DNR Finalizes Plan to Boost Breeding Ducks to 1 Million

Send by email Printer-friendly version Share this

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has finalized its plan to increase the state’s breeding duck population to 1 million by protecting and restoring 2 million acres of habitat over the next five decades.

The DNR’s long-range duck recovery plan, a draft of which was presented for public review in January, builds on the 2001 plan to Restore Minnesota’s Wetland and Waterfowl Hunting Heritage. The new plan outlines the state’s most ambitious goals ever to restore and protect prairie wetland and grassland habitat, accelerate shallow lake management and improve statewide waterfowl habitat. The document can be viewed or downloaded online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

"The plan outlines a vision for our state and the strategies to achieve that vision," said Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. "The plan calls for a 57 percent increase in the spring breeding population as well as returns to historical, migration and hunter satisfaction levels."

The plan was developed in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Ducks Unlimited, Minnesota Waterfowl Association, Delta Waterfowl, Izaak Walton League, Minnesota Conservation Federation, Concerned Duck Hunters Group and Board of Water and Soil Resources. It reflects citizen input received in recent months.

"We heard from our stakeholders that we should include more definitive short-term targets in the plan so we did that," said Schad. "We also extended the vision out to 50 years, recognizing that Minnesota's current landscape reflects decades of land use changes, and that it will take decades, even with aggressive conservation partnerships and funding, to attain the goals in the plan." The plan projects a final cost in excess of $3 billion, for habitat protection or an average of $64 million annually.

Ray Norrgard, DNR wetland waterfowl program leader and chief author of the plan, said the plan has "ambitious but appropriate goals." Said Norrgard, "Our problems with wetland habitat developed over 150 years and we cannot fix them overnight. Success depends on support from many public and private partners to both restore and protect habitat."

For example, he said the breeding population objective calls for restoration and protection of 2 million acres, of which the primary strategy is to have 30 percent of these acres in wetlands and 70 percent in grasslands.

Major objectives in the plan include:

- boosting the average breeding duck population from 630,000 to 1 million birds,

- producing a fall flight of 1.4 million birds from Minnesota

- boosting Minnesota’s share of the Mississippi Flyway harvest to 16 percent

- increasing the number of active waterfowl hunters to 140,000.

The plan recognizes the important role private lands play in providing wildlife habitat, particularly through provisions of the federal farm program. According to Norrgard, "Maintaining current Conservation Reserve Program acreage, as well as implementation of the Wetland Reserve Program, CREP II and other long term agreement programs, is critical to making progress."

A critical element of the plan is the importance of targeting habitat programs to restore and protect habitat complexes that are a minimum of four square miles with 20 percent wetlands and 40 percent grassland.

The Division of Fish and Wildlife chairs a statewide discussion group, known as the Working Lands Initiative, to support local planning efforts that target habitat complexes.

Part of the challenge to restore and protect habitat will be met through the purchase of additional wildlife management areas as outlined in a Citizens Advisory Committee proposal. In addition, federal easements and acquisitions secured by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service could add wetland and grassland acreage.

The DNR with its with many partners will continue to support a 10-year advance on duck stamp funding through proposed Wetland Loan Act legislation, Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s efforts to coordinate land management practices through the Working Lands Initiative, federal farm bill conservation provisions and local initiatives to protect wetlands.