MN: L-SOHC pitches $97 million worth of projects

St. Paul – The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council has
finalized its latest round of funding recommendations – 30 projects
totalling more than $97 million.

The council recommends how funds from the habitat portion of the
Legacy Amendment, which voters approved in 2008, should be spent;
the Legislature gives final approval.

The recommended projects include 99,431 acres of prairies; 19,347
acres of wetlands; 5,560 acres of forests; and 4,785 acres of fish
and wildlife habitat. Of the 30 recommended projects, 20 are
continuations of programs that have received previous
funding.

Of the total funds, more than $20.3 million will be used to acquire
conservation easements.

About $36.3 million of the funds will be used to acquire land. The
largest portion of that – and the largest project, from a funding
perspective – is just more than $14 million for the Mississippi
River Northwoods Habitat Complex.

The money would be used to buy about 2,000 acres of land near
Brainerd, including 2.7 miles of shoreline along the Mississippi
River. Potlatch currently owns the land, which includes 240 acres
of wetlands, as well as a trout stream.

“We really do think the Mississippi River Northwoods is what voters
had in mind when they voted yes,” said Susan Schmidt, Minnesota
state director for The Trust for Public Land. “It’s a critical,
strategic addition to Minnesota’s outdoor recreation system.”

Various entities, including the DNR, have been trying to protect
the land for more than a decade. The stretch of shoreline isn’t
typical of a river; it includes a number of bays and stands of wild
rice, said Gary Drotts, DNR area wildlife manager in
Brainerd.

“I consider that parcel to be one of the best and most important
for waterfowl protection that we’ve got,” said Drotts, who’s worked
in various capacities in Brainerd for the past 37 years.

The area is popular among waterfowl hunters, as well as for people
trapping muskrats and mink, he said.

There’s also good bass and muskie fishing in the area, and the
project will protect important spawning areas, said Greg Kvale, of
Anglers for Habitat.

“It’s one of the last spots up there on the southeast side of the
river that has some real high development potential,” he
said.

There are a number of partners on the project. Crow Wing County
will manage the land.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to the county for being open to taking
this tract,” Drotts said.

Other projects for which the L-SOHC recommended funding:

• $13.9 million for the Reinvest in Minnesota/Wetlands Reserve
Program Partnership. The money will leverage $22 million in federal
WRP funds. In total, the money would be used to enroll 75
conservation easements totalling 9,385 acres (3,097 wetland acres;
6,288 adjacent grassland acres).

• $5.4 million to Pheasants Forever and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service to acquire and restore 935 acres of wetlands and grasslands
as waterfowl production areas.

• $4.99 million for the Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program,
which parcels out grants ranging from $5,000 to $400,000.

• $4.49 million to Ducks Unlimited to restore and enhance shallow
lakes and wetlands. The money will restore at least 100 wetland
acres in five or more basins on public land. Another 1,400 acres of
shallow lakes and wetlands in 13 or more basins will be
enhanced.

• $3.87 million to the DNR to enhance habitat on more than 20,000
acres of wetlands and shallow lakes.

• $3.48 million to the DNR to protect, restore, and enhance aquatic
habitat in lakes, trout streams, and rivers.

• $3.3 million to Pheasants Forever to acquire 550 acres of habitat
as wildlife management areas.

• $2.9 million to the DNR to acquire 706 acres of wildlife
management areas.

• $960,000 for the Minnesota Moose Habitat Collaborative, which
will enhance as much as 3,569 acres of moose habitat in Cook, Lake,
and St. Louis counties.

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