Accelerated Prairie Management, Survey, Acquisition, and Evaluation
Overall Project Outcome and Results (includes Use and Dissemination)
Minnesota's native prairie covered about 18 million acres at the time of the public land surveys (1847-1908); currently less than one percent remains. This multi-faceted prairie project was designed to increase conservation of native prairie and provide tools for long-term management and assessment of this rare resource. Project results addressed:
- Rapid assessment of remaining native prairie;
- Completion of the Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS) in six prairie counties;
- Increased technical assistance to private prairie landowners;
- Acceleration of management of public and private prairie lands;
- Establishment of a baseline dataset for long-term status trend monitoring and analysis;
- Acquisition of prairie bank easements.
1) Rapid Assessment: The effectiveness of a computerized procedure to detect changes in mapped prairies was explored in this result. Detailed feature extraction, segmentation, and change analysis procedures using the SPRING software was completed for 1,521 prairie/savanna sites identified by the MCBS prior to 1994. The total area assessed included 65,444 acres of prairie/savanna habitat in 32 counties and over 192,000 acres of surrounding "buffer" area. Statewide, the prairie habitat examined had a 4% change affecting 2,332 acres from 1991 to 2008. Prairie habitat outside of protected areas had significantly higher amounts of prairie loss or woody vegetation encroachment. A separate report, Accelerated prairie management, survey, acquisition and evaluation result 1: Rapid assessment of remaining native prairie was completed.
2) MCBS completed surveys in six counties. Less than 1,700 acres of prairie in these counties was recorded as compared to approximately 2,053,300 acres recorded in the late 1800's. The rarity of prairie species is largely due to prairie habitat loss and fragmentation. Rare plant populations were recorded at 281 new locations, including new distributional data on species such as Wild quinine and Valerian. Vegetation samples (relevés) were collected at 26 locations. A State Wildlife Grant for concurrent animal surveys resulted in 70 new records. Sites of high biodiversity significance such as the 15 acre Dexter Prairie were identified for protection as natural areas.
3) Technical assistance: DNR prairie specialists provided consultation regarding management and protection strategies for native prairies at eight public events and individually to 63 private landowners. Forty prairie stewardship plans were delivered to landowners.
4) Management: The Scientific and Natural Area program (SNA) prairie management activities resulted in 545 acres of woody plant removal, 2085 acres of prescribed burning, 2162 acres of exotic species treatments, and 84.5 acres of prairie reconstruction.
5) Status Trend Monitoring: A total of 683 vegetation transects, 42 relevés, and 1596 bird point counts were completed at 38 sites containing high quality prairie providing a baseline dataset for future proposed long-term monitoring and analysis on at least 35 sites. A separate report, Accelerated prairie management, survey, acquisition and evaluation result 5: Prairie monitoring and evaluation was completed.
6) Protection: SNA protected high quality prairies in Big Stone, Pipestone, Goodhue, and Fillmore counties through acquisition of five Native Prairie Bank conservation easements (totaling 476.2 acres) that provide habitat for species such as Greater Prairie Chicken, Chestnut-collared Longspur, Prairie bush clover and Plains wild indigo.
For more information, visit http://www.lccmr.leg.mn/all_projects/2008_projects.html.