Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

April 2, 2001

Wildlife area a conservation success story

Imagine 40 of so acres of woodland, native prairie, and wetland, with the South Fork of the Crow River running through it.

Wild flowers will blossom, song birds will thrive, pheasants will nest, and deer will find safe harbor from winter. The wind will blow through tall grass and not lift black soil from the ground.

Rain will slowly make its way to the river with some soaked up by the ground and the rest filtered of silt and sediment by the grass before it makes it's to the river. The area will be more like it once was and our lives will be made better.

"We're looking to preserve a little of what we once had," stated Virgil Voigt president of the McLeod County Chapter of Pheasants Forever. "It's a great area. It has river structure, woodland, upland road access from two sides. We'll be adding native prairie and food plots for wildlife. I can see it being a great recreation area. Bird watching, river access, maybe even a little spot to drop a canoe in someday."

The area, 42 acres of mixed woodland, crop land, and river bottom is approximately five miles southwest of Lester Prairie and is the newest restoration and enhancement project in our area that I am aware of. The parcel also has the South Fork of the Crow River running through it.

The entire project has been a tremendous success so far, and is model of how conservation efforts will happen and succeed in the future.

It started with the land being purchased by the McLeod County Chapter of Pheasants Forever and then, grew to a collaborative effort, incorporating the time and resources of several McLeod County conservation groups.

Organizations currently involved include: Pheasants Forever, Mallards Over McLeod chapter of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association, Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club, Crow River Cutters Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation, Ducks Unlimited, and a McLeod County chapter of the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association.

All are using their time, dollars and expertise to help develop the area into great wildlife and natural habitat.

The group of McLeod County conservation organizations involved in the project is planning a walk through the area sometime this April to finalize details and get rolling on land preparation and planting. The hope is to have wildflowers, native prairie grasses, and food sources for wildlife growing by this spring and summer.

The management coordinator of the project is Mary Mueller of Pheasants Forever.

Look for more information on the project in this column through the spring and summer.

Moving on, a few other positive things happening in local conservation include an award received by the Ann Lake Watershed Association, and a new project created by Pheasants Forever titled the Leopold Education Project.

Leopold Education Project is an ethics-based education program designed to help students in grades 6-12 see the land, understand what they see, and enjoy what they understand. For more information on the project, visit www.lep.org.

Lake Ann Association honored

From the Ann Lake Watershed Association newsletter

The Lake Ann Association was honored as outstanding Wright County Conservationists at the December 2000 annual convention of the Minnesota Association of Soil and Water Conservation Districts in Bloomington. The honor recognizes Lake Ann Association as Outstanding Conservation Cooperators for leadership in the science and practice of sound use.

The Wright Soil and Water Conservation District (WSWCD) nominated the Lake Ann Association for the award. "The Lake Ann Association has provided a wonderful example of what a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can accomplish," said Greg Bengtson of the WSWCD.

In 1995, the Lake Ann Association, MPCA, DNR Fisheries of Montrose, Wright County Planning and Zoning and SWCD had the first of several watershed meetings to promote best management practices and programs to landowners in the watershed.

In 1996, the association with cooperation of all these groups, completed a MPCA Lake Assessment Program which results in providing guidance to developing a lake management plan.

"The association completed a septic survey and has a follow-up program for non-conforming systems which has been successful in upgrading lakeshore sites. The association felt it must clean up its own 'backyard' before approaching the ag community. Other 'backyard' efforts included lakescaping and promoting phosphorus-free fertilizers and proper lawn management," Bengtson said.

The lake association was the catalyst for and has assisted financially with WSWCD's Buffer Initiative. Landowners in Lake Ann Watershed are paid to install and maintain grass buffers along a main tributary to Lake Ann.

To date, four landowners are participating in the program, with nine buffer strips totaling approximately 25 acres. The lake association has also promoted replacing open tile inlets with rock inlets called French drains. To date, in this watershed, 10 open intakes have been replaced at no cost to the landowner.

Along with SWCD staff, members of Lake Ann visited farmers in the watershed to promote "best management practices." These visits have resulted in the installation of several conservation measures in the watershed including: animal waste systems, blind inlets, buffer strips, conservation tillage, wetland restorations and septic systems upgrades.

Several of the association members are also active in a statewide program called Shoreland Volunteers where additional resources are provided to learn about a wide variety of water and land leadership.

The Farmer Magazine, Northwest Sportshow, and MASWCD sponsored the outstanding conservationist award.

Outdoor notes

­ The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club has changed it's starting date for the trapshooting season to Wed., April 11. The original starting date was Wed., April 4 and was changed due to poor weather.

­ The Lester Prairie Sportsmen's Club will meet tonight, 7 p.m. at the club house.

­ The Winsted Sportmen's Club will host its annual He/She Mixer Friday, April 6, at the Blue Note in Winsted.

­ Good luck and safe hunting to area wild turkey hunters. The spring season is just around the corner.

­ Although reports say the ice is still very thick on our area lakes, we should all remember that ice conditions can change rapidly this time of year and that no ice is ever completely safe.

­ Look for bald eagles and various types of waterfowl to begin migrating though our area very soon. Bald eagles typically follow the ice out line on their way to nesting grounds farther north.

­ Very soon, I hope, the snow will be gone, the ice will melt, and winter will be over.

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