MORRIS, Minn. - Over the last several years, the Friends of the Morris Wetland Management District have received more than $95,000 in Conservation Partners Legacy grant funding. These extra funds have been critical in helping the district do local prairie restoration and upkeep, said Stacy Salvevold, private lands biologist with the Morris Wetland Management District in a presentation Thursday night.
The two grants have helped restore over 1,000 of acres of land in the Ordway Working Lands Initiative Target Area, a 13 square mile area at the intersection of Pope, Kandiyohi and Swift Counties.
Although much of the area has been targeted by other conservation efforts, there was a large tract of existing native prairie - about 55 percent of the total area - that needed help. Although partly open, the land was not "productive grassland" because it was covered by invasive trees that were hurting both water fowl habitat and limiting the land's usefulness to the owner.
"The cool part about the way the Working Lands Initiative works is that we're trying to provide benefits for both wildlife and for producers," said Salvevold. In this case, removing the trees to open up the land would help provide open space for grassland birds and provide the landowner with additional forage area on his property.
"It was a great nexus and a great point at which we could move forward," said Salvevold.
However, a project of this magnitude requires a pretty big investment. Morris WMD worked with the Friends to apply for a grant through Minnesota's Conservation Partners Legacy Grant program.
The first grant was for $70,000 with a $20,000 cash match from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and $5,000 of in-kind services.
The funding helped remove trees from 320 acres of the target area and restore about 30 acres of wetlands. A second phase of the project will remove an additional 380 acres of invasive trees.
While that sounds like a huge area, Salvevold said much of the area wasn't solid trees. The invasive species, Eastern Red Cedar, was primarily clustered on the north-facing areas. Salvevold estimated the project removed about 35 solid acres of trees and opened up about 220 acres of native prairie.
A second grant for $25,000 with a $8,720 cash contribution from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and $1,850 in in-kind contributions, will be used to seed about 94 acres from crop to grassland and burn another 232 acres of prairie that have had trees previously removed when work begins next year.
"The tree removal is kind of the easy part, it's the stuff that comes afterwards - the maintenance, trying to keep the trees from re-invading - that is critical for their success long-term," said Salvevold.
At the end of her presentation, Salvevold thanks the Friends for their work in the area.
"You are making a huge contributing to protecting and enhancing our prairies for future generations, and we don't have much left," said Salvevold.