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 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.
Ducks Unlimited and Minnesota DNR Section of Wildlife completed 26 project affecting 7,603 acres, including three wetland restoration projects restoring 97 acres, 18 shallow lake enhancement projects enhancing 7,154 wetland acres, and five fee-title land acquisition projects protecting 352 acres.
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.
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.
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.
This program/project protected approximately 187,876 acres of forest and wetlands with permanent conservation easements and 2,745 acres with fee acquisition and provides public recreational access, provides for sustainable forest management, and supports diverse habitats for a wide array of fish and wildlife species.
After a century of industrial use, the project brought Lake Bemidji's South Shore to its original state. The city removed 1,144 tons of contaminated soil and sediment, 9,400 cubic yards of woody debris from the lake-bottom and planted native vegetation on the shoreline to restore and enhance aquatic habitat.
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.
White Earth has acquired all 2,034 acres and transferred them into fee title status. Initial assessment/inventory of habitat conditions and needs were conducted in summer of 2017. Most illegal dump sites were removed in summer of 2017. The parcel located east of Lower Rice lake adjacent to HWY 92, which contained remnants of ~ 5 acres of food plots, were planted into a pollinator prairie mix. This prairie planting makes the property compliant with the MN Buffer Law. This east parcel is in the planning stages of an early succession forest manage plan.