Minnesota conservation agencies, groups team up for state’s prairies

Courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources

 

A coalition of conservation groups and agencies, including the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), took a significant step forward recently in the protection, restoration and enhancement of the state’s prairies, restored grasslands and prairie pothole wetlands.

They signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work together for the benefit of prairie landscapes under a document called the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan.

The document outlines a 25-year strategy to protect the state’s remaining 235,000 acres of native prairie; restore and conserve and grasslands and wetlands; to connect and buffer prairies and wetlands; and enhance prairies and grasslands through prescribed burns and livestock grazing.

Remaining native prairie in Minnesota covers approximately 1 percent of its former range.

Many species of fish and wildlife, including game and non-game species, depend upon native prairie, grasslands and associated wetlands for survival.

The plan recognizes the opportunity to fund prairie protection, enhancement and restoration though the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, passed by voters in 2008.

But it also acknowledges the importance of conservation groups, government agencies and agriculture producers working strategically together to conserve prairie. “It’s vitally important that we leverage our individual resources and protect and restore the state’s prairies, grasslands and wetland complexes,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “Not only are these landscapes important to wildlife and clean water, but they can provide economic opportunities for local livestock producers and landowners through grazing and haying.”

At a ceremony at the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge in July, Landwehr signed the MOU along with representatives from the following organizations and agencies: Ducks Unlimited, Audubon Minnesota, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, Minnesota Prairie Chicken Society, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Pheasants Forever, The Conservation Fund, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The plan emphasizes the importance of large prairie, grassland and wetland complexes and connecting corridors.

These complexes are the most viable means of maintaining native plants and wildlife that depend upon grasslands and providing recreational opportunities for hunters, wildlife watchers, prairie enthusiasts and others. Corridors and patches scattered across the landscape are important to promoting animal migrations.

Implementing the plan will also help fulfill other DNR goals and plans, such as the Long Range Plan for the Pheasant in Minnesota and the Long Range Duck Recovery Plan.

To review the Minnesota Prairie Plan, visit http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/mcbs/mn_prairie_conservation_plan.pdf.

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