History: In December 2017, the board authorized the submission of a grant application to the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for $5 million to fund the acquisition of conservation easements and to restore natural resource corridors and ecologically significant natural areas and other existing permanently protected areas (Resolution 17-0181). The council recommended to the Minnesota Legislature that the county’s proposal be funded at an amount of $1.514 million in state fiscal year 2019. In May 2018, the Legislature appropriated $1.514 million from the Outdoor Heritage Fund to the county’s project.
Two parties, the Minnesota Land Trust and Hennepin County, will receive the grant funds and implement the project. The Minnesota Land Trust, a nonprofit conservation organization that protects natural and scenic land, is the county’s land protection partner in this project. It will receive $1.32 million of the grant funds to pay for the acquisition of conservation easements and associated professional services. The county will receive $194,000 for habitat restoration and enhancement projects to be completed once conservation easements have been secured. As a match for the funding, Environment and Energy is hiring one limited duration outreach staff to market, develop, and manage conservation easement and restoration projects. Other county match contributions to this grant project are in-kind contributions of existing staff time as well as cash contributions for conservation easement stewardship fees and limited professional services. Reimbursable expenses may be incurred on or after July 1, 2018. Funds for restoration or enhancement are available until June 30, 2023.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the county and the Minnesota Land Trust is needed to establish the processes to identify, select, and complete conservation easements. A conservation easement is a set of development restrictions a landowner voluntarily places on his or her property in order to preserve the conservation value of the natural areas on the property. The landowner retains ownership of the land and continues to pay property taxes.
The actions are consistent with the Natural Resources Strategic Plan and the Hennepin County Conservation Easement Program, which together established a framework to pursue conservation easements and criteria for evaluating conservation easement opportunities (Resolution 16-0144R2).
Current Request: This request seeks approval of Agreement A189107 with the State of Minnesota to accept a grant from the Outdoor Heritage Fund for acquisition of conservation easements and to restore natural resource corridors and ecologically significant natural areas and other existing permanently protected areas, in the receivable amount of $194,000; and approval of Agreement A189108 with the Minnesota Land Trust to enter into a MOU to establish processes for joint conservation easement work.
Impact/Outcomes: The grant will allow Hennepin County to permanently preserve some of its most unique and important natural areas as well as restore the natural areas and habitat on current and future easement properties.
Fully protected and restored natural areas benefits the county and its residents by facilitating groundwater recharge, aiding in stormwater management and flood control, protecting and improving air and water quality, providing wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, and increasing the value of neighboring properties.