Bringing potholes back to the prairie
WILLMAR -- Spring is a time to clean, plant flowers and vegetables and get outside more. It's also a time for prairie restoration work to get started. As more and more attention turns to Minnesota's lack of quality wetlands, conservation groups s...
WILLMAR -- Spring is a time to clean, plant flowers and vegetables and get outside more.
It's also a time for prairie restoration work to get started.
As more and more attention turns to Minnesota's lack of quality wetlands, conservation groups step up to a challenge to make the goal of restoring land back to habitat a reality.
Groups like the Prairie Pothole Chapter of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association have a lot of work -- and now, a good chunk of money -- to work with.
This year, Prairie Pothole will put about $20,000 into restoring wetlands and native prairies, habitat enhancement and education in the area.
Two state Wildlife Management Areas will get a lot of attention. The Kandi WMA, located north of Kandiyohi, will get a facelift of grassland restoration and tree removal. Dave Larson and Troy Heck, Prairie Pothole chapter members, say the tree removal isn't a major undertaking, but that spots of non-native ash and cedar will be uprooted and native forbs and flowers will be planted. Prairie Pothole will put $5,000 into the project, which is slated to begin on Earth Day, April 22. The tree removal starts right away with all volunteer labor, then the plowing and planting will happen later in the season.
A second project close by will be the same type of work at the Willmar WMA, which is north of the Kandiyohi County Human Services Building on State Highway 71. Besides the tree removal and grassland restoration, the group will restore two shallow wetlands. The cost of materials will be approximately $1,000 and the physical labor will again be all volunteer.
Larson said the volunteer is the most important component of these projects.
"This is who we are. We like to go out there and get the biggest bang for our buck," he said. "Part of this donated labor has to do with donated equipment, trailers, etc. It is so important that we get this. If we had to hire it out, it could easily be six or seven times the cost."
The money for these projects came through the Heritage Enhancement program of the Legislative Committee on Minnesota Resources, bipartisan commission selected to make funding recommendations to the state legislature on conservation and natural resource projects.
The Minnesota Waterfowl Association struck a big grant from the Carl and Verna Schmidt Foundation for $60,000, of which the Prairie Pothole chapter received $5,600. Of that, $5,000 will go for acquisition of land for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. A 166-acre tract of land will connect a federal Waterfowl Production Area and a state-run WMA to form a 640-acre complex of habitat. Seventy-five acres will be restored to native grassland and 91 acres to shallow wetlands.
"It's a great project and increase the overall impact for waterfowl in that area," Larson said.
The other $600 will restore six to eight small wetlands on private land in Colfax Township in Kandiyohi County. The project cost will be shared with other organizations and private money to bring back Type 1 and Type 2 wetlands.
Type 1 wetlands are seasonal "potholes" which vary in size but are usually drained during the growing season. Type 2 wetlands have more water, but are still seasonal and have some standing vegetation.
Restoring these types of wetlands dovetails with the new Minnesota Department of Natural Resources' Waterfowl Plan, which was released earlier this year. Part of the plan calls for increasing the number of restored wetland acres, especially in the more shallow areas. Waterfowl tend to flock to smaller, more seasonal wetlands.
"It is part of the answer to the problem. You have to have the shallow water for the ducks to breed," Larson said. "Conservationists and the government realize this money can't all come out the public coffers. The six to eight pothole restorations we're doing fit right into the plan."
Prairie Pothole will also sponsor a bus for all people interested in attending the April 22 Wetlands Rally at the State Capitol in St. Paul. The bus leaves at approximately 8 a.m. and costs $15 per person. For more information, call Dave at 214-1497 or Curt at 796-6416.