Wildlife - Minnesota
NRCS uses a win-win approach to systematically target conservation efforts to improve agricultural and forest productivity which enhance wildlife habitat on working landscapes.
Agriculture and wildlife both thrive together through landscape-scale conservation. Two-thirds of the land in the lower 48 States is privately owned, and these productive working farms, ranches and forests provide critical ecosystems for wildlife as well as the food and fiber that sustains us all. Minnesota's farmland zone comprises all or parts of 74 counties and totals almost 49,000 square miles.
From critical migratory areas of the Mississippi flyway for waterfowl, to nectar-rich plantings for pollinators, many species have rebounded and recovered largely because of the conservation work by producers on private lands. NRCS uses a science-based, targeted approach to guide producers on how to best manage ecosystems to maximize beneficial outcomes, both for wildlife and agricultural operations.
Insects and Pollinators
Three-fourths of the world’s flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce. More than 3,500 species of native bees help increase crop yields. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food we eat exists because of animal pollinators like bees, butterflies and moths, birds and bats, and beetles and other insects.
Pollinators visit flowers in their search for food (nectar and pollen). During a flower visit, a pollinator may accidentally brush against the flower’s reproductive parts, unknowingly depositing pollen from a different flower. The plant then uses the pollen to produce a fruit or seed. Many plants cannot reproduce without pollen carried to them by foraging pollinators.
NRCS is working with agricultural producers to combat future declines of insects and pollinators by helping them to implement conservation practices that provide forage while enhancing habitat and improving the quality of water, air, and soil.
Honey Bees and Pollinators
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has programs to help honey producers every step of the way — from plants to the final product. We have programs to help protect and conserve habitat, protect your investments and recover from disasters impacting your operation.
Monarch populations have decreased significantly over the past two decades, in part because of the decrease in native plants, including milkweed, on which their caterpillars feed. Agriculture and development have removed much of the native milkweed that once spanned the country.
Working Lands for Wildlife
Through the Farm Bill, NRCS provides technical and financial assistance to participants who voluntarily make improvements to their working lands while the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) provides participants with regulatory predictability for the Endangered Species Act (ESA) when needed. This innovative approach empowers landowners with a means to make on-the-ground improvements and provides peace of mind that no matter the legal status of a species, they can keep their working lands working.
Through Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW), USDA uses a win-win approach to systematically target conservation efforts to improve agricultural and forest productivity which enhance wildlife habitat on working landscapes. Target species are used as barometers for success because their habitat needs are representative of healthy, functioning ecosystems where conservation efforts benefit a much broader suite of species.
Target Species in Minnesota
The monarch butterfly is one of the most iconic butterflies in North America and is known in part for its annual multi-generational migration from overwintering sites in central Mexico and coastal California to as far north as Canada. Multiple critical population stressors including the loss and degradation of habitat across the species' range have led to a significant decrease in the number of monarchs in the U.S. over the past few decades.
NRCS is working with America's farmers, ranchers, and forest managers on voluntary conservation efforts to combat the decline of monarchs on private lands by establishing new habitat including milkweed and other nectar-rich plants and managing existing habitat for monarchs and pollinators.
Grasslands are declining throughout the United States, which is causing a decrease in the populations of grassland gamebirds and songbirds including the Northern bobwhite, Henslow’s sparrows, Loggerhead shrike, Ring-necked pheasants and other grassland species. These species play an important role in the ecosystem as pollinators and as recreational attractions for bird watching and/or hunting.
Flocks of these open-land grouse were once so large that pioneers said they sometimes blocked the sun. But as Minnesota's grasslands and brushlands have disappeared, so have sharp-tailed grouse. Once found throughout the state, today this bird's range is restricted to northwestern and east-central Minnesota.
Greater Prairie Chicken
The Greater Prairie-Chicken was formerly a common resident throughout the northern Great Plains, and its range extended east as far as Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The species has been extirpated from several states in the eastern portion of its range, but small remnant populations still occur in other states where appropriate grassland habitat is available.
Conservation Programs for Wildlife
Environmental Quality Incentive Program – Minnesota
The Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) is NRCS’ flagship conservation program that helps farmers, ranchers and forest landowners integrate conservation into working lands.
Conservation Reserve Program – Minnesota
The Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) provides a yearly rental payment to farmers who remove environmentally sensitive land from agricultural production and plants species that will improve environmental health and quality
Conservation Stewardship Program – Minnesota
Helping agricultural producers take their conservation efforts to the next level.
Practices That May Interest You
Wildlife Habitat Planting - Establishing wildlife habitat by planting herbaceous vegetation or shrubs.
- Improve degraded wildlife habitat for the target wildlife species or guild
- Establish wildlife habitat that resembles the historic, desired, and reference native plant community
Restoration of Rare and Declining Natural Habitat (643) - Re-establishment of abiotic (physical and chemical) and biotic (biological) conditions necessary to support rare or declining natural assemblages of native plants and animals.
- Restore the physical conditions and/or unique plant community on sites that partially support, or once supported, a rare or declining natural community
Upland Wildlife Habitat Management (645) – Provide and manage upland habitats and connectivity within the landscape for wildlife
- Treating upland wildlife habitat concerns identified during the conservation planning process that enable movement or provide shelter, cover and food in proper amounts, locations and times to sustain wild animals that inhabit uplands during a portion of their life cycle
Farmers for Monarchs
Identifying and implementing solutions on agricultural and ranching lands to achieve a sustainable monarch butterfly population.
Minnesota Field Office Technical Guide (FOTG)
Technical guides are the primary scientific references for NRCS.