Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz

Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake Herald, Minn.

March 23, 1998

Canadian geese arriving in numbers

According to the calendar spring officially arrived on Friday, March 20. However, it seems like spring 1998 has come and gone a couple of times already. It came for awhile in February and then gave way to winter in March, and now, at least for a weekend, is back again. Our area lakes have been slushy and even partially open at times, Canada geese have been flying, bald eagles have been sighted, blue bills and other ducks have been in the area, and even a few robins have made their way back.

All are signs of spring and from my view of the outdoors the most notable sign, although not surprising, has been the large number of Canada geese. The geese started coming in almost a month ago and just haven't stopped coming. Every lake, slough, pothole or ditch with open water is carrying a few honkers or a whole pile of them right now. The geese are coming in such large numbers that it tends to remind me of Lac Qui Parle in western Minnesota. The difference is, the eastern prairie pothole geese at Lac Qui Parle are just passing through. The geese that are coming to our area are not eastern prairie pot hole honkers and aren't just passing through - they're staying.

Many of these honkers were bred and raised here last year and they're just coming home like most geese do. Every year there are more breeding pairs and more geese.

Later this spring we'll probably see goslings all over the place and be wondering where they all came from.

Prairie wetland preservation program approved

Up to 3,115 acres of prairie and associated wetlands will be preserved under a proposal recently approved by the federal Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. The Commission approved a grant of $785,500 to Pheasants Forever, the DNR and a host of other Minnesota conservation organizations at its March 4 meeting.

"This is wonderful news," said Jeff Finden of Pheasants Forever. "It will allow us to greatly accelerate conservation of critical habitat."

Prior to settlement, up to 40 percent of Minnesota was covered with prairies -- vast grasslands comprised of tall and thick prairie grasses. Home to a wealth of wildlife, including ducks, buffalo, prairie chickens and hundreds of other species, the prairie drew thousands of immigrants hoping to convert the rich soils to productive farmland. And convert they did. Today, less than five percent of the original prairies exist in the United States, and less than one percent of Minnesota's prairies remain.

Through the "Prairie Wetland Heritage Conservation Initiative," conservation groups hope to preserve the best remaining unprotected prairies in southern Minnesota. The initiative calls for purchasing up to 2,380 acres of prairies and adjacent lands in fee title, buying easements on 225 acres, and enhancing or restoring wetlands on 500 acres. In addition to Pheasants Forever and DNR, other project partners include: The Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, the US. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Ford Motor Company, and a number of local conservation clubs. Lands that are acquired will be held by the DNR or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as wildlife management areas.

"The Legislative Commission on Minnesota Resources really established this project," said Finden, "by approving an initial request from Pheasants Forever for $500,000 to preserve prairies." Pheasants Forever, DNR and the other partners then developed a funding request to the Migratory Bird Commission to expand the initiative. The federal funding comes from the North American Wetland Conservation Act, and is currently funding several other projects in Minnesota as well. Finden noted that Ford Motor Company has donated an Explorer truck that Pheasants Forever used as a raffle prize to generate $28,000 of funds for the project. "We're tickled that Ford has joined in this project, recognizing the need to preserve these areas for the future," he said. .

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