Grassland ecosystems evolved to depend on periodic disturbances, such as fire and grazing, to maintain their health and stability. Periodic disturbances help control invasive species, add nutrients back into the soil, germinate plant seeds, enhance wildlife habitat, and more. In Minnesota habitat managers have used fire as a disturbance tool for decades but the use of grazing has been much rarer, mostly because of a lack of necessary infrastructure such as fencing.
Prior to European settlement more than 18 million acres of prairie covered Minnesota. Today less than 1% of that native prairie remains, and about half of those remaining acres are in private landownership without any formal protection currently in place. Through this appropriation the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will work with private landowners of high quality native prairie sites to protect remaining native prairie using a variety of tools. Approximately 200 acres are expected to be permanently protected through Native Prairie Bank conservation easements.
Adoption of renewable energy technologies and energy conservation practices can contribute in a variety of ways to the environmental and economic health of rural Minnesota communities through costs savings and emissions reductions. Engaging and coaching students as the leaders in the process of implementing such practices provides the added benefit of increasing knowledge, teaching about potential career paths, and developing leadership experience.