Enrollment of private lands in conservation programs can provide important natural resource and other public benefits by taking the lands out of production so that they can provide various wildlife, water quality, and ecological benefits. This appropriation is enabling the Minnesota Board of Soil and Water Resources to continue to provide grants to local soil and water conservation districts for employment of technical staff to assist private landowners in implementing conservation programs.
There are currently more than 21,000 miles of drainage ditches and many thousands of miles of subsurface tile located throughout Minnesota and overseen by over 100 different local drainage authorities. Historically public records of these drainage systems have been maintained primarily in hard copy following differing protocols depending on local requirements. However, this antiquated approach limits the usability and accessibility of public drainage records creating various challenges for drainage management efforts.
Once known for its clean water, fertile soil, and healthy habitat, in more recent times the Heron Lake Watershed in southwestern Minnesota has been heavily impacted by pollution from intensive agriculture, feedlots, non-compliant septic systems, and urban stormwater runoff. The Heron Lake Watershed District is using this appropriation for public outreach and installation and monitoring of water quality improvement projects aimed at reducing sediment and nutrient loading for the benefit of public health, recreation, and wildlife habitat.
The Lower Mississippi River Feedlot Management in MN project will be leveraging State funding from BWSR to provide match for a United States Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA-NRCS) Regional Conservations Partners Program (RCPP). BWSR will provide technical and financial assistance to plan and design projects to mitigate feedlot runoff from smaller (less than 300 animal units or AUs*), open lot feedlots in southeastern Minnesota.
Lakes and streams located in Blue Earth, Le Sueur, and Waseca Counties provide important public benefits such as hydrologic storage, economic and recreational opportunities, and regional water quality improvement. However, several of the lakes and streams have been listed as impaired because of excess nutrients and sediment from runoff.