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.
Overall Project Outcome and Results
MDHA funding restored a total of two oak savannahs (grassland enhancement) consisting of 35 acres on the Winger Waterfowl Production Area (WPA). Federal WPA's are managed for waterfowl production and are open to public hunting and other recreation consistent with the National Wildlife Refuge System. This restoration to the oak savannahs will create suitable habitat for deer, turkey, ruffed grouse, and other cavity nesting birds.
With only 1% of Minnesota’s native prairie remaining, many prairie plant and animal species have dramatically declined. Of the 12 butterfly species native to Minnesota prairies, two species, the Poweshiek skipperling and the Dakota skipper, have already largely disappeared from the state and are proposed for listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act despite being historically among the most common prairie butterflies and having their historic ranges concentrated in Minnesota.
The Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive insect that has been decimating ash trees throughout the Great Lakes states. It was first discovered in Minnesota in 2009 and is now found in four counties (Hennepin, Houston, Ramsey, and Winona). EAB poses a particularly serious threat to Minnesota because it is home to nearly 1 billion ash trees that occur throughout the state - the second most of any state.
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).
The Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS) is an ongoing effort begun in 1987 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that is systematically surveying, county-by-county, the state's natural habitats. The effort identifies significant natural areas and collects and interprets data on the status, distribution, and ecology of plants, animals, and native plant communities throughout the state. Through 2009 surveys have been completed in 74 of Minnesota's 87 counties and have added nearly 17,000 new records of rare features to the DNR's information systems.
Native to the western United States and Canada, mountain pine beetle is considered the most devastating forest insect in North America. Trees usually die as a result of infestation and an unprecedented outbreak in the west is currently decimating pine forests there. While mountain pine beetle is not presently believed to reside in Minnesota, there are risks posed by an expanding species range resulting from warming climate and the potential for accidental introduction via lumber imports from infested areas.
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.
Minnesota's wetlands provide crucial habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife, assist in flood control, and help maintain water quality. However, the state has lost half the wetlands that existed before European settlement and these drained wetlands have not been mapped as part of the National Wetlands Inventory. This appropriation is enabling efforts by Ducks Unlimited to provide a complement to the National Wetlands Inventory by identifying and mapping drained wetlands that have the potential to be restored to provide their various benefits once again.
Oftentimes water conservation efforts are directed toward impaired waters. However, it is much more cost-effective to protect habitat and water resources before they become degraded. The Nature Conservancy is using this appropriation to create a broader, long-term, watershed-based framework for proactively protecting habitat and water resources in southeast MN, specifically the Cannon River and Zumbro River watersheds, before they become degraded.
Native trout require clean, cold water that usually originates from springs, but the springs feeding the 173 designated trout streams in southeastern Minnesota are under increasing pressure from current and expected changes in land use. This joint effort by the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is working to identify and map the springs and the areas that feed water to these springs and to learn how these waters might be affected by development and water use.
Over the past 100 years, about half of Minnesota’s original 22 million acres of wetlands have been drained or filled. Some regions of the State have lost more than 90 percent of their original wetlands. The National Wetland Inventory, a program initiated in the 1970s, is an important tool used at all levels of government and by private industry, non-profit organizations, and private landowners for wetland regulation and management, land management and conservation planning, environmental impact assessment, and natural resource inventories.