Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal, July 12, 1999

DNR to manage habitat in Winsted Township

By Luis Puga

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently received approval from the McLeod County Commissioners to establish an 80-acre habitat in Winsted Township.

The land borders the south side of Highway 7 and is east of Silver Lake.

Dennis Simon, a wildlife management system coordinator with the DNR in Nicollet, said the land is classified as marginal agricultural. He added that the land features no A-tillable land, the best land for agriculture production, and much of it is marsh.

The land was and will be owned by the McLeod Wildlife Habitat Conservation Society, which will donate half to the state. The DNR will not own the land, but act as an administrator.

Previously, the land was enrolled in the CRP by the private landowner who was receiving payment for not using the land for production.

The 80 acres are covered with a brome grass, a non-native grass which is poor for nesting. The DNR, as well as Pheasants Forever, would like to see native grasses planted in the habitat to have an area for the bird population.

Also, Simon said brome grass is a poor competitor to weeds. Another grass native to Minnesota would do better to hold off the weeds.

The DNR has faced a number of budget cuts recently, and is suffering a shortage of manpower.

Simon manages four counties by himself. For these reasons, the DNR will only be able to do a minimum of maintenance work on the new habitat. Typically, the work would be done in three years.

One of the concerns of the commissioners, reported in the Glencoe Enterprise last week, was that the DNR pay for ditch assessments due to a ditch clean out project that will occur on the east side of the 80 acres. Simon said the DNR will pay its portion of assessments.

The township will see an impact on the taxes. Rather than traditional property taxes, the monies from the land will be in the form of a in-lieu-of-tax payment, paid yearly.

Simon said the typical format for the payment is three-fourths of one percent of the assessed market value. Simon estimates that the taxes were previously $868, and the new figure will be about $548.

Simon said that the management of the land should begin in about six to eight months, after the paper work is finished.

He added the habitat will be important because there is little such land in northeast McLeod County. He believes the land will provide good recreation for young hunters, who in turn will pass on local dollars to local merchants.


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