Gene Grazzini, a former Ducks Unlimited (DU) state chairman and regional vice president, and his wife Rosalie, were recently honored for their commitment to conserving wetlands in western Minnesota’s Prairie Pothole Region. The dedication took place at the 750-acre Mosquito Ranch Waterfowl Production Area, part of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) Morris Wetland Management District.
“When I started hunting in my early 20s, this was one of the first landscapes I came to,” said Gene Grazzini, now 84. “My family and I have continued hunting here through the years. We’ve hunted the potholes for ducks, flushed pheasants and pursued our share of deer.”
DU partnered with USFWS to rejuvenate the previously drained wetlands at Mosquito Ranch, part of a larger 3,000-acre complex that waterfowl rely on each spring for nesting and brood production. Mosquito Ranch is essential to this area, supporting 50 pairs of waterfowl per square mile. The recent wetlands restoration increases the potential of that productivity, according to Bruce Freske, project leader for the Morris Wetland Management District.
“Only 1% of Traverse County is held in the public trust,” Freske said. “That may not seem like much, but to us, it is very valuable. Prairie pothole complexes like this one mix ample resting areas with open water from spring melt and protein-rich vegetation to sustain waterfowl during their breeding season.”
The design and construction of the project were paid for by Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars and a North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant. The state appropriations and the federal grant were leveraged with private support from DU.
The restored wetlands at Mosquito Ranch improve water quality in Western Minnesota, filtering nutrients from runoff, and act as a natural sponge during flooding events. A single wetland acre can hold between 1 and 1.5 million gallons of floodwater.
“DU has conserved nearly 240,000 acres in Minnesota thanks to hard work and leadership of volunteers like Gene and Rosalie,” said DU Senior Director of Development Adam DeHaan. “Their dedication to Ducks Unlimited’s mission is something the Grazzinis have imparted upon their children and is an example for all Minnesotans.”