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Lend a hand: Adopt-a-WMA

Published (4/29/2011)
By Sue Hegarty
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With more than 1,440 public wildlife areas covering 1.2 million acres, the Department of Natural Resources could use a hand in managing the prairies, wetlands, forests and swamps that provide habitat for wildlife.

Sponsored by Rep. Paul Anderson (R-Starbuck), HF1115 would allow hunting groups and other interested citizens to volunteer for the general upkeep of wildlife management areas.

WMAs are the cornerstone of the DNR’s efforts to protect and improve wildlife habitat. Volunteers could remove invasive species such as buckthorn, pick up trash and debris, or repair fences and signs within the areas, according to Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife management area section chief.

Simon said Ducks Unlimited members have informally volunteered before; this bill would simply formalize the program and, after an initial startup, could be expanded statewide.

The program would require about $10,000 in new money for the protection of volunteers, for things such as bug repellent, hard hats or eye gear. Also, signs could be erected to recognize the volunteers in the same way the Adopt-a-Highway program signs acknowledge highway right-of-way cleaning crews.

Before laying the bill over April 18 for possible inclusion in an omnibus policy bill, House Environment, Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee Chairman Denny McNamara (R-Hastings) said the fiscal implications are a problem. He suggested that interested parties, such as Ducks Unlimited and Pheasants Forever chapters, be asked to contribute to the program costs.

A companion, SF673, sponsored by Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen (R-Alexandria), has been incorporated into SF712, sponsored by Sen. John Carlson (R-Bemidji). That bill awaits action by the full Senate.

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