How the 2023 legislative session could impact FMR's restoration work

Vermillion River through field

FMR hopes lawmakers will approve funding for our restoration work along the Vermillion River and other sites throughout the metro.

This legislative session, FMR's Land Conservation Program has five habitat restoration projects and one research project that have been recommended for funding from a pair of dedicated environmental funds.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund

The Outdoor Heritage Fund receives a third of the state's Legacy Amendment revenue and uses those funds to "restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife." This year, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (the body that recommends to lawmakers how best to invest Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars) included funding for the Metro Big Rivers Partnership application, of which FMR is a partner.

We would receive $435,000 for FMR restoration and enhancement at Maplewood's Applewood and Carver Preserves and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Vermillion River Aquatic Management Area's Kamen East and Butler parcels, and the DNR Scientific and Natural Area Program's Hastings Sand Coulee SNA.

Funding would help FMR restore 130 acres of critical habitat at these five sites. At the Maplewood sites, this money would build on current funding that is being used to remove woody invasive species sitewide. This new funding would help restore 50 acres of habitat.

At the DNR's Vermillion River Aquatic Management Area (VAMA), FMR hopes to embark on the third phase of our partnership with the Aquatic Management Area program after leading successful restorations at the Kasel and Kamen West parcels since 2016. Funding would help restore 50 acres of riverside forest land, improving habitat for pollinators and wildlife, water quality and access to the river. The restoration would also occur along a mile of designated trout stream, increasing water quality and insect populations, both of which are important for trout populations

Finally, at the Hastings Sand Coulee SNA, funding would help to enhance 30 acres of habitat that FMR has previously restored, including 11 acres of remnant native prairie and 19 acres of forest.

Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund

What kinds of pollinators show up after we use different restoration techniques? We hope to find out through a new research project. (Photo by Tom Reiter)

The state's Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources makes recommendations to the Legislature on how to invest the state's Environment & Natural Resources Trust Fund. These recommendations include $75,000 for an FMR-led research project on the effects of prairie restoration methods on pollinator habitat quality and actual pollinator diversity and abundance. Results from that study would help us create a set of recommendations for statewide pollinator habitat restoration best practices. 

FMR regularly participates in restoration research, both as a partner with universities and at our own sites. We've recently begun conducting more research ourselves, especially into applied restoration research questions that aren't being pursued within academia. This grant is one such attempt to fund needed research on how common restoration practices affect pollinator populations, especially native bumblebees. We'd also look at whether and how restorations differ from remnant habitats in their ability to support a diversity and abundance of native bees.

Cautiously optimistic

Given the relatively bipartisan nature of these dedicated fund processes, we anticipate these funds ($510,000 of which would be for FMR projects) will be appropriated by lawmakers.

If they weren't appropriated, restoration and enhancement at these five sites would be negatively impacted, leading to delayed timelines and higher costs. FMR relies on consistent funding from both grant sources to support our ever-growing number of restoration and enhancement projects, and help us better study how restoration affects imperiled wildlife like pollinators.

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