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.
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%).
Goals for Phase 2 of the MN Prairie Recovery Program were to: protect 1200 acres native prairie/savanna; restore 250 acres grassland; enhance 6000 acres grassland/savanna with fire, invasive species removal, and grazing; and continue a new prairie conservation model.
This appropriation allowed the permanent protection of 977 acres in western Minnesota. These properties included 752 acres of remnant native prairie, 78 acres of associated wetland complexes, 8,950' of stream front, and 9,400' of lakeshore. Lands and easements purchased through this program by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) are transferred to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and become units of the Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge. These lands are owned and managed by the FWS.
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.
This pilot program protected 1,210 acres of wild rice lake shoreland habitat in the Northern Forest Section by securing 14 permanent RIM conservation easements and four fee-title acquisitions, surpassing our goal of 700 acres, and doing so $250,202 under budget.
This program acquired priority lands and developed them as Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) - six parcels protected totaling over 600 acres, Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA) - one parcel of 900 acres (287 acres credited to this funding ), and Native Prairie Bank (NPB) easements - two parcels totaling almost 200 acres. These lands protect habitat and some provide public hunting, trapping and compatible outdoor uses.