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  1. Restoring Prairie in Minnesota Utilizing ArcGIS to Determine Proper Locations for Reintroducing Native Prairie By Megan Erb & Regan Meyer

  2. Table of Contents • Introduction to the Exercise • Background Info/ “So What?” • Research Question • Model • Study Area (MAPS) • Other/Future Research • Bibliography • Data Sources • Thanks to The Nature Conservancy Courtesy of: www.dctc.org Courtesy of: travelsd.com

  3. Introduction • Audience: Local councils and policy makers, ranchers, farmers, etc. • Educate the individuals who will be directly affected by prairie protection on the topic of prairie restoration • Consider ways to reinstate native prairie: • Grassbanking • Conservation easements • CRP Lands • Straight-Up Conservation Courtesy of the Great Plains Nature Center

  4. Background • What is Prairie? • Temperate Grassland • Evolved through grazing and fire • 75% of biomass is below ground • Importance in MN • 18 million acres • (less than 1% remain) • Brought settlers west (soil fertility) • Provided much of Minnesota’s ecological diversity • Cultural identity Courtesy of MN DNR

  5. CRP Background • Conservation Reserve Program • Farmers convert former agricultural lands into conservation easements to encourage the regrowth of native plants • In essence: farmers get paid not to farm • Pros • Stops aggressive farming, encourages conservation, and allows land to recover • Cons • Farmers can convert old land, and plow new land • Receive payments for CRP land and use it to sodbust • Contracts are not permanent, farmers can re-plow Images courtesy of: www.usda.gov

  6. Why is CRP Important? • Land is already (temporarily) protected • Ranchers and farmers are already open to the idea of conserving and reintroducing native prairie • Only stay protected for a certain period of time • Able to be purchased after being in program

  7. Health Benefits • Water • The combination of less erosion and lack of fertilizer leads to fewer dead zones in the Gulf • Naturally filters groundwater • Plants & Animals • Re-attracts the native species, both plant and animal alike, that used to inhabit the area • Ex: prairie chicken, black-footed ferret, burrowing owls Courtesy of: www.nature.org Courtesy of: www.sdwildlife.org

  8. Economic Benefits • Hunting/Recreation • Hunters aiding in the effort • Use preserved land to hunt • Property value • Diverse, natural land vs. Overworked agricultural land • Cattle • Ranchers can use the grazing easements to raise grass-fed cattle, which are worth more per head than corn-fed • LIHD Bioenergy • Using highly diverse, low input prairie grasses as a sustainable fuel alternative

  9. Grass-banking • Lease rangeland to ranchers for a fixed rate • Encourage grazing • No farming, and allow native animals • Takes risk away from the farmer • Working with the rural economy and its people Courtesy of: www.nps.gov

  10. How does grass-banking apply? • Profitable way of conserving prairie • Allows ranching to continue, at the same time prairie is being reintroduced • Has been utilized by TNC in MT, CA, WY, OR, and NM • Possibility of permanent conservation easements Native prairie at the Matador Ranch in Montana. This property was purchased by TNC IN 2000. Photo courtesy of Linda Poole at TNC

  11. MN Environmental Policy • “Vote Yes” Amendment • Increase state sales take 3/8 of a percent to fund conservation projects • Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council advises the legislature as to how these funds should be spent • Use state money to fund prairie restoration via various methods

  12. Research Question • In what areas of Minnesota can prairie be re-introduced and of these areas, which are best? • In what ways can we accomplish our efforts in these proposed areas?

  13. 18 million acres • Less than 1% remain • Blanketed most of Southwestern MN

  14. The Nature Conservancy owns more than 72,000 acres • Projected prairie target areas encompass more than 2.5 million acres

  15. Federal lands that are not too protected for prairie development

  16. Lands enrolled in CRP as of 2009 • Possible lands for prairie restoration

  17. Density of land use • Outlines areas of high urbanization within study areas

  18. Final product of model • Best areas for prairie restoration, based on input variables

  19. Determined by a series of physical landscape variables

  20. Former prairie left relatively unaltered • Recommended target areas

  21. CRP lands that will soon expire • Possible lands to purchase and convert into prairie

  22. Possible target areas for the Nature Conservancy

  23. Targeting Optimal Expiring CRP Lands Choosing top 50% Converting polygons to points Factoring in expiring CRP lands Incorporating three final maps Finished product

  24. Culmination of three final maps • Overall best locations for prairie re-growth

  25. Considered the best CRP lands to target for prairie restoration

  26. Best CRP lands to target for prairie restoration that fall within the TNC study areas

  27. The two TNC study areas with the heaviest concentrations of optimal CRP land

  28. Moving Forward • Targeting areas that are specifically ranchlands • Agricultural community outreach • Making proposals for purchasing expiring CRP land *All photos courtesy of their respective websites

  29. Prairie Management and Involvement LOCAL INVOLVEMENT • CRP vs. Grassbanking • Good land = grassbanking • Overworked land = CRP • Become familiar with current conservation efforts and all of the associated info • Contact conservation organizations or programs about how easements could benefit your land specifically • PRAIRIE MGMT. • Prairie needs to be either grazed or burned in order to remove old growth and encourage new plant life • Prairie mgmt. must be taken into account prior to embarking on any conservation efforts

  30. Thank You Nature Conservancy • This presentation could not have been possible without the cooperation of the Nature Conservancy’s Minnesota branch

  31. Data Sources • National Land Cover Database Zone 40 Land Cover Layer • Courtesy of U.S. Geological Survey • Presettlement Vegetation • Courtesy of the Minnesota DNR: Dept. of Forestry • GAP Stewardship 2008 • Courtesy of Minnesota DNR: Division of Fish & Wildlife - Wildlife Unit • The Nature Conservancy: Minnesota

  32. Sources • Garrett-Davis, Josh. "The Greening of the Plains." High Country News. 2 Aug. 2004. Web. 7 Dec. 2009. <http://www.hcn.org/issues/279/14896>. • Herring, Hal. "Fair Trade: Ranchers Bank on Conservation." The Nature Conservancy. Print. • Robbins, Jim. "Where the Cattle Herds Roam, Ideally in Harmony With Their Neighbors." New York Times. New York Times, 11 July 2006. Web. 7 Dec. 2009. <http://www.nytimes.com/2006/07/11/science/11grass.html>. • Tilman, David. "Carbon-Negative Biofuels from Low-Input High-Diversity Grassland Biomass." Science Oct. 2006. Print.