Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

Breaking News for

Sportsmen Since 1967

In the pipeline: $100 million for conservation

St. Paul — The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council has settled on the list of projects for which it plans to recommend funding during the legislative session.

The list, which totals nearly $100 million, could change some before the council submits its recommendations. It includes 33 projects, many of which have received funding in the past.

“Consistency in delivering the benefits is always important,” said Mark Johnson, executive director of the L-SOHC. “When you get a good thing, you want to stay with it while you can.”

Some programs ­– such as those to acquire wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas – would receive funding for the seventh year in a row. Also included for the seventh time is the Conservation Partners Legacy Grant Program, which provides grants to groups such as sportsmen’s clubs.

“We’ve had pretty good success,” said David Hartwell, chair of the L-SOHC. “The great thing is every year we are looking at what is new and interesting that we can get done.”

Others are new, or for specific projects – such as $444,000 for shoreline enhancement and restoration on Lake Nokomis in Minneapolis.

And some programs are missing entirely. In each of the first six years that money from the Outdoor Heritage Fund was available, millions have dollars have been appropriated to the Reinvest in Minnesota/Wetlands Reserve Program Partnership. Under that program, state RIM dollars leveraged federal WRP dollars, resulting in permanent conservation easements.

But the state Board of Water and Soil Resources didn’t apply for RIM/WRP money this year because the federal wetlands program has changed.

“The program has changed substantially,” said Bill Penning, BWSR’s conservation easement section manager. “We’re not sure that it’s going to work well with us in partnership anymore, or even what sort of money might be available on the federal side.”

But while the program was up and running, it resulted in more than 26,000 acres of easements in the state. (More acres are in the pipeline, too.)

“We made hay as hard and fast as we could while we had it,” Penning said. “You’d like to think programs will be stable and those opportunities will last forever. But the farm bill changes every five years, so when you get a five-year window, you rock and roll while you can.”

Penning noted RIM is still in use in the state, and easements are part of several projects for which the council recommended funding. One of them is the fifth phase of the “Minnesota Buffers for Wildlife and Water” program. The council allocated just more than $4.5 million for it.

Outdoor Heritage and Clean Water funds are used in partnership for the buffers, which can extend as far as 350 feet on either side of a water course. BWSR expects to use the Outdoor Heritage and Clean Water money to protect 1,200 acres.

There is more demand for the program than money available, according to BWSR.

Among the other programs for which the L-SOHC recommends funding:
• $9 million to Ducks Unlimited “to acquire and restore approximately 900 acres of prairie land and wetlands for inclusion (as WMAs), with strategic focus on land containing drained wetlands and bordering shallow lakes.”
• $7.62 million to Pheasants Forever to permanently protect as waterfowl production areas 900 acres of wetlands and grasslands. Of that amount, 225 acres would be wetlands and 675 acres would be grasslands.
• $4.57 million to the DNR to acquire 910 acres in the state for WMAs (610 acres) and scientific and natural areas (300 acres).
• $7.45 million to Pheasants Forever to protect “900 acres of prairie grassland, wetland, and other wildlife habitat” as WMAs, which are open to public hunting.
• $4.54 million to the DNR to enhance, restore, and protect aquatic habitat in lakes and streams.
• $1.89 million to Minnesota Trout Unlimited to “enhance habitat for fish, game, and wildlife in and along numerous coldwater streams on existing aquatic management areas and other public lands around the state.”
• $2.2 million to the White Earth Nation to acquire “2,034 acres of forestland, riparian corridors, and meadows adjacent to public land, encompassing over 6,500 feet of the Wild Rice River and its tributaries.” The land, which is in Clearwater County and borders the Perch Lake WMA, would be transfered to trust land status, and held by the federal government. It would be open to public fishing and hunting, with the exception of wolf hunting.

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