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.
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.
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.
Aquatic invasive species are a threat to the ecology and the recreational and economic viability of Minnesota’s water resources. When an invasion is confined to a distinct lake or wetland, local government units will implement localized plans to address invasions. However, when a water body crosses jurisdictions, such as with river systems, to be effective a more coordinated, regional approach is necessary that is more attuned with the natural pathways for invasive species.
Excess nutrients are among the most common impairments of water resources in the Red River Basin, as well as the rest of Minnesota. About 80% of the land use in the Red River Basin is for agricultural cropland and over 90% of phosphorus and nitrogen found in rivers and streams in the area originate from nonpoint sources, such as cropland. Excess nutrients are also one of the most difficult impairments to correct.
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.