The dedication of the first piece of land purchased with funds recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council signals a new era in land protection and economic development in southwestern Minnesota.
The Dubbeldee tract of the Winter Wildlife Management Area (WMA) added 233 acres to a habitat complex near Pipestone. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources now owns and manages the parcel as part of the Winter WMA.
"We're proud to have helped add public land to our part of the state," said Marty Wallin, president of the Pipestone County Pheasants Forever (PF) chapter. "Knowing it is the first piece acquired through the LSOHC process makes it pretty special to us."
The LSOHC was established after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008, which increased sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent. One-third of the dollars generated by the tax are dedicated to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for game fish and wildlife through the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The LSOHC, made up of citizen and legislative members, reviews project proposals and makes funding recommendations to the Minnesota Legislature for approval.
While LSOHC recommended the bulk of the funding for the acquisition of the Dubbeldee parcel, Pheasants Forever drove the acquisition process, and the local chapter was instrumental in generating match dollars for the project.
The Winter WMA started as a 13-acre parcel in 1972, and with the addition of the Dubbeldee tract, now approaches 1,000 acres. "It takes a lot of partners working together to make an acquisition like this work," Wallin said. In addition to the LSOHC and Pipestone County PF, other partners include the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, The Nature Conservancy, Heartland PF, Kandiyohi PF, Minnesota PF Habitat Fund and the DNR.
"These are the kind of strong partnerships that not only bring additional dollars to Legacy projects, but will help us make significant gains in prairie habitat in Minnesota over the next 23 years through the Legacy amendment," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.
While wildlife and hunters obviously benefit from the addition of public land, so do local communities, according to Mick Myers, executive director of the Pipestone Area Chamber of Commerce.
"More public land brings more hunters to our area, and that's good for local businesses," Myers said. He estimates that a group of four hunters on a two-day outing provides $1,000 to $1,500 in real money to a variety of community businesses for food, lodging, fuel, hunting supplies and more.
Wallin said that the LSOHC and the Minnesota Legislature will help fund Minnesota habitat well into the future. In fiscal year 2011 alone, LSOHC will make recommendations for about $91 million in habitat spending.
The amendment will provide funds through 2034.
"When we build habitat and build communities, everyone wins," Myers said.