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Protecting Forests for Fish: Using Conservation Easements to Protect the Watersheds of Cisco Lakes


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Heather Baird (of Minnesota Department of Natural Resources), presented at the Adapting Forested Watersheds to Climate Change Workshop, at The Waters, Minocqua, WI on March 15-16, 2017. The workshop was hosted by the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS), USDA Climate Hubs, and the Wisconsin Initiative on Climate Change Impacts (WICCI).

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Protecting Forests for Fish: Using Conservation Easements to Protect the Watersheds of Cisco Lakes

  1. 1. Protecting Forests for Fish: using Conservation Easements to Protect the Watersheds of Cisco lakes Heather Baird Peter Jacobson Martin Jennings Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  2. 2. Extreme contrast of land uses in Minnesota greatly influence water quality and watershed management strategies.
  3. 3. Minnesota’s changing climate is already changing • warmer summer nights • longer growing seasons (= longer durations of stratification) • greatest change has occurred since 1980 • declining abundances of cisco since 1975 in standard gillnet surveys Year MeanCPE(number/net) Modern AssessmentsLegacy Assessments 1945 1955 1965 1975 1985 1995 2005 051015
  4. 4. What are Tulibee (Cisco)? • Coregonus artedi North American species of freshwater whitefish, in the family Salmonidae • Will grow as large at 40 cm and up to 5 lbs. but are most commonly 30 cm in length and around 1-2 lbs. • Diet is zooplankton and insect larvae • Need deep, cold, well oxygenated lakes for survival • Canary in coal mine; poor water quality and increased nutrients reduces oxygen in deep cold water
  5. 5. Distribution of 648 lakes where cisco have been sampled in Minnesota DNR surveys since 1946 Artwork courtesy of Joseph Tomelleri
  6. 6. Lake Andrusia Beltrami County July 28, 2006 10 15 20 25 0 2 4 6 8 10 Temperature ( C) Oxygenconcentration(mg/l) 7th Crow Wing 8th Crow Wing Andrusia Bemidji Cotton Gull Itasca Lida Little Pine (Cass) Little Pine (Ottertail) Little Turtle Long Pine Mountain Star Straight Woman Jacobson et al. (2008) Field estimation of a lethal oxythermal niche boundary for adult cisco in Minnesota lakes. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 137:1464–1474. Cisco Lethal Niche Boundary
  7. 7. 176 cisco refuge lakes identified by Fang and Stefan Lake Acres Rainy 44,733 Basswood 14,070 Lac la Croix 13,678 Namakan 11,755 Pelican 8,367 Whitefish 7,715 Trout 7,425 Saganaga 6,682 Crooked 5,230 Ten Mile 5,047 Sand Point 4,848 Snowbank 4,655 Brule 4,272 Sea Gull 3,958 Knife 3,712 Kabekona 2,433 Wabana 2,221 Gunflint 2,166 Pine 2,122 Turtle 2,103 Greenwood 2,043 Loon 2,017 White Earth 1,991 Long 1,926 Trout 1,854 Cedar 1,745 Trout 1,743 Big Sand 1,635 Washburn 1,590 Roosevelt 1,511 Thomas 1,465 Big Trout 1,363 Thunder 1,347
  8. 8. The need to look beyond the shoreline to protect water quality Watershed • Significantly larger land mass • Greater nutrient loading from disturbed lands • No direct DNR regulatory authority
  9. 9. Protect the sponge!
  10. 10. Protecting 75% of the watershed of a lake as forested keeps good water quality and good fish habitat T. Cross and P. Jacobson (2013) : Landscape factors influencing lake phosphorus concentrations across Minnesota, Lake and Reservoir Management, 29:1, 1-12
  11. 11. Land protected by public ownership or conservation easement (2008 GAP Ownership)
  12. 12. Treasures of the Deep: protecting hypolimnetic oxygen in Minnesota lakes Artwork - Joseph Tomelleri Tullibee (cisco) Lake Whitefish Lake Trout •Hypolimnetic oxygen will be an increasingly valuable ecological resource in a climate warmed Minnesota •Deep lakes with good water quality need extra protection •Statewide significance •High priority for shoreland and watershed protection •Invest $180 million to protect 300,000 acres ($600/acre) of forest to protect watersheds of 176 coldwater refuge lakes.
  13. 13. Clean Water Legacy Funding to protect forested watersheds of cisco refuge lakes
  14. 14. Private Forest Conservation Easements •Established tool to provide permanent protection of forested lands •Division of Forestry and many partners •Working lands easements •Smaller private landowners need to be also targeted •Extraordinary water quality benefits
  15. 15. Ownership in the watershed of Pelican Lake, Crow Wing County
  16. 16. Ten Mile Lake Watershed, now exceeds 75% protected
  17. 17. Thank You! Heather Baird Forest Fisheries Landscape Coordinator 218-203-4345