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.
Many of Minnesota's wetlands have been lost and the remainder degraded. The original proposal planned for 15,000 acres of wetland/shallow lake enhancement to provide critical habitat for each life stage of waterfowl and wetland wildlife. The six projects subsequently completed with this appropriation enhanced 13,800 acres of wetlands and shallow lakes in the Prarie and Forest/Prairie Ecosections of Minnestoa.
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 program was to accelerate the protection of 1,230 acres of prairie grassland, wetland, and other wildlife habitat as Waterfowl Production Areas open to public hunting in Minnesota. Over the course of the appropriation, we acquired 14 parcels for a total of 1,240.79 acres which exceeded our total acre goal of 1,230 acres by 10.79 acres. Breaking down acres by ecological section we acquired 160 acres in the forest/prairie and 1,080.79 acres in the prairie. We have a balance that will be returned to the Fund despite exceeding our acre goals.
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.
Our program will protect, in perpetuity, native prairie tracts in western Minnesota. Fee title tracts will be the top priority for the funding. Funding will be used for the purchase of habitat easements if the funding cannot be used entirely on fee title tracts. The funding will purchase approximately 525 acres of native prairie in fee title, 1,583 acres of habitat easements, or a combination of the two.
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.
Ducks Unlimited purchased a total of 567 acres in 11 separate parcels in the Prairie Section for the state of Minnesota, including 135 acres of wetlands and 432 acres of uplands. All 11 parcels have been restored and transferred to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for inclusion in state Wildlife Management Areas, are open to public access, and managed for wildlife habitat and outdoor recreation. This prairie conservation work contributes to the goals of the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan, the Governor's Pheasant Action Plan, Minnesota's Long-range Duck Recovery Plan, and