Loon Preservation Funding from BP Oil Spill Settlement
· As a result of the BP oil spill settlement, MPCA and DNR, USGS, and USFWS are commencing a three-year initiative. The goal of the project is to reduce loon mortality and increase reproductive success of common loons in eight (8) Minnesota counties, including Cass County: Becker, Beltrami, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard and Itasca counties.
· The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees a portion of the BP settlement funds, granted an initial allotment of $5.5 million to Minnesota.
· Under the “Open Ocean’’ portion of the BP settlement, Minnesota loon restoration would get $7.2 million. Minnesota’s plan includes using the settlement money to buy conservation easements or critical loon habitat on Minnesota lake shorelines to ensure they have quality nesting areas.
· The funding, however, could potentially last up to 15 years, since it can be renewed in three-year increments up to five times. If the funding is continued, it could generate up to $27.5 million for loon-related habitat and educational efforts in the state.
· Restoration activities include: acquisition and/or easements of shoreline to protect common loon nesting and forage habitat, enhancing loon productivity via artificial nesting platforms, and engaging MN lake associations in loon conservation activities.
· MPCA is taking the lead on the Get the Lead Out Initiative – MPCA’s Get the Lead Out was an existing program that was awarded additional funding from the settlement.
· DNR will
o Hire three full-time DNR Loon Preservation employees for the project: one Program Coordinator and two Wildlife Specialists, for three years each.
o Work with Lake Associations to create lake-specific management plan or augment the existing lake-specific management plan pacific management plan to include loon preservation activities
o Focus additional resources on expanding Loon Watch and Loon Monitoring.
· DNR Loon Watch and Loon Monitoring activities took a hiatus in 2019-2020 and have returned to DNR waters.
· Rob Rabasco, DNR Brainerd, spends 1/2 his time on Loon Preservation and is leading the effort, this will be a three year term. His current focus is to communicate with lake associations and assess the next steps of Loon Preservation utilizing the BP Settlement monies in Minnesota.
· ACCL will provide Rob a list of ACCL Lake Association members with Loon Preservation activities: Loon Monitors, Loon Platforms.
· The focus of DNR-related BP funding will be on acquisition/conservation easements to enhance/protect shoreline loon habitat, as this is much more effective in meeting project goals.