The Department of Natural Resources has decided to not implement most of its proposals to expand recreational activities such as hunting, trapping, and dog walking at 10 of Minnesota’s 159 scientific and natural areas (SNAs). The decisions were based on the results of a legislatively prescribed process for obtaining and considering public input prior to modifying allowed uses on existing SNAs.
The DNR had proposed loosening restrictions at 10 of these specially designated wild areas, consistent with sound resource management, in hopes of boosting public support and funding for more land acquisitions. In recent years, funding for the SNA program has declined.
Instead, based on the feedback, the DNR decided to make no changes to existing uses, with two exceptions:
- At Lake Alexander Woods in Morrison County, the DNR will allow deer hunting during the regular season without a special permit on portions of the SNA (two areas will be open to all deer hunting, one area will be open to archery hunting only). Currently deer hunting is allowed only with a special permit.
- At Minnesota Point Pine Forest in Duluth, dogs on leashes will be allowed, which is consistent with city ordinance and well-established public use of the mixed ownership area. Other proposals to allow boat access, swimming and berry picking, will be dropped due to lack of support.
The agency manages scientific and natural areas to protect rare native plant communities, habitat for fish and wildlife, undisturbed natural shoreline and unique geological features. Activities such as hunting, trapping and dog walking are often restricted in these areas; however, many SNAs are open to these activities as well. For example, hunting is allowed on 68 SNAs, not just for recreation, but also to prevent damage to plants from deer browsing.
This past spring, the DNR held public hearings on proposed activities at the 10 SNAs. The DNR received 123 written comments, mostly opposed to the proposed changes.
“The process worked as intended,” said Peggy Booth, the DNR’s SNA program supervisor. “We thought the proposed changes could provide public benefits while still protecting the natural resources, but we asked for input and most people told us they didn’t want changes in these areas.”
The public can still provide input on the DNR’s decision. The agency will take comments on the changes for the next two weeks. Individuals should submit comments to firstname.lastname@example.org by 4:30 p.m., Sept. 2.