FMR pollinator research and habitat projects receive state funds

Native plants and bee + text "#MNLEG Final Update"

Lawmakers have approved funding for a three-year pollinator research project, among other restoration efforts. Read how all FMR priorities fared this legislative session. (Photo by Tom Reiter)

In addition to FMR’s overarching legislative priorities, FMR’s Land Conservation program had two very exciting initiatives working their way through the Legislature this year: a slate of restoration and enhancement projects funded by the Outdoor Heritage Fund and a prairie pollinator research project funded by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. We’re happy to report that both have made it through the legislative process!

Outdoor Heritage Fund to invest in habitat restoration

FMR is set to receive $540,000 for restoration and enhancement over the next four years as part of the Metro Big Rivers Partnership. Each year, this larger partnership of five metro-based protection and restoration partners applies together to the Outdoor Heritage Fund to advance metro area land protection and restoration goals. Projects are then selected by the Lessard Sam’s Outdoor Heritage Council for inclusion in the final funding package.

FMR’s proposal includes restoration and enhancement at five important properties from Otsego all the way to Hastings. We'll undertake restoration and enhancement at the 16-acre Davis Farm Park, a new FMR restoration site on the main stem of the Mississippi River in Otsego, and two new parcels of the Vermillion River Aquatic Management Area near Farmington. Those two projects total 50 acres of upland restoration along the state-designated trout stream.

This year, the legacy omnibus bill (HF 1999) contained the Outdoor Heritage Fund package. The House advanced the bill on a bipartisan vote of 101 to 31. The Senate then advanced the bill on a bipartisan vote of 40-24. The legacy omnibus bill was presented to the governor on May 18, 2023 and signed into law the next day.

Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to fund pollinator research 

FMR is also set to receive $75,000 to support a three-year study investigating the effects of seed mix diversity and seeding methods on pollinator habitat quality and on populations of native bumblebees. The study also investigates how well prairie restorations perform in terms of pollinator habitat quality and bumblebee abundance and diversity when compared to remnant prairies that have existed since before European colonization.

This spring we expanded our Land Conservation team to include a pollinator biologist. Julia Leone will lead this study and manage our other long-term pollinator monitoring. Learn more about FMR's pollinator and wildlife research to date

Recommended earlier in the year by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, FMR had to wait until toward the end of the session to hear about the status of its project, as the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund package was included in the larger environment, natural resources, climate, and energy omnibus bill (HF 2310). The bill was heard on the House floor and passed with a vote of 72-57. The bill was then sent to the Senate where it passed with a much closer vote of 35-32. Last week, the conference committee for HF 2310 came to agreement and sent the bill to the governor for his signature. 

The dedication of lottery proceeds to the Environment and Natural Resource Trust fund, which has helped FMR and other organizations invest in habitat restoration and research, is set to expire in 2025. We're excited to report that l​egislators passed a bill this session that will put renewal of the lottery dedication to the fund on the ballot as a constitutional amendment next year. That means voters will have the chance to renew the dedication in 2024.

Previous 2023 updates

Apr. 9: Conservation work could expand thanks to unanticipated boost in funding

An unanticipated boost in grant funding means FMR now has a fifth restoration and enhancement project included in the Lessard Sam’s Outdoor Heritage Council’s funding recommendations (part of the larger Legacy Omnibus bill). 

Due to recent budget surpluses, an additional $105,000 was awarded to the grant we expect to come out of this legislative session. These newly added funds would allow us to reinstate a project site that we’d previously cut because of funding limitations. We’ll also be able to add a brand new site to our planning and restoration portfolio.

Among the five projects this grant would fund, if fully approved: Enhancement at longtime FMR restoration sites such as the Hastings Sand Coulee SNA, as well as new restoration phases at more recent FMR sites, including Maplewood’s Applewood and Carver Preserves

A separate omnibus environment and natural resources bill — HF 2310 — also contains a new FMR project. The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) recommended funding for FMR’s restoration research project, "Assessing restorations for rusty patched and other bumblebee habitat."

If the bill containing this and other LCCMR projects passes, FMR would begin a three-year research project aimed at improving the effects of prairie restoration techniques and land protection efforts on pollinator habitat. 

Jan. 16: How the 2023 legislative session could impact FMR's restoration work

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

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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