Minnesota DNR releases duck, pheasant plans
Location, location, location. That’s not just the mantra for real estate but also for ducks and pheasants in Minnesota. They need more locations with good habitat. To that end the Minnesota DNR last week unveiled its long-awaited and much delayed long-term plans that strive to improve waterfowl and pheasant numbers in the state by increasing wetland and grassland habitat for them.
The plans strive to make things better for birds over the next four years by seeking more money to improve existing habitat and buy new public habitat to create Wildlife Management Areas, especially in areas deemed critical for waterfowl and upland birds. The duck plan is the first major update to the state’s Duck Recovery Plan released in 2006.
The new plan notes that two-thirds of shallow lakes in the state’s prime duck habitat now have poor water quality and lack food for nesting and migrating ducks. That’s long been suspected of why Minnesota has far fewer ducks born in and migrating through the state. It’s also why the number of duck hunters has been halved from about 160,000 at its peak 40 years ago to about 80,000 now.
The state must “substantially increase’’ its breeding duck populations and make its wetlands and lakes more attractive to migrating ducks, the new plan notes. The plan calls for more duck-friendly projects by the DNR’s existing shallow lakes program.
Both the duck and pheasant plan also stress relationships with nonprofits, like Pheasants Forever or Ducks Unlimited, to get more acres of habitat conserved faster. That includes another duck summit among state federal, tribal and nonprofit conservation groups.
Meanwhile the pheasant plan calls for adding more upland habitat closer to medium-sized cities in farm regions for hunters to access. The plan notes that pheasant license sales have dropped 57% over the last 12 years as pheasant numbers have generally declined. That decline has been blamed on a major decline in federal Conservation Reserve Program acres.