FAQ - Minnesota Native Prairie Bank

Why enroll in a Native Prairie Bank?

  • Legacy: leave a unique and special resource for future generations.
  • Habitat: make an enduring contribution to critical wildlife habitat.
  • Ownership: property remains in private ownership and contributes to the local tax base. Landowner may choose to live on the land, sell it, or pass it on to heirs.
  • Flexibility: easements can be flexible and written to meet particular landowner's needs.
  • Professional assistance: DNR prairie specialists can assist landowner with management questions and concerns.




Eligible Lands


How do I know if my land is eligible?


If your land has native prairie vegetation that has never been plowed, you are eligible for a Native Prairie Bank. Other considerations help prioritize land, such as the quality of the prairie, the variety of plants and animals on it, and its proximity to other prairies.


How much of my land can I enroll in a Native Prairie Bank easement?


All native prairie on your land can be enrolled. In addition, you may be eligible to include some other lands in the easement, such as restored prairie, pasture, or crop fields you would be willing to restore to prairie.


My land has a creek, a native prairie, and some Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) land. Can I enroll all of it in a Native Prairie Bank easement?


Possibly. Fill out an application  and suggest what you are interested in putting into the easement. If it doesn't work for a Native Prairie Bank easement we can help you find other programs to help with your land stewardship.


I have a former crop field that I restored to prairie plants. Can I enroll it in a Native Prairie Bank easement?


No, not unless a large part of the land has remnant native prairie. Contact your local DNR prairie specialist for additional information.


Will the easement allow me to continue some agricultural uses in the future?


Yes, if uses are compatible with protecting native prairie values. If you wish to retain the ability to graze, hay, or collect seed the payment will be reduced. Please contact your local DNR prairie specialist to learn about retaining agricultural uses on Native Prairie Banks.


If I decide to continue grazing, can I graze the same way I have been?


Possibly. If you wish to continue grazing, a conservation grazing plan is written specifically for your prairie. Your land use goals are combined with DNR goals to come up with an approved grazing plan. The terms of the easement will refer to the approved grazing plan.


If I want to retain grazing rights, can I see the approved grazing plan before agreeing to a Native Prairie Bank easement?


Yes. The plan can be written before agreeing to a Native Prairie Bank easement. This will allow you to decide if conservation grazing is right for you before entering into a permanent (perpetual) easement. Please keep in mind that the goal of a conservation grazing plan is to retain and/or enhance the condition of the native prairie and therefore the plan will likely change over time as land conditions change.


What's in an approved grazing plan?


DNR-approved grazing plans include:

  • Geology, history, and ecology of land
  • Rare resources present on the land
  • Landowner goals for the land
  • Management issues and suggested solutions
  • Timeline of suggested management actions
  • Suggested stocking rates and grazing periods


If I decide to continue haying my prairie, how much and how often can I do that?


The goal will be to leave some habitat undisturbed each year. A typical haying rotation on Native Prairie Bank easements is to hay 1/3, 1/2, or 3/4 of the easement each year. Native Prairie Bank payment rates are reduced respective to how much land is rested or hayed.


Can I have a hunting blind on my Native Prairie Bank easement?


Temporary blinds are allowable, provided the set up, use, and removal of the blind does not adversely affect prairie vegetation or scheduled management activities. Permanent structures are prohibited on Native Prairie Bank easements, including hunting blinds that would permanently impact vegetation and/or hinder management activities.


I was thinking of building a house on the prairie, can I do that with a Native Prairie Bank easement?


Possibly. A "building envelope" may be reserved in the agreement terms and on a map that is referred to in the easement language. This will allow you or a future owner to build inside that agreed-upon area. The building envelope is best located near a boundary to help avoid fragmenting habitats and hindering future prairie management activities.


Can I put a wind turbine on a Native Prairie Bank easement?


No. Native Prairie Bank easements do not allow structures such as wind turbines. Consider using adjacent land if you desire a wind turbine.


How do I apply?


An application can be obtained from your local DNR prairie specialist, or download the application now  . The application could take 5 to 30 minutes to complete and does not commit you to enrolling. Local DNR prairie specialists, or conservation partners like your SWCD or NRCS office, can help you complete the application. Completed applications will be evaluated by DNR to confirm your eligibility. Next steps may include discussing specific project boundaries and the Terms and Conditions of the easement.


How long does it take to complete the enrollment process?


Projects can take 9-18 months depending on complexity of the project. Some issues that add to the complexity of a project include discovery of possible title defects, developing consensus among multiple property owners, or addressing concerns from your mortgage lender.


How is the payment determined?


Payments for Prairie Bank easements are 65 percent of the permanent marginal agricultural land payment rate in your township as established by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.


What is the method of payment?


A single lump-sum payment in the form of a check from the State of Minnesota. Or, if desired, you can get paid in installments, split into as many as four separate tax years. The DNR does not pay interest during the installment period.


I own the prairie with others. Can each person determine their payment for the easement?


Yes. Each owner can be paid in a lump sum, or installments.


Can I have a Native Prairie Bank easement if I have a mortgage or a Contract for Deed?


Yes. In some cases the mortgage holder (usually your bank) may ask to co-sign for the easement (consent to mortgage). In the case of a contract for deed, all parties have to agree to the Native Prairie Bank easement. The mortgage holder may ask us to co-sign for the mortgage. The mortgage holder may ask you to pay off all or part of the mortgage with the Native Prairie Bank payment.


Can I use the income from selling the easement in a 1031 exchange?


Yes. A 1031 exchange allows you to sell land and buy land (within a specified length of time) without paying taxes on the original sale. Funds from the land sale are held at a financial institution and then released to buy the second piece of land. DNR real estate staff can work with landowners who wish to do a 1031 exchange.


How long does the easement last?


Native Prairie Bank is a permanent (perpetual) easement between the State of Minnesota and all present and future owners.


What about income taxes?


The State of Minnesota will issue you an IRS Form 1099-S at the end of the calendar year. The payment should be reported on your income tax returns, but may or may not be taxable. You may also want to consider donating a portion of the easement for tax purposes. Consult your tax attorney or accountant for further guidance.


Can I be in the Prairie Tax Exemption at the same time?


Yes, if the Native Prairie Bank easement is not going to be grazed. The Prairie Tax Exemption exempts qualifying native prairie land from property taxes. Often a Native Prairie Bank easement will also include some non-prairie land, so not all of the Native Prairie Bank easement may be eligible for Prairie Tax Exemption.


Can I donate a Native Prairie Bank easement?


Yes! You can donate all or part of the value of the easement. Each dollar donated is matched by Re-Invest in Minnesota (RIM) and those "RIM Credits" can be used to protect additional lands. Donations may be beneficial for tax purposes as well. Consult your tax attorney or accountant for further guidance.


What happens after I've enrolled in a Native Prairie Bank?


After enrolling, a DNR prairie specialist will work with you to develop a plan for managing your easement and possible opportunities to implement desired management activities. Staff will check in with you annually to discuss new or ongoing concerns you may have and the general stewardship needs of your prairie.


Can I get help managing my prairie once I'm enrolled?


Yes. You are encouraged to work with the DNR to manage your prairie. We can help with hiring contractors to write a stewardship plan, conduct prescribed burns, mowing, woody plant removal, invasive control, and other activities. As a landowner your direct involvement can further maintain and enhance your prairie's condition.


What if my circumstances change? Can I re-negotiate the easement?


Generally no. There may be exceptions, but rarely are the terms and conditions of a Native Prairie Bank easement changed. We work hard during the enrollment process to ensure that the terms and conditions of the easement are written to be enduring and practical for today and into the future.


Can I terminate the easement?


Native Prairie Bank easements are not easily terminated. If for some reason beyond the landowner's control, the land no longer provides the conservation values intended by the easement it may be terminated.


I have problems with people dumping garbage on my prairie. If I enroll it in a Native Prairie Bank easement can I get help to get it stopped?


It is illegal for an individual to dump garbage on someone else's private property. You should notify the local authorities and alert them of what's happening. We will work with these authorities as needed to ensure your prairie is protected from illegal dumping.


I have an old dump on my prairie. What do I with it?


The easement terms require that there be no future dumping of garbage or debris on the easement. When resources are available there may be help to remove old dump sites. Priority is given to cleaning up hazardous dump materials.


If the Native Prairie Bank easement includes some of my current Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acres will I continue to get payments after enrolling?


Yes, until your current contract expires. The Native Prairie Bank easement is a permanent land protection; the Farm Service Agency (FSA) does not allow re-enrollment of CRP acres within a Native Prairie Bank easement after your current contract expires.