145 Acres of MN Wildlife Habitat Protected

5/5/2004: A new state program aimed at preserving wildlife habitat where it is most at risk marked a milestone this week with the acquisition of a chunk of prime hunting land in northern Anoka County.

The 145 acres of oak forest and wetlands acquired through the Metro Wildlife Corridors program will be added to the Gordie Mikkelson Wildlife Management Area (WMA) in East Bethel. In addition to protecting high quality habitat, the purchase will stave off plans for development that might have encroached on the wildlife area.

Launched in 2003 to better coordinate public and private conservation efforts by concentrating work within focus areas of high habitat quality, Metro Wildlife Corridors is a partnership between the DNR and six nonprofit conservation groups. Its goal is to protect, restore and manage a network of natural areas and wildlife habitat in the face of the metro region’s rapid growth.

“This is a significant addition to public hunting opportunities in the metro region, where hunting opportunities are disappearing,” said the DNR’s Peggy Booth, who oversees the program. “It’s also a milestone in Metro Wildlife Corridors’ work to preserve a healthy network of habitat in a region that’s losing some 60 acres of open space a day.”

The DNR has been interested in the site as a possible addition to Mikkelson WMA for some time. Last year staff at the Anoka Soil and Water Conservation District learned the property’s owners might be interested in selling and asked the Trust for Public Land (TPL) to help with negotiations. TPL also worked with the DNR to assemble a funding package and to accelerate the timeline for the site’s acquisition.

“This was a situation where the land owners wanted a quick sale,” said Susan Schmidt, state director for TPL. “Through TPL’s participation in Metro Wildlife Corridors we were able to step in and get the land protected before it wound up being sold for development.”

The new addition to Mikkelson WMA is part of a 2,100-acre area recognized by the DNR’s County Biological Survey for having “high biodiversity significance.” The County Biological Survey identifies sites around the state with high quality native plant communities, and rare and endangered species.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Established in 1972, TPL is the only national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for public enjoyment and use. In Minnesota, TPL has protected more than 25,000 acres of land and worked with fast-growing communities to identify and set aside critical open space for people. TPL depends on contributions from supporters to continue protecting land throughout the state. Visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org

The Metro Wildlife Corridors program was funded by the 2003 Minnesota Legislature, as recommended by the Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCMR), to conserve habitat corridors for the purpose of sustaining fish, wildlife and native plant communities. Funding was provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund (which receives state lottery proceeds) and the participating partners. Money for the Mikkelson WMA addition also was provided by the DNR’s Metro Greenways program and the new federally funded State Wildlife Grants program, which helps protect wildlife species with the greatest conservation needs in Minnesota.