Shallow Lake & Wetland Protection Program - Phase V
$5,801,000 the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Ducks Unlimited to acquire in fee and restore prairie lands, wetlands, and land buffering shallow lakes 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 wetlands and prairie with native grass and forb wildflowers for pollinators, and will transferred into the state Wildlife Management Area system to provide additional prairie habitat for migratory species and public use, both of which will be monitored by Minnesota DNR field staff. Water and habitat quality in restored wetlands will be monitored by DNR area wildlife field staff, and managed to optimize wetland habitat conditions. Prairie uplands will be managed to minimize trees and encourage native grasses and pollinator wild flowers..
DU Private Funds
Ducks Unlimited's Phase 5 land program will acquire and restore 600 acres of prairie land and wetlands for inclusion in state Wildlife Management Areas for Minnesota DNR, with focus on restorable prairie lands and wetlands, and land buffering shallow lakes.
This project is Phase 5 of Ducks Unlimited's prairie land acquisition and restoration program component of our Living Lakes Initiative in Minnesota. This work helps implement the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan by restoring prairie and small wetlands on degraded prairie lands acquired by DU for inclusion in the state Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system. This program work specifically addresses the need for prairie and wetland restoration as identified in Minnesota's Prairie Conservation Plan, complimenting other efforts to protect intact native prairie by restoring croplands nearby. Our work is done in partnership with the Minnesota DNR Section of Wildlife staff and in regular coordination with other NGO land acquisition partners. Our prairie land acquisition and restoration work focuses on marginal cropland with drained wetlands, and benefits game and non-game wildlife alike - from mallards to monarch butterflies.
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. The wetland basins that remain are often large, deep wetlands or shallow lakes that are degraded because they now receive the runoff and drainage from the intensively cultivated landscape that surrounds them. Some shallow lake basins and large wetlands are contained within state WMAs or federal Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA), but many others are unprotected or drained and need small wetlands and prairie restored around them and in their watersheds to function as prairie wetland habitat complexes for ducks and other prairie wildlife species.
Drainage and intensive cultivation of Minnesota's prairie landscape has devastated our small wetlands and prairie uplands alike, and turned our remaining shallow lakes into turbid waters that now provide only limited habitat benefit to migratory waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife. Altered landscape hydrology, increased nutrient and sediment loading, and invasive fish now degrade the aquatic ecology of our remaining wetland basins. This has degraded the prairie wetland habitat quality for both migrating and breeding waterfowl, and the quality of outdoor recreational opportunities for Minnesota duck hunters and bird watchers alike. To remedy turbid shallow lakes, Minnesota DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service managers actively manage shallow lakes and large 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 shallow lakes and large wetland basins under their control with water control structures engineered by Ducks Unlimited funded through other OHF grants.
But, it is most critical that we restore drained wetlands and converted prairie around shallow lakes and existing intact prairie habitats as agriculture intensifies and pressures to convert idle land into row-crop production grow. Some private lands adjacent to our remaining wetlands and shallow lakes contain small unbroken patches of native prairie or restored cropland enrolled in the USDA’s short-term Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), but remain vulnerable to conversion back to agriculture - especially when lands containing CRP are for sale. Other lands are intensively cultivated right up to the edge of shallow lakes and state WMAs, and need acquisition, restoration, and permanent protection when for sale. While some private landowners are willing to consider conservation easements, other lands are for sale and fee-title acquisition is the only viable option to restore and protect those parcels.
Thus, public land acquisition and restoration is a critical component of wetland and shallow lake conservation in Minnesota, especially in the prairie portion of the state where wetland complexes are critical for both breeding and migrating ducks. Many basins are only protected by a narrow buffer that may not adequately protect their aquatic ecology from landscape runoff or provide adequate upland nesting cover for birds, making it important to purchase and restore lands around them that come up for sale. Finally, many shallow lake and large wetland basins with management potential (and those partially drained with restoration potential) have only limited or no public land on them, which limits the ability of Minnesota DNR to actively manage them - thus additional public land acquisition is needed to give wildlife agencies land control on basins in need of enhancement for wildlife and to provide public access. Protection of shallow lakes and wetland restoration are priority actions in all major conservation plans in Minnesota.
This Phase 5 project of our programmatic, ongoing facilitative public land acquisitions by Ducks Unlimited to acquire and restore lands for sale on state WMAs containing restorable prairie and wetland basins for public ownership and land management to buffer shallow lakes and help create wetland complexes, restore and preserve prairie uplands and small wetlands around shallow lakes and WMAs and WPAs, protect investments in shallow lake management, and make new shallow lake enhancement or wetland restoration projects possible. DU proposes to acquire (and restore where needed) approximately 2,000 acres of land on shallow lakes and WMAs containing wetlands and prairie in the Prairie, Forest-Prairie, and Metro/Urban Sections.
DU field staff work with DNR area wildlife managers and private landowners to identify tracts of land for sale on shallow lakes and on public lands containing large wetlands, and obtain approval that DNR will accept a tract before lands are purchased for the eventual transfer to the state DNR for inclusions into the state WMA system. Sensitive shoreland and tracts that provide public access to shallow lakes, and those containing restorable prairie and wetlands or make shallow lake enhancements possible, will be prioritized for acquisition and inclusion in the state WMA system. Tracts acquired will be prioritized in consultation with DNR Section of Wildlife, and DU will work with DNR to expedite the transfer of lands and minimize the time DU must hold the land.
Grant funds will pay for land, appraisals, surveys, closing costs, restoration, and DU staff, travel, and associated DSS costs to work with landowners and DNR field staff to identify, purchase, and restore, land. Budget reallocations up to 10% will be allowed without amendment to the pending Accomplishment Plan as per LSOHC.