Wild Rice Shoreland Protection
$1,630,000 in the first year is to the Board of Water and Soil Resources to acquire in fee wild rice lake shoreland habitat for native wild rice bed protection and to acquire permanent conservation easements in cooperation with Ducks Unlimited. Of this amount, $100,000 is for an agreement with Ducks Unlimited for acquisition of land or interests in land to protect native wild rice beds. Up to $48,000 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund, as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be included as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Forestlands are protected from development and fragmentation.
Increased availability and improved condition of riparian forests and other habitat corridors.
Healthy populations of endangered, threatened, and special concern species as well as more common species.
Improved aquatic habitat indicators.
Twenty six easements protecting 1,173.3 were recorded which exceeded the original proposal by 173 acres (15%). 11.6 miles of shoreline were protected which exceeded the 8 acre goal by 30%. Total expenditure was $1,355,000 which was 17% lower than originally budgeted. No fee-title land acquisition opportunities on wild rice lakes that fit within DNR and other government agency land plans were available during this time period thus DU did not expend any of the $100,000 budgeted for fee-title acquisition. Instead the program focused on RIM easements.
The second phase of Wild Rice Shoreland Protection was intended to protect additional wild rice shoreland and continue the success of Phase I. BWSR, DU, DNR, SWCDs and other partners (see below) worked closely together to continue protection of vulnerable and ecologically valuable wild rice lake shorelands and grow the program which has led to subsequent phases III-V with Phase VI proposed for ML19 funding.
Wild rice shoreland encompasses a complex of shallow lakes, rivers, and shallow bays of deeper lakes that support rice and provide some of the most important habitat for wetland-dependent wildlife species in Minnesota. Wild rice habitat is especially important to Minnesota’s migrating and breeding waterfowl and provides Minnesotans with unique recreation opportunities: hunting waterfowl and harvesting the rice itself for food.
Historically, wild rice occurred throughout Minnesota and extended into northern Iowa. Wild rice has since been extirpated from most of its southern range due to human impacts. Today, the heart of the states wild rice acreage falls within this project work area comprised of eight counties Aitkin, Carlton, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, St. Louis, and Wadena. These counties also account for 70% of harvesting trips for state licensed harvesters.
This wild rice shoreland complex exists primarily in the state's Forest Section and remains intact with good water quality, but it is subject to intense development pressure that, if allowed, will degrade the resource. Recent well-documented population and development trends pose a serious threat to wild rice habitat in the Northern Forest Section. This population and development boom has reduced the availability of developable shoreline on recreational lakes, resulting in shallow lakes, rivers, and shallow bays containing wild rice being increasingly targeted for shoreline development.
Shallow lakes and rivers in the forest are very susceptible to the impacts of shoreline development. The scoring and ranking process placed a strong emphasis on protecting the most vulnerable shorelines that were offered. Tracts were selected based on the degree they help permanently protect all the land around a given wild rice water body.
Through the work of six SWCD offices, BWSR acquired 26 RIM shoreland easements from wild rice lake and river shoreline landowners. The BWSR/SWCD easements were acquired using the standard RIM process. Future monitoring and enforcement will be conducted via the standard RIM monitoring process.
Although no fee-title acquisitions were completed during this phase the work of the partners paid off in subsequent phases as groundwork from this phase resulted in fee-title acquisition in Phase 3.