Courtesy of the Department of Natural Resources
Minnesota’s hunters, wildlife enthusiasts and wildlife populations will benefit from the recent addition of 5,778 acres to the state’s wildlife management area (WMA) system, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Much of this newly protected land is in the southern half of the state. It includes an expansion of 17 WMAs and the addition of six new WMAs.
Many areas will be open for public use when the fall hunting seasons start in September.
The remainder will be ready later this year or early next year for public use. WMAs are open to public hunting and other compatible uses such as hiking, bird watching and snowshoeing.
DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr thanked Pheasants Forever, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), Cass County, The Trust for Public Land, Minnesota Sharp-Tailed Grouse Society and Ducks Unlimited for their partnership in protecting more than half of these acres.
“Partners are the key to conservation,” Landwehr said. “We appreciate the help of these groups, our sportsmen for the legacy they leave for future generations of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts.”
Nearly 1,500 acres were purchased with funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which receives one-third of the money raised by the state sales tax increase approved by Minnesota citizens in 2008.
According to Kim Hennings, DNR wildlife land acquisition coordinator, other major funding sources were the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) Critical Habitat Matching program and the $6.50 surcharge on the small game license.
Most of the RIM matching dollars came from the sale of the critical habitat license plates. The $30 per year charge for the colorful plates generates more than $3 million a year that can be used to equally match private donations to acquire or develop critical habitat in the state.
“Most of the designated lands are additions to existing WMAs, complementing our previous investment in wildlife habitat,” said Ed Boggess, DNR fish and wildlife division director. “The new WMAs will expand opportunities for hunting and trapping.”
The largest of the acquisitions is the new 888-acre Pittman-Robertson WMA, located 13 miles east of Crookston in Polk and Red Lake counties. This acquisition was purchased with RIM matching dollars made available by previous donations from TNC and federal wildlife restoration funds.
The new WMA will be an important part of the grassland and prairie corridor involving the Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge and a number of other WMA and TNC lands. Many of the wetland and grassland restorations have been completed by TNC.
The unit honors the 75th anniversary of the Federal Wildlife Restoration Act, which provides millions of dollars to the DNR to help fund wildlife habitat work in Minnesota.
Also known as the Pittman-Robertson program, it is funded by a federal excise tax on sporting arms, ammunition and archery equipment.
Dedication of the Pittman-Robertson WMA is planned for spring 2013.
Closer to the Twin Cities, 282 acres were transferred from the DNR’s parks and trails division to the Ney WMA as part of a realignment of DNR lands. Located just six miles southeast of Belle Plaine, these lands expand the existing 157-acre WMA to provide a large block of habitat for close-to-home public hunting and wildlife watching opportunities.
Locations of existing public hunting, fishing and trail opportunities are available online using the DNR’s recreation compass at ww.mndnr.gov/maps/compass.
DNR Public Recreation Information Maps (PRIM) also can assist people in finding land open to public recreation.
New WMA additions and expansions won’t be listed on these resources until later this year or next.
The complete set of 51 separate PRIM maps identify a wide variety of federal, state and county lands available for public recreation activities such as hunting, camping, hiking and boating.
PRIM maps, which cost $5.95 each, are available from the DNR gift shop, Minnesota’s Bookstore and several sporting goods, map stores around the state and online at www.comm.media.state.mn.us/bookstore/mnbook store.asp?page=mnprim.