New Dakota County wildlife management area to feature wildlife habitat, public hunting

An aerial view of Hampton Woods WMA. (Tom Reiter/Friends of the Mississippi River)

A portion of one of the last and largest wooded areas in Dakota County has been permanently protected as a state wildlife management area through the collaborative efforts of the Minnesota DNR, Dakota County and the nonprofit conservation group Friends of the Mississippi River, according to a DNR news release Thursday, July 27.

The new Hampton Woods Wildlife Management Area consists of 191 acres of oak forest that will be managed by the DNR for wildlife habitat and public hunting. Located about four miles east of Farmington off state Highway 50, it’s the only forest for miles in a largely agricultural landscape.

The area is home to a number of rare species such as the red-shouldered hawk, as well as more common game species including deer, turkeys and squirrels.

First identified by the DNR as an ecologically significant area worthy of protection in the mid-1990s, Hampton Woods also was ranked highly in Dakota County’s 2002 Farmland and Natural Areas Protection Plan. A few years ago, Friends of the Mississippi River helped several landowners contact the county to discuss the potential sale of their land. After purchasing 24 acres from Joan Uselmann and Mary and Glen Bakalars, and 167 acres from the estate of Rose Kuntz, Dakota County recently transferred ownership to the DNR.

The acquisition was paid for with $540,800 from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, as appropriated by the Minnesota State Legislature, and $197,700 in Dakota County funds. Friends of the Mississippi River also has received a $133,000 grant from the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund, as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources, to conduct management activities in the WMA, such as removal of non-native invasive species like buckthorn.

Friends of the Mississippi River previously developed a natural resource management plan for the site with financial assistance from the Minnesota Ornithologists’ Union, Southern Dakota County Sportsmen’s Club, Wild Turkey Federation, Hastings Environmental Protectors, Winter Wheat Foundation, and Pheasants Forever-Dakota Ringnecks Chapter.

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