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Letter: A new type of recreation area?

“DNR appoints citizen committee to pursue shared landscape in the Minnesota River Valley.” That was the lead-off line in an article last Saturday in the outdoor section of the West Central Tribune.

Let me give you some numbers on how this landscape is being used or shared presently. Renville and Redwood Counties are both large intensively farmed counties. Renville County has 631,000 total acres with 91 percent in row crop agriculture, 575,000 acres; with 4.2 percent, 24,100 acres in conservation acres that includes all state/federal owned lands, RIM easements, and CRP. Redwood County has 564,000 acres with 90 percent in agriculture, 510,000 acres; with 4.7 percent, 24,066 acres in conservation acres.

It is apparent that the acres available for recreational use are not adequate for the demand. The course of action should be to increase the number of recreational acres and provide more opportunities to the public. However it seems that the DNR’s thinking is to instead put more pressure on our existing public acres by creating timelines that can used by different interests.

Most if not all of our public lands in the valley have been paid for by people that buy hunting and fishing licenses and equipment. These acres were purchased with the intent to provide habitat for wildlife and hunting and fishing opportunities. If not for the hunters’ and fishermen’s contributions, there would be much less than the meager 4.2/4.7 percent of conservation/wildlife acres we have today.

Renville and Redwood Counties drain heavily into the Minnesota River.

Renville County, for example, has 851 miles of agricultural drainage ditch and millions of feet of drain tile. It is estimated that Renville’s agricultural tile system is doubling every two years. More water for the Minnesota and more damage to the river with degraded recreational opportunity.

Unless we change the above numbers and balance the landscape, the Minnesota River will be nothing more than a large drainage ditch with limited recreational opportunities. I’m all for citizens getting involved to solve the very serious problems in the watershed, but let’s focus on the real problems.

Tom Kalahar