Pheasants Forever (PF) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) will cooperate to permanently restore and protect approximately 1397.31 acres as Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) in western and southern Minnesota. All lands acquired through this grant proposal will be owned and managed by the Service as part of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Accelerated Prairie Grassland Restoration and Management Program had a successful first round of funding from the Legacy Funds. The program worked through the growing pains and obstacles in getting a new program up and operational and was successful in enhancing nearly 5,800 acres of prairie and grasslands in eight of the ecological subsections of Minnesota. A contractor base has been established for this type of work statewide that needs to be evaluated and expanded on for future appropriations.
Many of Minnesota's wetlands have been lost and the remainder degraded. The original proposal planned for 15,000 acres of wetland/shallow lake enhancement to provide critical habitat for each life stage of waterfowl and wetland wildlife. The six projects subsequently completed with this appropriation enhanced 13,800 acres of wetlands and shallow lakes in the Prarie and Forest/Prairie Ecosections of Minnestoa.
Many of Minnesota's wetlands have been lost and the remainder degraded. Recent tiling and ditching have accelerated this situation. Through this proposal, shallow lakes and wetlands will be designed, constructed, and intensively managed to benefit wetland wildlife and Minnesota residents.
This appropriation funded 283 projects totaling 21,953 acres. The two largest types of enhancement were 112 woody removal projects totaling 10,160 acres and 134 prescribed burns totaling 10,082 acres. Additionally, we seeded 30 sites totaling 1386 acres, put in infrastructure for conservation grazing of 236 acres on 3 sites, conducted 3 oak savanna enhancements totaling 42 acres, and treated 47 acres of invasive species on 2 sites.
This proposal will address a backlog of shallow lake and wetland habitat work that will otherwise go unfunded. These projects will address work called for in the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan, Long Range Duck Recovery Plan, and Shallow Lakes plan.
We propose restoration and enhancement of prairie and savanna on WMA’s, SNA’s, and Native Prairie Banks in Minnesota and restoration and enhancement of bluff prairies on State Forest Land in southeast Minnesota.
This proposal will accomplish shallow lake and wetland habitat work that will otherwise go unfunded. This work is called for in the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan, Long Range Duck Recovery Plan, and Shallow Lakes plan.
With these funds we were able to restore, protect, and enhance 24,611 acres of native and restored grassland in Minnesota. Much of this work was done through the DNR Roving Crews, a new program funded with these dollars that has significantly increased the state's habitat management capabilities. In addition to these enhancement activities we were able to enroll acres in the DNR's Native Prairie Bank Easement Program as well as acquire acres for the SNA program.
Ducks Unlimited and Minnesota DNR Section of Wildlife completed 26 project affecting 7,603 acres, including three wetland restoration projects restoring 97 acres, 18 shallow lake enhancement projects enhancing 7,154 wetland acres, and five fee-title land acquisition projects protecting 352 acres.
Accomplishments of the appropriation include: i) protection of 3.9 miles of shoreline; ii) modification of 4 lake outlet structures to allow fish passage, benefiting 1,264 acres; iii) enhanced river and stream functions at 15 sites, benefiting over 17 river miles; and iv) enhance 4.5 miles of shoreline habitat on publicly-owned lakeshore.
This proposal impacts shallow lakes and wetlands in Minnesota through the design and construction of projects, enhancement work done by DNR roving habitat crews, and shallow lakes work identified and initiated through the DNR Shallow Lakes program. Ten thousand acres of wetlands were enhanced by these activities.
The program was to accelerate the protection of 1,230 acres of prairie grassland, wetland, and other wildlife habitat as Waterfowl Production Areas open to public hunting in Minnesota. Over the course of the appropriation, we acquired 14 parcels for a total of 1,240.79 acres which exceeded our total acre goal of 1,230 acres by 10.79 acres. Breaking down acres by ecological section we acquired 160 acres in the forest/prairie and 1,080.79 acres in the prairie. We have a balance that will be returned to the Fund despite exceeding our acre goals.
The Albert Lea Lake Management project replaced the previous Albert Lea Lake fix-crest dam with a 3-in-1 structure that included a rock riffle dam, a lake level management structure, and an electric fish barrier. The benefits from this project include improved aquatic and waterfowl habitat, invasive species management, and improved desirable fish populations.
Grassland ecosystems evolved to depend on periodic disturbances, such as fire and grazing, to maintain their health and stability. Periodic disturbances help control invasive species, add nutrients back into the soil, germinate plant seeds, enhance wildlife habitat, and more. In Minnesota habitat managers have used fire as a disturbance tool for decades but the use of grazing has been much rarer, mostly because of a lack of necessary infrastructure such as fencing.
Terrestrial invasive plants such as buckthorn, wild parsnip, garlic mustard, and others are becoming widespread threats throughout many sites in Minnesota. Present chemical and mechanical control methods tend to be costly, effective only in the short-term, or have other negative environmental impacts. However, an alternative practice of using grazing animals for invasive species management is used successfully in many parts of the western United States.
On behalf of the Metropolitan Council, Environmental Financial Group Inc. generated a matrix of water conservation programs with detailed information about the costs and benefits of the programs. Tools were also developed to allow users to calculate potential water savings, estimate program implementation costs, and test the effects of various water conservation programs and rate structures.
This programmatic request will build on the DNR’s previous efforts to enhance and restore grasslands, prairies, and savannas. We will use the Prairie Conservation Plan and Pheasant Summit Action Plan to guide these efforts in a strategic and targeted manner. This proposal will work on a number of types of permanently protected habitats, most of which are open to public hunting, including; DNR WMAs, SNAs, AMAs, Prairie Bank Easements, State Forests, as well as USFWS WPAs and Refuges.
Acquire 910 acres of high priority habitats for designation as Wildlife Management Areas or Scientific & Natural Areas emphasizing Prairie Conservation Plan implementation and coordinating with partners. All lands will be open for public hunting, fishing and trapping.
We propose continued efforts to restore and enhance prairies, grasslands, and savannas on state protected lands (WMA, SNA, Native Prairie Bank) as well as on bluff prairies on State Forest lands in southeastern Minnesota.
The Minnesota DNR and the Minnesota Forest Resources Council work with forest landowners, managers and loggers to implement a set of voluntary sustainable forest management guidelines that include water quality best management practices (BMPs) to ensure sustainable habitat, clean water, and productive forest soils, all contributing to healthy watersheds. This project will monitor the implementation of these forest management guidelines and BMPs on forested watersheds in MN.
As a result of the installation of the two fish barriers, one on Wedge Creek and one on White Lake, we have kept Common Carp from migrating from Fountain Lake into the shallow upstream basins. This has helped improve the water clarity and water quality in the upstream areas which are now excluded from Common Carp. Since these upstream areas are interconnected to Fountain Lake, water quality in Fountain Lake has also improved. Secchi disk readings on Fountain Lake were the best on record in 2010, averaging 2.7 feet of water clarity.
With this appropriation, the Minnesota Land Trust plans to protect approximately 500 acres of critical shoreline habitat along Minnesota's lakes, wetlands, rivers, and streams by securing permanent conservation easements and dedicating funds for their perpetual monitoring, management, and enforcement. Lands being considered for permanent protection in this round of funding are located in Becker, Beltrami, Blue Earth, Itasca, Kandiyohi, Lac Qui Parle, Le Sueur, Otter Tail, Pope, and Wabasha counties.
This Phase 5 request for Ducks Unlimited's Living Lakes program will enhance 2,000 acres of shallow lakes and restore 50 acres of small wetlands by engineering and installing water control structures for Minnesota DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on public lands and wetlands under easement. Structures will be used by DNR and Service partners to restore wetland hydrology and actively manage shallow lake water levels to enhance their ecology for ducks, other birds, and hunters in the Prairie Region of Minnesota.
This Phase 6 request for Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes program will enhance 1,000 acres of shallow lakes and restore 50 acres of small wetlands by engineering and installing water control structures for Minnesota DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on public lands and wetlands under easement. Structures will be used by DNR and Service partners to restore wetland hydrology and actively manage shallow lake water levels to enhance their ecology for ducks, other birds, and hunters in the Prairie Region of Minnesota.
Phase 4 of our ongoing Living Lakes program will enhance 4,000 acres of shallow lakes and wetlands for waterfowl in the Prairie, Transition, and Metro Sections in partnership with Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and other agencies.
Phase 2 of Ducks Unlimited's ongoing engineering program restored and enhanced shallow lakes and wetlands by installing water level control structures to improve aquatic plant abundance and water clarity in partnership with the Minnesota DNR and U.S.
Since 2000, a diverse group of partners has been collectively working in northwestern Minnesota on one of the largest prairie-wetland restorations in the world. Spanning 22,000 acres and adjacent to an additional 16,000 acres of public and private conservation land, the goal of the Glacial Ridge Project has been to demonstrate whether large-scale habitat restoration is a viable way to reduce flooding and improve water quality. Prior to beginning restoration efforts on the project, a comprehensive baseline hydrologic study of the area was completed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
Goals for Phase 2 of the MN Prairie Recovery Program were to: protect 1200 acres native prairie/savanna; restore 250 acres grassland; enhance 6000 acres grassland/savanna with fire, invasive species removal, and grazing; and continue a new prairie conservation model.
This program initiated strategies toward a 15-year goal to provide protection to the remaining 90,000 acres of native prairie/savanna, a 20-year goal to restore and protect an additional 500,000 acres of diverse grasslands/savannas, and a 10-year goal to increase management capacity to annually manage 300,000 acres of grassland and savannas per year. This proposal took the first steps to achieve these goals by initiating a comprehensive, coordinated and collaborative prairie conservation initiative. Annual investments by the LSOHC will be required to realize these ultimate outcomes.
The goals for this project were to: protect 1,200 acres native prairie/wetland/savanna; restore 250 acres prairie/wetland; enhance 6,000 acres grassland/savanna with fire, invasive species removal, and grazing; and continue a new prairie conservation model. This phase resulted in a total of 1,425 acres protected, 22,298 acres enhanced, and 110 acres restored. When combined with phases 1 and 2 of the Prairie Recovery Program we have cumulatively protected 4,070 acres, enhanced 58,134 acres and restored 314 acres using OHF funds.
Prior to European settlement more than 18 million acres of prairie covered Minnesota. Today less than 1% of that native prairie remains, and about half of those remaining acres are in private landownership without any formal protection currently in place. Through this appropriation the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will work with private landowners of high quality native prairie sites to protect remaining native prairie using a variety of tools. Approximately 200 acres are expected to be permanently protected through Native Prairie Bank conservation easements.