New Freeborn County WMA conserves critical swan, crane habitat

(Released May 20, 2013)

The public is invited to the dedication of a new wildlife management area (WMA) southwest of Blooming Prairie that will conserve 500 acres of gently rolling hills containing 100 acres of wetlands, the highest point in Freeborn County, remnant prairie and remnant bur oak woodland, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

“Early in my field career, Freeborn County was in my work area,” said Tom Landwehr, DNR commissioner. “The Dakota name of this new WMA – Wo Wacintanka, which means ‘to persist in spite of difficulties’ – aptly reflects this new tract’s importance and the tremendous habitat it contains.”

The dedication ceremony is scheduled at 1 p.m. Thursday, June 6, off Freeborn County Road 35 inside the north entrance of the new WMA at 87911 320th St., 17 miles northeast of Albert Lea.

“This new WMA is large enough to provide significant opportunities for public hunting, hiking and wildlife watching in southeastern Minnesota,” said Ed Boggess, director of the DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division. “Its natural resource value is evident by trumpeter swans that use the wetlands as well as bald eagles and sandhill cranes regularly seen in the area.”

John C. Goetz of the Minneapolis law firm of Schwebel, Goetz & Sieben donated the land, valued at $664,000. The gift marks one of the largest individual donations DNR ever has received. It also is the first land donation to include a clause on the deed prohibiting the sale, transfer or conveyance of the donated property without the prior written approval of the donor or his heirs, executors, administrators or assignees.

An equal, matching amount from the state’s Reinvest In Minnesota program, which is funded by the sales of critical habitat license plates, will be used to acquire or develop other habitat elsewhere in Minnesota.

The Wo Wacintanka WMA will be managed to conserve wildlife, habitat and provide hunting, hiking and wildlife watching activities. The land is now open for public use subject to WMA rules but all borders may not yet be posted.

Driving directions to the dedication site

  • From Geneva (intersection of Freeborn County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 45 and Freeborn CSAH 35): go east on Freeborn CSAH 35 about 7.9 miles, or to a point 0.9 miles east of intersection with North Freeborn CSAH 34). The north entrance, an old farm site driveway, of the Wo Wacintanka WMA will be on the right (south side of CSAH 35).
  • From Albert Lea: go north on Interstate 35 to Geneva, MN exit (Exit # 22 and Freeborn CSAH 35) and take exit, turn right (east) on Freeborn CSAH 35 and go about 9 miles, or to a point 0.9 miles east of intersection with North Freeborn CSAH 34). The north entrance, an old farm site driveway, of the Wo Wacintanka WMA will be on the right (south side of CSAH 35).
  • From Blooming Prairie (south edge): go southeast about 500 feet on U.S. Trunk Highway 218, turn right (south) on Steele CSAH 36 (a.k.a. SE 94th Ave.)/Freeborn CSAH 36 and go 2.6 miles, turn right (west) on Freeborn CSAH 35 and go 3.1 miles.  The north entrance, an old farm site driveway, of the Wo Wacintanka WMA will be on the left (south side of CSAH 35).
  • From the Twin Cities: take Interstate 35 south to Geneva exit (Exit 22 and Freeborn CSAH 35) and take exit, turn left (east) on Freeborn CSAH 35 and go about 9 miles, or to a point 0.9 miles east of intersection with North Freeborn CSAH 34). The north entrance, an old farm site driveway, of the Wo Wacintanka WMA will be on the right (south side of CSAH 35).
  • From Austin (at Interstate 90): go north on U.S. Trunk Highway 218 approximately 9.9 miles, turn left (west) on Mower CSAH 1 (a.k.a. 320th St.) and go 1.5 miles to Mower/Freeborn County border. From Mower/Freeborn County border continue straight ahead (west) on Freeborn CSAH 35 for 3.1 miles. The north entrance, an old farm site driveway, of the Wo Wacintanka WMA will be on the left (the dedication ceremony will be held at the north end of the Wo Wacintanka WMA near the north entrance off Freeborn CSAH 35).