DNR taking a hard look at WMA encroachment

By Joe Albert Staff Writer

St. Paul – Though wildlife management areas are created with
hunting and trapping in mind, those two activities often are
limited as development envelops lands many people perceive as
permanent open space.

A quick check of the 2006 Minnesota Hunting and Trapping
Regulations Handbook shows a number of WMAs that are closed to
hunting altogether, or limit the activity in some way.

As a result of growing pressure on WMAs, the DNR is setting up a
task force to address the issue of encroachment.

‘People look at our WMAs as permanent open space; why not build
up next to them,’ said Tim Bremicker, DNR regional wildlife manager
in St. Paul. ‘Everybody gains, except for wildlife and the hunter
and trapper.’

DNR divisions of Fish and Wildlife, Enforcement, and Eco
Services will be at the first meeting – scheduled for Oct. 9 – and
others including Pheasants Forever, Minnesota Outdoor Heritage
Alliance, Minnesota Waterfowl Association, the Minnesota
Conservation Federation and the Minnesota Center for Environmental
Advocacy have been invited.

The plan is to ‘try to come up with some meaningful strategies
at the policy or legislative level to address the issue of
encroachment on WMAs,’ Bremicker said.

Results will be discussed at the annual DNR roundtable meetings
in January.

Since WMAs are open spaces, the lots and properties built next
to them often fetch higher prices, but the benefit is
uni-directional – there’s no benefit to the actual WMA, said Bob
Welsh, DNR area wildlife manager in Forest Lake.

‘You as a hunter aren’t realizing any benefit from development
next to WMAs,’ said Welsh, who believes there’s an ‘assault’ on
hunting on WMAs.

One of the outcomes could be a strategy for going to local units
of government and impressing upon them the need to develop in a
WMA-friendly fashion, Welsh said.

As cities ponder how to grow, ‘one of the things that gets
overlooked, in my opinion, is the hunting,’ he said.

Cities often limit hunting on WMAs under their public safety
ordinance as it applies to firearm discharge. The issue is most
problematic in the seven-county metro area, but comes up in other
areas of the state, too, Bremicker said.

Gary Botzek, of MCF, said that group would participate in the
task force, which could take some of the principles of a bill
passed during the 2005 Legislature that protects shooting ranges
and apply them to WMAs.

The Legislature also could be called upon to help solve the WMA
encroachment problem, based upon recommendations of the task force,
Bremicker said.

‘I’m hoping the Legislature is able to wrestle with this issue
and provide us some additional authority to protect the uses and
purposes of WMAs,’ he said. ‘We need more places to hunt, not
fewer.’

Categories: Hunting News

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