LCMR approves final Corridors package

Editor

St. Paul The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources
approved the final work programs last week for the
multi-organization Restoring Minnesota’s Fish and Wildlife Habitat
Corridors project.

The milestone means 14 state and federal conservation agencies
can begin spending more than $20 million and implementing the 24
elements of the overall project. Priorities for the Corridor plan
include enhancing the state’s shallow lakes program, accelerating
state wetland restorations, and protecting prairie grassland
parcels.

“We’re now in the implementation stage,” said Harvey Nelson,
project manager for the effort and a special consultant with the
Minnesota Waterfowl Association. “I would like to think that within
the next 30 to 60 days, things can start to happen.”

In addition to the $11.745 million in LCMR funds that the
Legislature appropriated for the project, the 14 “partners” that
submitted the proposal have pledged an additional $8.4 million.

The major thrust of the project, Nelson said, is to consolidate
fish and wildlife habitat protection, development, and management
efforts of the participating groups. The plan calls for that to
occur under the groups’ existing management structures, Nelson
said.

“There will be some new personnel hired with some of the
organizations involved, but we want to keep new people at a
minimum,” he said. “The thrust is to direct the majority of this
funding toward habitat.”

The habitat activities are slated to occur in 11 project areas
that the groups have identified as starting points. They are: 1.
Aspen parklands; 2. Mississippi headwaters; 3. Border prairie; 4.
Central lakes; 5. Lower St. Louis River; 6. Upper Minnesota River;
7. Alexandria moraine; 8. Big Woods, north; 9. Des Moines River
Valley; 10. Southern lakes; 11. Mississippi Blufflands.

Within those areas, the program has four major categories of
emphasis: habitat restoration and management, funded at $3.34
million; habitat conservation easements, $2.65 million; habitat
acquisition, $5.4 million; and program coordination and mapping,
$353,000. Fifty percent of the money will be available in Fiscal
Year 2002, which began July 1; the remainder in FY2003.

The first two years of the project will allow the groups to
restore and manage nearly 78,000 acres of fish and wildlife
habitat, Nelson said. Projects will focus on wetlands, shallow
lakes, wild rice lakes, native grasslands, brush shearing, and tree
and shrub planting. Another conservation easement portion of the
program will focus on Minnesota’s “big woods forest,” and yet
another component will extend CRP easements through
cost-sharing.

Minnesota Waterfowl has worked as the lead agency on securing
the LCMR funding, and massaging it through the LCMR process has
occupied much of Nelson’s time during the past two years. MWA and
the other partner groups see the effort as the first stage of a
20-year project, he said. The Corridors project occupied nearly 25
percent of the entire LCMR budget package that passed the recent
Special Session. Gov. Ventura signed it into law June 28.

The 14 participating agencies include: the Minnesota Waterfowl
Association, Ducks Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy, Pheasants
Forever, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the National Wild
Turkey Federation, Minnesota Land Trust, Trust for Public Lands,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S Bureau of Indian Affairs, the
U.S. Forest Service, the Natural Resource Conservation Service, and
the Minnesota DNR.

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