Funds Available to Enhance Habitat on Conservation Easements


Do you have an old conservation easement that is permanently protected? Sometimes the habitat on these old easements lacks the diversity needed to attract a wide variety of wildlife species. Due to a lack of management, undesirable tree species can move in over time, while native prairie wildflowers and grasses fail to germinate. The habitat that results is rather “blah.” It lacks the colorful and bursting blooms of a healthy upland prairie or wet meadow.

Pheasants Forever has received a grant through LCCMR (Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources) to enhance permanent habitat cover in Minnesota. They have set a goal of enhancing 850-acres through their new Easement Enhancement Program. Any land that is permanently protected can be eligible to apply. This includes RIM/CREP easements, WRP easements, USFWS Easements, property owned by the Minnesota Land Trust, County and City owned land, and other easements or programs that permanently protect the lands natural resources.

Eligible expenses can include site preparation such as tillage, herbicide applications, and prescribed burning. Tree removal is also eligible as long as it is required to prepare a proper seedbed. Both the native seed and seeding are also eligible, as well as follow up mowing to reduce weed pressure. The landowner has the option to do the work themselves, hire it out to contractors, or have Pheasants Forever carry out everything.

Pheasants Forever is also partnering with the University of Minnesota to study the effects of habitat improvement on local bee and butterfly health. Lands enrolled in this program will be part of the study. Upland habitat with diverse plant species also attracts many insects, which are an important food source to pheasant chicks after they hatch.

All projects will be ranked (out of a possible score of 100). Ranking is dependent on enhanced area size, proximity to additional permanently protected lands, what the project currently has for vegetation (non-native vs low diversity native cover), and if the landowner will provide a cash or in-kind match of 10% of the total project cost. In addition to the score sheet, an application will also need to be filled out with landowner information and information about the area to be enhanced. A project narrative and a project cost estimate also need to be included with the application.

The landowner is responsible for management after the first-year establishment is complete. Enhancement must take place in 2024 or 2025. The first batching period is open from now until December 15th. There may be additional batching periods if funds remain after the first period closes.

The Easement Enhancement program is a great opportunity to improve the habitat and wildlife diversity on your conservation easement. Anyone interested in enhancing their permanent habitat can reach out to the Rice SWCD at 507-332-5408 or email We have staff available to help with determining eligibility, scoring, and can answer your questions about the program.

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The Rice Soil and Water Conservation District is a subdivision of state government. It is overseen by a five member board of supervisors elected countywide to represent the soil and water conservation needs of the county. The board of supervisors make policy decisions, approve cost-share contracts, and promote soil and water conservation. The mission of the Rice Soil and Water Conservation District is: "To assist land users in the management and conservation of our soil and water resources by means of educational, financial, and technical assistance." Learn more about the District at our website: