The occurrences of contaminants including antibiotics, other pharmaceuticals, and personal care products in the environment have gained increasing attention in recent years because of their potential health and ecological impacts. However, serious gaps remain in our understanding of these contaminants and the significance of the threats they may pose, such as to drinking water. Through this appropriation scientists at the University of St.
Garlic mustard is a non-native, invasive plant species that is severely threatening native plant communities and degrading wildlife habitat in forest and riparian zones throughout the state. The plant is considered the highest priority species for development of long-term management solutions such as biological control, which involves using natural enemies of a non-native species from its native region to control or reduce the impact of the species in the areas where they are invasive.
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.
The purchase of conservation easements—restrictions on land use that protect natural features while keeping land in private ownership—has proven to be an effective means to protect land at a lower initial cost than full state ownership. However, once an easement is purchased there are ongoing stewardship, monitoring, and enforcement responsibilities necessary to ensure the terms of the agreement between the easement holder and the landowner are met.
Appropriations to non-state entities must be made through a formal contract with a state entity that manages all of the funds for the project on a reimbursement basis. This appropriation to Minnesota's Department of Natural Resources (DNR) funds the expenses incurred by the DNR in contracting, contract management, and expense re-imbursement for most of the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund appropriations made to non-state entities, including both new projects funded during the biennium and existing projects funded in previous bienniums.
Terrestrial invasive plants such as buckthorn, wild parsnip, garlic mustard, and others are becoming widespread threats throughout many sites in Minnesota. Present chemical and mechanical control methods tend to be costly, effective only in the short-term, or have other negative environmental impacts. However, an alternative practice of using grazing animals for invasive species management is used successfully in many parts of the western United States.
The Minnesota County Geologic Atlas program is an ongoing effort begun in 1979 that is being conducted jointly by the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Geological Survey and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This portion, called Part B and conducted by the DNR, analyzes water samples to understand water chemistry and sensitivity to pollution.
Asian carp pose a real and serious threat to Minnesota’s aquatic ecosystems. While there are a few instances of individual carp being found in Minnesota waters, including the Mississippi and St. Croix Rivers, it is not presently believed that there are significant established populations in the state. In order to quickly and effectively respond to threats posed by Asian carp in the future, though, detailed information about the fish themselves is needed.
Since 2000, a diverse group of partners has been collectively working in northwestern Minnesota on one of the largest prairie-wetland restorations in the world. Spanning 22,000 acres and adjacent to an additional 16,000 acres of public and private conservation land, the goal of the Glacial Ridge Project has been to demonstrate whether large-scale habitat restoration is a viable way to reduce flooding and improve water quality. Prior to beginning restoration efforts on the project, a comprehensive baseline hydrologic study of the area was completed by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS).
These funds will enable Great River Greening to restore approximately 90 acres of permanently protected forests, savanna, prairie, and wetland habitat and 0.18 miles of shoreland habitat while engaging hundreds of volunteers in the stewardship of the Metropolitan area's remaining natural areas. Specific activities include invasive species control, seeding/planting, prescribed burning, and other associated activities.
With this appropriation, the Minnesota Land Trust plans to protect 100 acres of high quality forest, prairie, wetland, or shoreline habitat by securing permanent conservation easements and dedicating funds for their perpetual monitoring, management, and enforcement. Lands being considered for permanent protection in this round of funding are located in Chisago, Goodhue, Hennepin, Isanti, and Washington counties.
The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge Trust is using this appropriation to purchase a total of approximately 100 acres of land and donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Many benefits are anticipated from this project, including improved habitat connectivity, protection of native species, improved water quality in the Minnesota River, and increased public access to natural lands for activities such as hiking, hunting, and fishing. Restoration and management plans will be completed for all acquired lands.
The Minnesota Biological Survey (MBS) is an ongoing effort begun in 1987 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) that is systematically surveying, county-by-county, the state’s natural habitats. The effort identifies significant natural areas and collects and interprets data on the status, distribution, and ecology of plants, animals, and native plant communities throughout the state. To date, surveys have been completed in 81 of Minnesota’s 87 counties and nearly 20,000 records of rare features have been recorded.
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.
Minnesota’s Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA) Program is an effort to preserve and perpetuate the state’s ecological diversity and ensure that no single rare feature is lost from any region of the state. This includes landforms, fossil remains, plant and animal communities, rare and endangered species, and other unique biotic or geological features. These sites play an important role in scientific study, public education, and outdoor recreation.
Minnesota’s extensive state park and trail system, the second oldest in the country, is currently comprised of a total of 76 state parks and recreation areas and 13 state trails scattered throughout the state. Some of Minnesota’s state parks and trails have privately owned lands within the designated park boundaries or trail corridors. Purchase of these lands from willing landowners for addition to the state park and trail system makes them permanently available for public recreation and enjoyment and facilitates more efficient management.
Minnesota’s environment is changing in response to a variety of stressors – including population growth, residential development, industry, agriculture, invasive species, and climate change – and the state’s iconic lakes, and the goods and services they provide (e.g., fishing and water recreation), are an important part of what’s being impacted. To manage effectively for these changes it is important to understand how the state’s many lakes respond to these stressors.
Over the past 100 years, about half of Minnesota’s original 22 million acres of wetlands have been drained or filled. Some regions of the State have lost more than 90 percent of their original wetlands. The National Wetland Inventory, a program initiated in the 1970s, is an important tool used at all levels of government and by private industry, non-profit organizations, and private landowners for wetland regulation and management, land management and conservation planning, environmental impact assessment, and natural resource inventories.
There has been a sharp decline in participation in outdoor recreation and education amongst youth, particularly in urban areas. Some argue that youth who have meaningful outdoor education experiences are more likely to become engaged in environmental stewardship and invested in outdoor resources as adults.
Zebra mussels are an aquatic species that are invasive in Minnesota and severely threaten native fish and other aquatic species by disrupting food webs and damaging spawning habitat. Their range continues to expand within Minnesota lakes and rivers, where they are spread through the transporting of water, vegetation, or equipment from an infested water body. Once established zebra mussels are very difficult to control and there is an immediate need for safe and effective control measures to reduce their impacts in the state.