-We perform a thorough pre-application site investigation of all potential wetland restoration projects; including drainage investigations such as tile location, flow direction, size of intake(s), elevations, private and public systems etc. Part of the pre-application process is reviewing the site with a landowner. Good communication with the landowner and the neighboring landowner from the get-go prevents mistakes in the design and construction stage (Renville SWCD).
-When assessing funding priorities, Roadsides for Wildlife considers the following questions: which sites will provide the best grassland bird habitat (larger projects are usually better and our prime target area is within the pheasant range), which sites are publicly owned and likely to remain as long term investments, at which sites will road construction be completed within the funding cycle, and which applicants are likely to do follow-up maintenance (DNR Roadsides for Wildlife Program).
-Typically all sites come to us with erosion or stormwater issues. Doing a shoreline study helped us create a very good plan highlighting areas of erosion on McCarrons and Long Lake. This helped us target areas that we want to put money into to improve water quality (see photo - Ramsey Conservation District).
-The Metro Conservation District’s Landscape Restoration Program subwatershed stormwater analysis is a rapid, relative investigation that identifies ideal locations of specific stormwater best management practices within the landscape. The analysis is performed on at least three levels of resolution that selects which subwatershed to address, which catchments within the subwatershed to work within and, finally, which sites within the catchments to site specific BMP’s. Results of the study are expressed in terms of BMP life-cycle unit costs per pound of pollutant removed, or similar, in a report. This report identifies a list of “low-hanging fruit”, essentially which catchments (and their specific sites) to focus initial stormwater work in. It considers the performance of any existing stormwater water quality treatment and conveyance infrastructure along with site-specific limiting effects on the placement, or modification of in-situ BMP’s, of a myriad of BMP options within ponding, filtering and infiltrating designs. Estimates on existing annual loading, existing treatment efficacy and three levels of treatment are reported enabling the Local Governing Unit to plan for several years of retrofit options. This analysis is powerful in its ability to identify the highest value options for stormwater treatment within a subwatershed in terms of cost efficiency and its value towards various other planning efforts such as load allocation planning, capitol improvement and aesthetic-amenity planning within cities. P8 and WinSLAMM are models that are used for this effort. The following video summarizes the project: http://www.metrocd.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=59&Itemid=66
(Shawn Tracy, Association of Metropolitan Soil and Water Conservation Districts).
-Each site is custom designed based on local ecotype, availability of seed, surrounding landuse, soil/moisture/aspect/slope, needs of the landowner, and cost. Salt tolerance and need for living snow fence are also considered where appropriate (DNR Roadsides for Wildlife Program).
-We meet with the owners and discuss what we are going to draw up for them. Keeping plans very detailed for easy reading (homeowners and contractors can bid off them). We use plants native to Minnesota (see photo). We highly recommend doing great prep work and not just the minimum (Ramsey SWCD).
-When planning a project it is important to consider the needs of wildlife species and how vegetation will influence their use. Grassland birds for example tend to have unique needs related to community structure. The following website is a good source of information about the requirements of wildlife species: www.npwrc.usgs.gov/resource/birds/wiscbird/.
-Sufficient Planning needs to be done to anticipate potential impact to a project from animals (carp, geese, muskrat, deer) or human use (Shawn Tracy, Association of Metropolitan Soil and Water Conservation Districts).
-A clear understanding of site stressors is needed to determine how project phasing should be conducted and what plant species are most appropriate for a project
(Shawn Tracy, Association of Metropolitan Soil and Water Conservation Districts).
-Developing detailed project schedules for wetland projects has been very useful to ensure that all contractors and project staff understand the proposed process. Including project maintenance (for at least 3-years) as part of project plans is essential; when there is no commitment to maintenance projects often fail.
-It is important to consider maintenance requirements when selecting plant diversity levels. Increasing cool-season grasses and forbs can often decrease invasive species. Grass only mixes may allow for use of broad leaf specific herbicides but may be prone to Canada thistle invasion.
-Whenever possible it is important to have qualified contractors conduct all phases of the projects (site preparation, planting, maintenance).
-It is often important to combine different planting strategies for wetland projects (Seed, pre-vegetated mats, containerized plants, native seedbank, etc.). For example, seed may be used for vegetating the majority of a wetland project but containerized emergent plants or pre-vegetated mats may be used along the edge of open water to ensure establishment where hydrology levels are variable, and wave action may exist (see photo).
-The online Conservation Funding Guide is a useful resource to help landowners and assistance providers search different conservation funding programs and determine the best program to fix a resource problem. The "compare payments" hyperlink allows users to see different programs, payment rates, and incentives that particular program have to offer. www.mda.state.mn.us/protecting/conservation/funding.htm
-Groups that are important partners include birding clubs, environmental groups and chapters, and sportsmen's and conservation organizations such as Wildlife Heritage Association, Ducks Unlimited, Pheasants Forever, MN Waterfowl Association, and MN Pheasants Inc (DNR Roadsides for Wildlife Program).
-Multiple cost share opportunities throughout the county drive a lot of our projects. We always have a minimum project input of 25% from the homeowners. Hoping they will be more vested in the project and want to maintain it (Ramsey SWCD).
-If you use volunteers on a project, this can reduce the overall cost of the project, and if they are local, can give them a sense of ownership in the project, so it is a good thing. Here are some tips I have learned when working with volunteers. Beforehand, give them a clear idea of what they are expected to do, so they can dress appropriately--no open-toed shoes, yes leather gloves, etc. This goes a long way in how effective and happy they are on the project. Before they start the work, show them the project site and aquaint them with the goals and objectives of the project. While they are working, give them plenty of attention, monitoring their activities fairly closely--that way you catch, right away, things that they may be doing incorrectly so that you don't have to re-do anything later. After the work is over, get feedback from them so that you and they can both learn for future projects (Joe Walton, Refugia LLC).
-Renville SWCD has been successful in partnering with neighboring SWCDs, Counties and LCCMR and state and federal agencies to protect unique granite rock outcrops along the Minnesota River Valley with perpetual RIM easements (Renville SWCD).
- A project was recently proposed to clean out sediment in a DNR protected watercourse that had already been straightened many years ago. The proposed project needed approvals from DNR Waters, WCA, Swampbuster, and the Corps of Engineers. Some of those agencies were quick to want to rubberstamp the project because the word maintenance and ditch were part of the request, but a couple of those agencies were not so quick to approve the project. To make a long story short, several of those agencies got together and met in the field to determine if the proposal was truly a maintenance project vs. a drainage improvement project. It sure appeared on the profiles that were provided to be more of an improvement project. After several hours of field work by people from 5 different agencies it was confirmed that the proposed project to clean out the watercourse was indeed well beyond just removing sediment that had been deposited over the years. The proposal would have lowered portions of the watercourse causing significant drainage to wetlands along this watercourse and very likely would have increased sedimentation into a large wetland on a WMA by excavating into natural soil profiles that had potential for high velocity flows from the steeper grade. In the end, I think this effort by many people is a great example of when resources can be protected ahead of time through cooperation amongst different agencies and the diligent work by staff in the regulatory field. It is not usually rewarding to say “NO” to applicants but for this project I feel the regulatory people involved felt ok or even good about saying “NO” because the reward of protecting the natural resources was very real. (Kane Radel, Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources).
-Since 2006, BWSR and the local Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Morrison, Crow Wing, and Cass Counties partnered with the Department of Defense and the National Guard Bureau to convey easements within a three mile corridor around Camp Ripley in central Minnesota. Camp Ripley was the second military base in the country to receive funding for the initiative to secure land surrounding their training facility to ensure the continued ability to train soldiers year around. Already partnered with the MN Dept of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy since 2004, the program struggled with getting the program dollars spent since they dealt with primarily fee title acquisitions and most of the landowners were interested in easements instead. It was a perfect fit for BWSR who already held thousands of easements state wide under the Re-Invest in Minnesota program and CREP. Since mid 2006 BWSR has received $10,892,500 in federal funding. In 2010, the state matched the effort with a Lessard/Sams grant to coordinate ACUB with another initiative to protect the Nokassippi Wildlife Management Area. The Lessard/Sams grant in the amount of $618,000 was paired with a matching amount of federal ACUB dollars and in less than eight months secured approximately 1100 acres in permanent easements. Not only reducing development in the ACUB zone and surrounding the WMA, the easements protect valuable forestry resources, and for under $1,200 per acre. The remainder of the Lessard/Sams grant went to the DNR for fee title acquisitions in the WMA area. The SWCD’s and Camp Ripley have well over 300 landowners that have signed their Landowner Interest/Ranking forms. The Camp Ripley ACUB program has been nationally recognized as the most successful in the country and has fostered partnerships that are being held up as the ideal nationwide. (Helen McLennan, Morrison SWCD)
-The East Metro Water Resource Education Program (EM WREP) (16 Conservation District, Watershed District, County and City partners) coordinates outreach with technical assistance provided by the Washington Conservation District and cost-share funding provided by the Watershed Districts. Interested homeowners (also businesses, churches and schools) learn about Blue Thumb (coordinated planting for clean water marketing efforts) through EMWREP outreach activities (neighborhood parties, workshops, presentations and news articles). Washington Conservation District provides free site visits for anyone in Washington County. Watersheds provide cost-share grants (up to 50%) for qualifying projects. Washington Conservation District has contracts with many of the watershed districts to provide garden design and installation assistance as well. 55 projects were installed with partners in 2008 (Washington Conservation District ).
-DNR Roadsides for Wildlife uses five main educational/advertising strategies: An annual poster and mailings to road authorities and wildlife affiliates; Brochures, website, and DVDs, aluminum Roadsides for Wildlife signs; targeted conference presentations and booths; Cooperation with other educators and conservation groups; and Targeting of K-8 teachers and students through curriculum activities (DNR Roadsides for Wildlife Program).
-We have tied our Prairie Restoration program to the National Pollinator Protection Campaign. In doing so we have partnered with other public entities during National Pollinator Week to host an event to increase local awareness (Gina Hugo, Sherburne SWCD).
-Submitting articles to the local newspapers on prairie projects that have a human interest spin has also helped to increase awareness. (Gina Hugo, Sherburne SWCD).
-It has been important in all our successful plantings to offer as much assistance as possible. This includes enough financial incentive to make the final out-of-pocket cost for private landowners and public land managers low to none. We find that the best ownership happens when some portion of the installation or site preparation be done with the landowner (Gina Hugo, Sherburne SWCD).
-The best way to promote projects is one on one contact with individuals. Radio programs have had some success, holding district/NRCS meetings across the county where producers come to us has also been successful (Redwood SWCD)
-We have been effective in bringing local school groups into our restoration projects by: (1) having an education person on staff, (2) helping teachers tailor lessons around the restoration, (3) mixing classroom lectures and field trips, and (4) having excellent teachers to work with. (Bill Bartodziej, Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District)
-Native vegetation is not easy to establish on highly disturbed sites. Education is vital in dealing with the public’s perception of what the finished product will look like and the length of time it will take to get there. It has become apparent that ongoing maintenance will be required during the period of establishment which will take several years