This proposal accelerates the strategic permanent protection of 915 acres (220 wetlands and 695 grasslands) of Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) open to public hunting in Minnesota. Pheasants Forever (PF) will strategically acquire parcels that are adjacent to existing public land or create corridors between complexes. All acquisitions will occur in the prairie, prairie/forest transition, or metro regions.
This proposal accelerates the protection of 1,030 acres of strategic prairie grassland, wetland, and other wildlife habitats as State Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) open to public hunting. Pheasants Forever (PF) will be acquiring tracts that build onto or create a corridor between existing protected lands which will be transferred to the MN Department of Natural Resources (MN DNR) to be included as a WMA. All acquisitions will occur within the prairie, prairie/forest transition, and metro planning regions. These areas have seen the greatest decline in upland and wetland habitat.
With these funds we were able to restore, protect, and enhance 24,611 acres of native and restored grassland in Minnesota. Much of this work was done through the DNR Roving Crews, a new program funded with these dollars that has significantly increased the state's habitat management capabilities. In addition to these enhancement activities we were able to enroll acres in the DNR's Native Prairie Bank Easement Program as well as acquire acres for the SNA program.
This appropriation funded 283 projects totaling 21,953 acres. The two largest types of enhancement were 112 woody removal projects totaling 10,160 acres and 134 prescribed burns totaling 10,082 acres. Additionally, we seeded 30 sites totaling 1386 acres, put in infrastructure for conservation grazing of 236 acres on 3 sites, conducted 3 oak savanna enhancements totaling 42 acres, and treated 47 acres of invasive species on 2 sites.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Accelerated Prairie Grassland Restoration and Management Program had a successful first round of funding from the Legacy Funds. The program worked through the growing pains and obstacles in getting a new program up and operational and was successful in enhancing nearly 5,800 acres of prairie and grasslands in eight of the ecological subsections of Minnesota. A contractor base has been established for this type of work statewide that needs to be evaluated and expanded on for future appropriations.
The proposal was to accelerate the protection of 1,220 acres of prairie grassland, wetland, and other wildlife habitat as State Wildlife Management Areas open to public hunting. Over the course of the appropriation, we acquired 11 parcels for a total of 1,484.05 acres which exceeded our total acre goal of 1,220 acres by 264.05 acres. Breaking down acres by ecological section we acquired 876 acres in the metro, 152 acres in the forest/prairie, and 456 acres in the prairie. We have a balance of $52,798 that will be returned to the Fund despite exceeding our acre goals.
The proposal was to accelerate the protection of 1,275 acres of prairie grassland, wetland, and other wildlife habitat as State Wildlife Management Areas open to public hunting. However, over the course of the appropriation, we acquired 10 parcels for a total of 1,498 acres which exceeded our total acre goal of 1,275 acres by 223 acres. Breaking down acres by ecological section we exceed our acre goal for the metropolitan area by 97 acres.
Good habitat is critical to sustaining quality fish populations in both lakes and rivers. DNR proposes to restore or enhance aquatic habitat under two programs: stream restoration, and Aquatic Management Area (AMA) enhancement. Stream restoration includes major channel restorations and fish passage projects such as dam removals intended to improve or provide access to critical aquatic habitats.
This programmatic request will build on the DNR’s previous efforts to enhance and restore grasslands, prairies, and savannas. We will use the Prairie Conservation Plan and Pheasant Summit Action Plan to guide these efforts in a strategic and targeted manner. This proposal will work on a number of types of permanently protected habitats, most of which are open to public hunting, including; DNR WMAs, SNAs, AMAs, Prairie Bank Easements, State Forests, as well as USFWS WPAs and Refuges.
This Phase 6 request for Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes program will enhance 1,000 acres of shallow lakes and restore 50 acres of small wetlands by engineering and installing water control structures for Minnesota DNR and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on public lands and wetlands under easement. Structures will be used by DNR and Service partners to restore wetland hydrology and actively manage shallow lake water levels to enhance their ecology for ducks, other birds, and hunters in the Prairie Region of Minnesota.
Phase 4 of our ongoing Living Lakes program will enhance 4,000 acres of shallow lakes and wetlands for waterfowl in the Prairie, Transition, and Metro Sections in partnership with Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, and other agencies.
Phase 2 of Ducks Unlimited's ongoing engineering program restored and enhanced shallow lakes and wetlands by installing water level control structures to improve aquatic plant abundance and water clarity in partnership with the Minnesota DNR and U.S.
This appropriation allowed the permanent protection of 887 acres in western Minnesota. These properties included 664 acres of remnant native prairie, 76 acres of associated wetlands complexes, and 8,500' of streamfront. For this phase we originally planned to protect 740 acres with a minimum of 375 native prairie. Both targets were exceeded - 120% of total acres and 177% of native prairie acres.
Pollinators play a key role in ecosystem function and in agriculture, including thousands of native plants and more than one hundred U.S. crops that either need or benefit from pollinators. However, pollinators are in dramatic decline in Minnesota and throughout the country. The causes of the decline are not completely understood, but identified factors include loss of nesting sites, fewer flowers, increased disease, and increased pesticide use. Developing an aware, informed citizenry that understands this issue is one key to finding and implementing solutions to counteract these factors.
Pheasants Forever and partners protected 1,020.7 acres of priority prairie grassland, wetland habitat as state wildlife management areas (WMA). In addition, acquired lands were restored and/or enhanced to prairie and/or wetland habitat. These WMAs will provide quality grassland/wetland habitat complexes that will benefit a myriad of game and non-game species and will provide public recreational opportunities for the citizens of Minnesota.
Pheasants Forever, in cooperation with partners acquired and restored five parcels totaling 1,051 acres within Southern Minnesota and enrolled the parcels into the MNDNR WMA system. In addition, 66 acres of grassland enhancement was completed on existing WMAs.
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.
This program is a part of a comprehensive clean water strategy to prevent sediment and nutrients from entering our lakes, rivers, and streams; enhance fish and wildlife habitat; protect groundwater and wetlands. Specifically the Riparian Buffer Easement Program targets creating buffers on riparian lands adjacent to public waters, except wetlands. Through the Reinvest in Minnesota Program (RIM) and in partnership with Soil and Water Conservation Districts and private landowners, permanent conservation easements are purchased and buffers established.