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Submitted photo The Wetland Habitat Protection Program offers funding for landowners in order to protect Minnesota’s sensitive shoreline and wetland areas for future generations.

County part of new wetland protection plan

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The Minnesota Land Trust has recently launched a program called the Wetland Habitat Protection Plan.

The program offers landowners funding in return for conservation easements in the prairie-forest transition area in Becker, Otter Tail, Grant, Douglas, Pope, Kandiyohi, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Todd, and Meeker counties, where there is an abundance of natural wetland-prairie complexes.

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The project was made possible by grants from the Outdoor Heritage Fund and the McKnight Foundation. The Minnesota Land Trust has also partnered with county soil and water conservation districts to better communicate with landowners on a local level.

Wetlands are vital to Minnesota’s landscape. Wetlands improve water quality, help control flooding, reduce soil erosion and act as a buffer against droughts. Yet the area they cover in Minnesota has been cut in half since pre-settlement.

Wetland loss is particularly severe in the western, prairie-pothole region of the state, where more than 90 percent of wetlands are gone. Besides the lost benefits for people, wetland loss presents serious and lasting consequences for the numerous species that rely on wetland habitat.

While many conservation programs and funding sources for landowners are restricted to restoring and protecting land that has been in agriculture, this program is unique in its focus on mostly undeveloped, non-agricultural upland, wetland, and aquatic landscapes. 

The Wetland Habitat Protection Plan ranks submitted properties based on a set of established habitat value factors and cost of acquisition. Properties are funded in order of this ranking.

The Minnesota Land Trust conducted a “pilot” round of the program in 2013, which will result in the protection of 500 acres and 10,000 feet of shoreline. The second round will be even larger and more ambitious.

Applications are currently being accepted and must be postmarked by Aug. 15; visit www.mnland.org/wetland-habitat-information/ for more information.

The Minnesota Land Trust is a membership-based non-profit organization. Its mission is to permanently protect Minnesota’s natural and scenic heritage through public and private partnerships.

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