Management Areas, with strategic focus on land containing drained wetlands and bordering shallow lakes.
This is Phase 4 of Ducks Unlimited's facilitative land acquisition program, a component of our Living Lakes Initiative in Minnesota, which contributes to the implementation of Minnesota's Prairie Conservation Plan and Long-Range Duck Recovery Plan by restoring prairie and small wetlands on new lands acquired by DU for inclusion in the state Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system. This work specifically addresses the need for prairie and wetland restoration as identified in the Prairie Plan, and compliments other efforts to protect intact native prairie. Acquisition and restoration of prairie and small wetlands is important because in the Prairie Section of Minnesota, 90% of our prairie wetlands have been drained and 99% of native prairie uplands lost to conversion for agriculture. Thus, restoration of former prairie and wetlands is critical to improving wildlife habitat in the Prairie Section, and acquisition of lands for sale where easements are not of interest to the landowner is an important component of prairie and wetland restoration efforts.
Drainage and intensive cultivation of the prairie landscape combined with invasive fish such as carp has degraded our remaining wetlands and shallow lakes, turning them into turbid waters that now provide only limited habitat benefit to wetland-dependent wildlife. This degradation has negatively affected both breeding and migrating waterfowl. To remedy, the Minnesota DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service actively manage shallow lakes and wetlands through temporary water level draw-downs to consolidate sediments and nutrients, reduce and remove invasive fish, improve water clarity, and enhance the aquatic ecology in some shallow lake and large wetland basins under their control. DU is actively involved in delivering these enhancement efforts by providing bio-engineering services supported by other Outdoor Heritage Fund appropriations.
This grant strives to buffer our shallow lakes and remaining wetlands with native prairie grass, and restore prairie lands surrounding shallow lakes as agricultural land use intensifies. Some private lands are intensively cultivated right up to the edge of shallow lakes and wetlands, and , and many basins are only protected by a narrow buffer that does not adequately protect them from landscape runoff or provide adequate upland nesting cover for birds. Many degraded shallow lake and large wetland basins with management potential, and those partially drained basins with restoration potential, have only limited or no public land on them, which limits the ability of agencies to restore and manage them. These lands need to be restored and permanently protected through a combination of both easement programs and fee-title public land acquisition efforts to protect our public water resources. Strategic prairie public land acquisition is needed to provide public access and a public investment to justify active management by Minnesota DNR. Protection and active management of shallow lakes and wetlands is identified as a priority action in all major conservation plans in Minnesota. Public land acquisition and restoration is a critical component of shallow lake and wetland conservation in Minnesota, especially in the prairie portion of the state where wetland complexes are critical for both breeding and migrating ducks.
This grant is Phase 4 of Ducks Unlimited's ongoing, facilitative public land acquisition program to strategically acquire and restore lands on shallow lakes and state WMAs, especially those lands containing drained wetland basins, for public ownership and management by Minnesota DNR. This will buffer shallow lakes and existing WMAs, and help restore wetland complexes around them to improve and protect public investments in shallow lake management, and to make new shallow lake enhancement and wetland restoration projects possible. Through this grant, Ducks Unlimited will strive to strategically acquire and restore approximately 900 acres of prairie and wetlands around key shallow lakes and state WMAs in the Prairie Section for Minnesota DNR.
Ducks Unlimited will work with Minnesota DNR Wildlife and private landowners to identify land for sale on shallow lakes and land within state WMA project areas where DNR will accept lands purchased by DU for for inclusion into the state WMA system. Sensitive shoreland and tracts that provide public land on shallow lakes, and those containing restorable prairie and wetlands or make shallow lake enhancements possible, will be prioritized for facilitative acquisition and restoration for the Minnesota DNR. Tracts acquired will be prioritized in consultation with DNR Section of Wildlife. Land purchased will be acquired and held by Ducks Unlimited's land trust affiliate Wetlands America Trust (WAT). Transfer of these lands to the state will be expedited to minimize the time Ducks Unlimited and WAT must hold title to each tract.
Grant funds will be used to pay for land, appraisals, surveys, closing costs, restoration, and DU staff, in-state travel, and associated DSS costs to work landowners and DNR staff to identify, purchase, and restore, land. Budget reallocations up to 10% will not require an amendment to this Accomplishment Plan as per LSOHC and DNR guidance.
There are no specific plans to plant corn or other crops as part of this Outdoor Heritage Accomplishment Plan. The parcels will become part of the State Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system. The primary purposes of WMAs are to develop and manage for the production of wildlife, for public hunting, fishing, and trapping, and for other compatible outdoor recreational uses. To fulfill those goals, DNR Wildlife may use limited farming, including Cooperative Farming Agreements, specifically to enhance or benefit the management of state lands for wildlife and plant species. Farming may be utilized to prepare previously farmed sites for native plant seeding (e.g. utilizing soybeans to allow any remaining agricultural chemical residue to dissipate and to create a good soil seedbed). It also may be utilized to provide a winter food source (such as corn) for a variety of wildlife species in agriculture-dominated landscapes largely devoid of winter food sources. Those food plots are used to enhance overwinter survival of wildlife or in some cases to help mitigate wildlife damage to property owners, and they are also popular public hunting locations. DNR Wildlife currently uses farming as a wildlife management tool on less than 2.5% of the total WMA land base.