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.
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.
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.
DNR completed nine stream habitat projects with this appropriation. Four fish passage projects opened up access to 180 miles of river and 13,521 acres of lake and wetland habitat. We enhanced habitat on 39 Aquatic Management Areas, totalling 1440 acres, through the efforts of four positions funded by this appropriation. It also funded two stream habitat positions that oversaw the completion of 23 DNR projects and over 50 partner-lead projects funded by various OHF sources.
Our program will coordinate with partners, with emphasis on Prairie Conservation Plan implementation, and acquire priority lands for Wildlife Management Areas, Scientific and Natural Areas, and Native Prairie Bank easesments for public hunting, trapping and compatible outdoor uses consistent with the Outdoor Recreation Act.
Minnesota Trout Unlimited and our volunteers, chapters and partners will directly enhance habitat for fish and wildlife in and along thirteen coldwater streams located in existing Aquatic Management Areas and on existing public lands around the state.
The Minnesota Moose Habitat Collaborative enhanced approximately 7349 acres of moose habitat in northern forests of Northeastern Minnesota within Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties on county, state, and federal land.
Moose, one of Minnesota’s most iconic wildlife species, are dying at increasingly higher rates in Minnesota and there is uncertainty as to why. Estimates suggest the population declined 35 percent just between 2012 to 2013, and projections suggest moose could be nearly gone from the state by 2020 if this trend is not halted and, ideally, reversed.
Phase Four of the MN Prairie Recovery Program resulted in a total of 1,707 acres protected, 37,567 acres enhanced, and 440 acres restored. When combined with Phases 1-3 of the Prairie Recovery Program we have cumulatively protected 5,777 acres, enhanced 95,701 acres and restored 754 acres using Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars. We will continue to implement subsequent Phases toward meeting the conservation goals described in the MN Prairie Conservation Plan.
Using Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars allocated in this grant, American Bird Conservancy (ABC) completed 2581 total acres of habitat enhancement on protected public lands in the northern MN Golden-winged Warbler focal area and 480 acres of acquisition adjacent to the Four Brooks Wildlife Management Area with assistance from The Conservation Fund.