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.
The Minnesota County Geologic Atlas program is an ongoing effort begun in 1979 that is being conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Geological Survey and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This portion, called Part B and conducted by the DNR, analyzes water samples to understand water chemistry and sensitivity to pollution.
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.
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.
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.
Adoption of renewable energy technologies and energy conservation practices can contribute in a variety of ways to the environmental and economic health of rural Minnesota communities through costs savings and emissions reductions. Engaging and coaching students as the leaders in the process of implementing such practices provides the added benefit of increasing knowledge, teaching about potential career paths, and developing leadership experience.