Lessard council approves funding recommendations
St. Paul — During the first four years of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, the group Pheasants Forever has acquired more than 3,600 acres of land in the state’s pheasant range and turned them over to the DNR for inclusion in the state’s wildlife management area program.
The group has acquired more than 3,900 acres and donated them to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as waterfowl production areas.
The group is poised to add to those totals, thanks to the recent allocation recommendations of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which makes funding recommendations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to the state Legislature.
Of the council’s $92 million in recommendations, which next year’s Legislature will vote on, about $8 million is for a fifth phase of PF’s effort to accelerate WMA acquisition, and another $6.8 million is to accelerate WPA acquisition. Per acquisition rules, PF can’t pay any more for land than its appraised value.
“It doesn’t give us the ability to out-compete (other potential buyers),” said Joe Pavelko, PF director of conservation programs. “It comes down to buying property from someone who believes in conservation and wants to sell their land and leave a legacy.”
Pavelko said there are plenty of people who want to sell their land and have it preserved, even though commodity prices are high and land is selling for many times more than it did in the fairly recent past.
When PF acquires land for WMAs or WPAs, it completes the purchase and restores grasslands and wetlands on the property. It also puts in parking lots and posts the boundaries before transferring them to the DNR or USFWS.
“We’re buying it and restoring it,” Pavelko said. “It’s habitat.”
While the value in such projects is that the lands will be permanently protected and provide public access, Pavelko notes the state and conservation groups won’t be able to use acquisition to keep up with the pace of loss of other conservation lands like CRP.
The L-SOHC’s other funding recommendations included:
- $12.4 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota/Wetland Reserve Program partnership.
- $5.3 million for the DNR’s aquatic habitat program.
- $4.9 million to the DNR to acquire WMAs, scientific and natural areas, and native prairie bank easements.
- $4.1 million for habitat protection in Dakota County.
- $3.5 million to Ducks Unlimited for shallow lake and wetland protection.
- $3.5 million to the Board of Water and Soil Resources and PF for a wildlife and water buffer program.
- $2 million for the Minnesota Moose Habitat Collaborative.
- $2 million for enhancement of Pelican Lake.