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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Conservation > Conservation Practices > Habitat Restoration & Management

Conservation Practices
Minnesota Conservation Funding Guide

Habitat Restoration & Management

Buck and doe white-tailed deer in a restored grassland setting. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS

Woodland and grassland habitat in an agricultural setting. Photo courtesy USDA NRCS.

A wildlife corridor along a stream connects habitat fragmented by crop fields. Photo courtesy Iowa USDA NRCS.

Wildlife food plot provides a winter food source to pheasants and other animals. Photo courtesy USDA NCRS.

A bush pile provides cover for birds and small mammals. Photo courtesy Iowa USDA NRCS.

Habitat restoration and management preserves natural upland or wetland ecosystems and the plants and animals that thrive there. It typically involves permanent, perennial grass/shrub/tree plantings suitable for desired wildlife. Long-term management is needed to maintain the desired habitat and keep out invasive species.

Common elements of habitat restoration in Minnesota include wildlife travel corridors, wildlife habitat buffers, wildlife food plots, wildlife brush piles, bird nesting structures and forest openings.

Wildlife habitat corridors connect isolated patches of habitat. They can be man-made ribbons of habitat or formed around natural features such as streams. Trees/shrubs with a high density of stems are ideal for wildlife corridors. Corridors must be wide enough to provide cover for larger wildlife and allow them to move freely. Riparian buffers and filter strips being established for water quality purposes can be designed to double as wildlife corridors.

Wildlife food plots are small tracts of crops left unharvested to provide food and cover for a variety of wildlife. They are particularly important as a dependable source of winter food. Many conservation programs encourage wildlife food plots although food plot acreage is usually ineligible for cost share or rental payments.

Wildlife brush piles provide shelter for small mammals such as red fox woodchucks, weasels, skunks and chipmunks as well as garter snakes, salamanders and more, including numerous bird species. Good sites for wildlife brush piles are along forest roads and edges, in woodland openings, at field edges and corners, and beside streams and wetlands.

Why restore or manage your land for habitat?

Environmental benefits

  • Increases wildlife populations and diversity by providing more and varied food and water, as well as protection from prey
  • Perennial vegetation prevents soil erosion and runoff by creating an open soil structure that lets water in more easily
  • Perennial vegetation replenishes depleted soil organic matter and sequesters carbon
  • Helps connect fragmented habitat remnants
  • Diversifies the landscape

Practical benefits

  • Provides exceptional opportunities for hunting deer, pheasant, grouse, etc. as well as birding and wildlife watching
  • May enhance pest control on nearby crops by protecting the habitat of natural predators
  • Protects the habitat of important pollinator species that many crops rely upon, such as bees
  • Costs less to maintain than crops on marginal land (less fuel, fertilizer and pesticides)

Similar & related practices

Habitat restoration/management commonly involves a combination of practices such as tree/shrub planting, grass planting, grassland management, forestry/woodlot management, wetland restoration, livestock exclusion/access control, invasive species management, controlled burning.

Habitat is often a consideration when planning and implementing other practices such as pasture/hay planting, rotational grazing, riparian forest buffers and grass filter strips.

Other similar or related practices covered in this Conservation Funding Guide include: duck nesting habitat, general habitat, pheasant habitat, rare & declining habitat, and stream habitat.

More information

Guidance from USDA's Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Other resources

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources


Also see resources for Rare & Declining Habitat, Pheasant Habitat, Duck Nesting Habitat, Wetland Restoration, Grass Planting, Grassland Management, Tree/Shrub Planting, Forestry/Woodlot Management.


See contacts for specific programs that fund this practice in the side-by-side payment comparison or contact your local Soil and Water Conservation District