DNR designates new wildlife lands for public use
Outdoor enthusiasts now have an additional 5,041 acres of land spread in more than 22 counties where there are opportunities to hunt, trap, hike, cross-country ski and watch wildlife in areas known as state wildlife management areas (WMA).
“State taxpayers get a great deal for dollars that are spent on WMA acquisitions,” said Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “That’s because conservation-minded groups and individuals who partner with the DNR add a tremendous amount of local expertise and financial muscle that stretches public funding much further.”
The total area managed in WMAs is more than 1.3 million acres in about 1,500 WMAs located in 86 of the 87 counties in Minnesota.
Partner organizations that helped to acquire 3,099 of the new acres include Ducks Unlimited, The Conservation Fund, Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the Green Corridor Initiative, the Fox Lake Conservation League, the Swan Lake Area Wildlife Association, the Minnesota Sharp-tailed Grouse Society, and the Fergus Falls Fish and Game Club.
“We are grateful for the help of partners in acquiring these critical lands for future generations of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy,” Landwehr said. “Both the DNR and partners can simultaneously apply for Legacy funding for land acquisition, resulting in more dollars being spent for this purpose. Simply put, the DNR cannot do it alone.”
Lands in WMAs provide important habitat for wildlife species like pheasants, a species that serves as a good indicator of the general health of our grasslands and other wildlife that live there, said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director.
“Over 70 percent of these designated lands are within the state’s pheasant range,” Boggess said. “The new WMA lands will further the goals from the Minnesota Pheasant Summit held in December of increasing the state’s pheasant population, improving pheasant habitat and helping to ensure future generations of Minnesota hunters have the opportunity enjoy this popular and important species.”
One example of these newly added WMA lands is the new Gruven WMA, located in the heart of the pheasant range. It was acquired with the help of Pheasants Forever and consists of 134 acres, of which 85 acres is cropland and the rest is remnant native prairie. The tillable acres will be converted to grasses, and the area will be valuable for pheasant nesting and provide additional opportunities for pheasant hunting. Winter food plots may be added to help overwintering pheasants and deer.
Funding sources Of the 5,041 new acres of WMA land, 3,300 acres were paid for with funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and approved by the state Legislature. The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of several created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the constitution in 2008.
In addition to Legacy funds, other major funding sources were the $6.50 surcharge on each small game hunting license sold, and the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Critical Habitat Matching Program that equally matches private donations of cash or lands.
The RIM matching dollars came from the sale of the critical habitat license plates. The $30 per year charge for each of these colorful plates generates over $3 million a year that can be used to equally match private donations. The RIM matching dollars are used to acquire or develop critical habitat in the state.
Those looking to find existing public hunting, fishing and trail access can use the DNR Recreation Compass feature online or can purchase DNR Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) available from the DNR gift shop, Minnesota’s Bookstore, or several sporting goods and map stores around the state. The PRIM maps may also be purchased online.
Managers began posting and developing parking lots and accesses on the lands over the spring and summer months.
The new WMA land is made up of 631 acres in three new WMAs, and 4,410 acres in 29 existing WMAs.
- Rush Creek Woods WMA, 261 acres, Fillmore and Houston counties.
- Sanborn Lake WMA, 236 acres, Le Sueur County.
- Gruven WMA, 134 acres, Martin County.
- Gun Lake WMA, 762 acres, Aitkin County.
- Gordie Mikkelson WMA, 40 acres, Anoka County.
- Hubbel Pond WMA, 83 acres, Becker County.
- Gilfillan Lake WMA, 12 acres, Blue Earth County.
- Lac qui Parle WMA, 82 acres, Chippewa County.
- Root River WMA, 286 acres, Houston County.
- Bethel WMA, 75 acres, Isanti County.
- Spencer Brook WMA, 40 acres, Isanti County.
- Dalton Johnson WMA, 20 acres, Kandiyohi County.
- Perch Creek WMA, 112 acres, Martin County.
- Rich Valley WMA, 114 acres, McLeod County.
- Thoen Lake WMA, 60 acres, Meeker County.
- Four Brooks WMA, 790 acres, Mille Lacs County.
- Swan Lake WMA, 122 acres, Nicollet County.
- Groth WMA, 71 acres; Nobles County.
- Lake Bella WMA, 145 acres, Nobles County.
- Twin Valley WMA, 315 acres, Norman County.
- Pembina WMA, 156 acres, Pennington County.
- Lamberton WMA, 160 acres, Redwood County.
- Beaver Falls WMA, 80 acres, Renville County.
- Huntersville WMA, 9 acres, Wadena County.
- Yaeger Lake WMA, 255 acres, Wadena County.
- Manston Marsh WMA, 410 acres, Wilkin County.
- Rothsay WMA, 160 acres, Wilkin County.
- Pelican Lake WMA, 40 acres, Wright County.
- St. Michael Meadows WMA, 9 acres, Wright County.