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Show us the money

The map at the right shows the locations of the approved Conservation Partners Legacy grant projects in the state of Minnesota. Minn. DNR graphic

WILLMAR -- Kandiyohi County will see quite a bit of the Outdoor Heritage Amendment money in the next year.

In the first round of grants from the Conservation Partners Legacy grants, three projects will be funded to restore native habitat and purchase land. The CPL is the first of the money generated from the 3/8-percent sales tax increase, voted on by Minnesota residents in November 2008, to be granted to small conservation groups.

In all, $3.74 million have been allocated for 35 programs for fiscal year 2010. Three of those projects will be in Kandiyohi County, totaling $212,340.

"The CPL grants are match grants," said Adam Benker, who is charge of development for the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. "It's a way to take a small amount of money and make it big."

Benker, who helped the Prairie Pothole chapter get grants for two projects totaling $21,500, said the CPL grants are perfect for small organizations like the MWA, who depend upon local chapters to raise money through banquets and other fundraisers for their local habitat restoration projects.

Unlike the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council projects, which run in the millions of dollars and reimburse groups for work approved, the CPL grants require only 10 percent of the total project's cost before the work starts. Ninety percent of the cost, up to a $400,000 maximum, is payable "to the grantee after work is performed or materials purchased, but before vendors are paid," according the LSOHC web site, meaning the grantee is not on the hook for expenses.

One of the Prairie Pothole projects will be to harvest native prairie grass seed and replant it in another part of the Regal Meadows WMA in northern Kandiyohi County.

The other project involves invasive tree and brush removal from at least five WMAs.

"It's going to provide 85 acres of better managed habitat in Kandiyohi County," said Dave Larson of the Prairie Pothole chapter. "It will also provide more direct management of properties and get them into a more native state of prairie."

He also noted that none of the by-products of the removal will go to waste. The company that will be hired to remove the larger trees and brush will keep the material for their own use.

"The material has value to the people who cut it," Larson said. "We get the trees out of there and the material is not just laying waste on the ground. This is designed to keep it clean."

The Prairie Pothole chapter put in five requests for funding, Larson said. Two of the projects, backed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, were approved. Three others -- dealing with Waterfowl Productions Areas managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- were not.

"There are a lot of projects that need to be done throughout the state," Larson added. "People have argued that local people can do the jobs better at that level than the state. But this program gets money to those groups that will use it."

Statewide the MWA had five projects approved: the two in Kandiyohi County, two near Detroit Lakes and another near Tracy.

These projects are not without oversight. For work on state-owned lands, the DNR first has to approve the proposal before submitting the application. Then the local public lands manager will oversee the project during the work. The same has to happen with federally-owned land.

The other project to receive funding in Kandiyohi County is a land acquisition to expand the Big Kandi WPA. Fifty-eight acres will be purchased by Pheasants Forever, then donated to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The acquisition will connect Big Kandiyohi Lake WPA with Lake Lillian WPA and add an estimate 25 more acres of wetlands. The grant is for $125,000.

One area request to receive money was granted. The Renville County Soil and Water Conservation District will get $65,840 for restoration of easement lands to prairie habitat, including the removal of invasive trees.