DNR designates new wildlife lands for public use

Up to now, relatively few people had the privilege of wading through the remnant native prairie within 167 acres that Jerry Bue and his family owned near Marshall. 

Buetiful Acres

A generous donation changed that for good. Bue, 91, and his family donated land that helped make it part of Minnesota’s popular and highly regarded system of wildlife management areas (WMA), where anyone can hunt, trap, hike, cross country ski and watch wildlife free of charge.

And the native prairie stays put – benefiting wildlife, pollinators and water quality.

The land will be known as the Buetiful Acres WMA and is among the 6,285 acres of new WMA lands in 26 counties being added this year by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, mainly in the southern half of the state.

“We’re excited that hunting seasons are almost here and that hunters will have more public land available to them,” said Jim Leach, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “These lands preserve and enhance habitat for wildlife, and provide public land for outdoor recreation.”

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 nearly 2,400 of the new acres include Pheasants Forever, Ducks Unlimited, Trust for Public Land and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.

“Our partners provide profoundly important help strengthening Minnesota’s public land for future generations of hunters and wildlife enthusiasts to enjoy. The DNR cannot do it alone,” Leach said. “Their efforts also help us provide important habitat for wildlife species like pheasants and other wildlife that live there.”

In the pheasant range, existing and restored grassland habitat on WMAs is increasingly important as more grassland comes out of farm programs, like the Conservation Reserve Program.

“The new WMA lands will be key to 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,” Leach said.

The Buetiful Acres WMA is only one example. Another is the newly designated 312-acre James Meger WMA in Yellow Medicine County, where much of the area already has been planted to grass.

The James Meger WMA will be home to the 2017 Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Opener in recognition of James Meger’s generous contributions to wildlife conservation in Minnesota.

Others interested in creating their own wildlife legacy through a donation or partial donation should contact Kim Hennings, wildlife land acquisition coordinator, at 651-259-5210 or kim.hennings@state.mn.us.

Funding sources
Of the 6,285 new acres of WMA land, 5,759 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, the other funding sources were the $6.50 surcharge on each small game hunting license sold, 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 on the recreation compass page, 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 at the Minnesota bookstore.

Maps of these newly dedicated WMA lands are not currently available as they are still being posted and developed for public use. The newly designated WMA lands will be added to the Recreation Compass and the PRIM maps in the future.

The new WMA land is made up of 1,851 acres in six new WMAs, and 4,434 acres in 23 existing WMAs.

New WMAs

  • String Lakes WMA, 299 acres, Cottonwood County
  • Hampton Woods WMA, 191 acres, Dakota County
  • Buetiful Acres WMA, 167 acres, Lyon County
  • Prairie Smoke WMA, 174 acres, Stearns County
  • Crow Wing River Corridor WMA, 708 acres, Wadena County
  • James Meger WMA, 312 acres, Yellow Medicine County

Expanded WMAs

  • Carlos Avery WMA, 212 acres, Anoka County
  • Wild Rose WMA, 102 acres, Chisago County
  • Lac qui Parle WMA, 38 acres, Chippewa County
  • Ancil C. Budolfson WMA, 128 acres, Cottonwood County
  • Crow Wing Chain WMA, 69 acres, Hubbard County
  • Ringo-Nest WMA, 34 acres, Kandiyohi County
  • Lac qui Parle WMA, 22 acres, Lac qui Parle County
  • Lac qui Parle WMA, 160 acre, Lac qui Parle County
  • Sanborn Lake WMA, 75 acres, Le Sueur County
  • Sheas Lake WMA, 28 acres, Le Sueur County
  • Ras-Lyn WMA, 45 acres, McLeod County
  • Plum Creek WMA, 280 acres, Murray County
  • Faith WMA, 240 acres, Norman County
  • Moccasin WMA, 117 acres, Norman County
  • Hi-View WMA, 24 acres, Otter Tail County
  • Rutledge WMA, 480 acres, Pine County
  • Pembina WMA, 1,160 acres, Pennington County
  • Pine V & S WMA, 371 acres, Pine County
  • Prairie Creek WMA, 165 acres, Rice County
  • Roseau River WMA, 40 acres, Roseau County
  • Follies WMA, 110 acres, Stearns County
  • Lac qui Parle WMA, 2 acres, Swift County
  • Yaeger Lake WMA, 285 acres, Wadena County
  • Linde WMA, 76 acres Waseca County
  • Maple Lake WMA, 160 acres, Wright County
  • St. Michael Meadows WMA, 12 acres, Wright County