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Restoration of an 1,800 acre prairie pothole wetland complex in Northwestern Minnesota

  • Author(s): Jacobson, Robert L.
  • et al.

In 1991, reacting to public concern about its disappearing wetlands, the State of Minnesota initiated the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA), one of the most sweeping wetland protection laws in the country. The purpose of the WCA is to maintain and protect Minnesota’s wetlands and the benefits they provide. With its goal of no-net-loss of wetlands, the Wetland Conservation Act (WCA) requires anyone proposing to drain or fill a wetland first to try to avoid disturbing the wetland; second, to try to minimize any impact on the wetland; and, finally, to replace any lost wetland acres, functions, and values. The WCA allows and encourages the replacement of impacted wetlands from public transportation projects through the establishment of wetland banks. In 1996, the Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) and the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources began planning the development of a joint agency wetland bank project. The project area is approximately 1,800 acres in size and is the largest wetland bank site in the state. When the third and final phase of the project is completed in 2003, approximately 1,500 acres of wetland credits will be established. The project restores about 150 prairie pot-hole basins and their surrounding uplands using diverse local ecotype seed mixes. Located in northwestern Minnesota, the wetland complex is within the North American migratory bird flyway, and is also in the naturally occurring range of the North American Prairie chicken. The project was funded by Mn/DOT and BWSR at a cost of a little over $2.0 million. The net cost per acre of wetland credit will be in the neighborhood of $1,500. MNDOT’s share of the credits will be used to mitigate wetland impacts caused by state highway projects. BWSR’s share of the credits will be used to mitigate impacts caused by county, city, and township road improvements. When all of the credits are certified, the land will be turned over to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to be managed as a wildlife management area.

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