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.
This program protected 810 acres of new wildlife habitat in the Prairie, Deciduous Transition, and Southeast Bluffland ecological sections of Minnesota through fee title acquisition. Title of lands acquired are held by the State and are designated as WMAs.
Ducks Unlimited enhanced 6,882 wetland acres through the bio-engineering and installation of water control structures on managed shallow lake outlets for Minnesota DNR, and protected 76 wetland and 103 upland acres on a shallow lake through a purchased conservation easement.
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.
This program of on-the-ground conservation projects increased the wildlife and ecological values of forest communities on Minnesota's public forestlands. Restoration and enhancement projects in this program enhanced more than 10,000 acres of forest.
Water control structures and dikes were designed and constructed on six Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) in the counties of Becker, Clearwater, Itasca, Lincoln, Roseau, and Yellow Medicine. Dike work at Roseau River WMA protects and enhances 3200 acres of wetlands wetlands in Pool 2 of the WMA. Roseau River WMA has 10 large water control structures, seven moist soil cells, and four large pools covering 11,800 acres. Cells for a moist soil unit were constructed at Lac Qui Parle WMA in Lac Qui Parle County.
We protected 22.3 miles of trout streams and 1.3 miles of lakeshore via easements (585 acres in total), and 7.4 miles (504 acres) of lakeshore through fee-title purchase. We enhanced shoreline habitat on 524 acres of riparian land, and instream habitat on 3.1 miles of trout streams and 0.5 miles of warmwater rivers.
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 program will increase populations of a variety of game and non-game wildlife species by protecting and enhancing forest habitats on which wildlife depends. This program of on-the-ground forest conservation projects will amplify the wildlife value of forest communities on DNR administered forestlands. Our forest enhancement will treat 4,472 ac. These activities are not conducted as part of the DNR's commercial timber operations. Additionally, our program will acquire 404 acres of forestland that contributes to habitat complexes and other high priorities.
Accomplishments of the appropriation include: i) protection of 3.9 miles of shoreline; ii) modification of 4 lake outlet structures to allow fish passage, benefiting 1,264 acres; iii) enhanced river and stream functions at 15 sites, benefiting over 17 river miles; and iv) enhance 4.5 miles of shoreline habitat on publicly-owned lakeshore.
The table below provides a short summary of the acres and sites accomplished. We enhanced or restored 59,495 acres in 458 separate habitat projects.Project Type # Sites # AcresFencing for conserv grazing 6 721grassland conversion 33 1,124Invasive Species Control 43 1,599mowing 3 104Prescribed burn 214 48,368Restoration 13 123Woody Removal 146 7,457
This proposal impacts shallow lakes and wetlands in Minnesota through the design and construction of projects, enhancement work done by DNR roving habitat crews, and shallow lakes work identified and initiated through the DNR Shallow Lakes program. Ten thousand acres of wetlands were enhanced by these activities.
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.
This program permanently protected approximately 953 acres (10.3-miles) of lake and warm water stream shoreline through fee title and permanent easement acquisition and secured 73 acres (4.8-miles) of permanent habitat management easements that include angler access.
This program will restore and enhance in-stream and riparian fish and wildlife habitat in 11 watersheds across the state of Minnesota. The proposed projects will improve habitat for both game and non-game fish and wildlife species uniquely associated with cold water trout streams and provide expanded recreational opportunities for Minnesota anglers.
In-stream and riparian habitat was enhanced along six reaches of coldwater streams located in existing Aquatic Management Areas. The projects improved habitat for both game and non-game fish and wildlife species uniquely associated with coldwater trout streams and expanded recreational opportunities.
Minnesota Trout Unlimited enhanced in-stream and riparian fish and wildlife habitat in and along coldwater streams located on public lands and Aquatic Management Areas. We completed all 9 projects originally proposed and three additional. Contracting efficiencies and leveraging of other funding allowed us to add two habitat enhancement projects in southeast Minnesota and another segment on the Sucker River in northeast Minnesota. We enhanced 10 more acres of habitat than originally proposed and increased leverage by $121,700 (67%).
Minnesota Trout Unlimited enhanced in-stream and riparian fish and wildlife habitat in and along coldwater streams and lakes located on public lands and Aquatic Management Areas. We originally proposed 11 projects, yet completed 13 projects. Contracting efficiencies and leveraging of other funding allowed us to add three more habitat enhancement projects in northeast Minnesota and to lengthen others. One small budget project was dropped when a partner changed the scope from 144 acres to less than 15 and proposed costs outweighed the potential benefit.
DNR completed nine stream habitat projects with this appropriation. Four fish passage projects opened up access to 180 miles of river and 13,521 acres of lake and wetland habitat. We enhanced habitat on 39 Aquatic Management Areas, totalling 1440 acres, through the efforts of four positions funded by this appropriation. It also funded two stream habitat positions that oversaw the completion of 23 DNR projects and over 50 partner-lead projects funded by various OHF sources.
Phase 1 of the Metro Big Rivers Habitat Program protected 194 acres of critical habitat (173 acres by fee title acquisition and 21 acres by conservation easement) and enhanced 357 acres, all in the Metropolitan Urbanizing Area.
Metro Big Rivers' restoration and enhancement partners (FMR and GRG) achieved their goals, converting through restoration a former rail yard in the urban core to 32 acres of prairie and enhancing 98 acres of prairie and forest at four other public conservation sites in the metropolitan area. The easement partner (MLT) exceeded goals and permanently protected 131 acres under two conservation easements in Washington County.
With this final report, Metro Big Rivers Phase 2 is complete and significantly exceeded its original acreage targets of protecting, restoring and enhancing priority wildlife habitat within the three big rivers corridors in the Metropolitan Urbanizing Area. Specifically:
* Metro Big Rivers 2 planned to protect 733 acres, but actually protected 1,430 acres.
* Metro Big Rivers 2 planned to restore 15 acres and enhance 135 acres, but actually restored 15 acres and enhanced 178 acres.
Metro Big Rivers Phase 3 protected 67 acres of significant habitat along more than 1 mile of the Mississippi River, restored 8 acres of prairie and enhanced 495 acres of priority habitat (47 wetland acres, 50 prairie acres and 398 forest acres) in the Metropolitan Urbanizing Area.
The Arboretum, consistent with the priorities of the LSOHC, successfully purchased 78.13 acres in Victoria, Minnesota adjacent to Arboretum property. The purchase will ensure the protection of the deepest lake in Carver County and valuable habitat for future generations.
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.
This appropriation allowed the permanent protection of 769 acres in western Minnesota. These properties included 287 acres of remnant native prairie, 112 acres of associated wetland complexes, and 19,500' of stream front. For this phase, we committed to protecting 500 acres with a minimum of 250 being native prairie. Both targets were exceeded – 153% of total acres and 115% of native prairie acres. The lands and easements purchased with this funding by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) have been transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and are now units of the Northern Tallgrass
Phase Four of the MN Prairie Recovery Program resulted in a total of 1,707 acres protected, 37,567 acres enhanced, and 440 acres restored. When combined with Phases 1-3 of the Prairie Recovery Program we have cumulatively protected 5,777 acres, enhanced 95,701 acres and restored 754 acres using Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars. We will continue to implement subsequent Phases toward meeting the conservation goals described in the MN Prairie Conservation Plan.
Priority lands were acquired within the Richard J. Dorer State Forest; protecting forests, habitat and providing public hunting, trapping and compatible outdoor uses as well as watershed protection. This project protected 203 acres of forest land, reduced boundaries by 3720 feet, provided access to 1116 acres of state forest land, and protected 2000 feet of shoreline.
This program acquired, developed, and added 638 acres to the state Wildlife Management Area (WMA) system. These lands protect habitat and provide opportunities for public hunting, trapping and compatible outdoor uses consistent with the Outdoor Recreation Act (M.S. 86A.05, Subd.8).