DNR Seeking Comment on Duck Plan

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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is seeking public comment on its newly-released draft plan to recover the state's breeding and migrating duck populations.

Building on the 2001 plan to Restore Minnesota's Wetland and Waterfowl Hunting Heritage, the draft plan outlines ambitious new goals to restore and protect prairie wetland and grassland habitat, accelerate shallow lake management and improve statewide waterfowl habitat.

"This is an opportunity for hunters, landowners, conservationists and other concerned citizens to help shape this plan," said Ray Norrgard, DNR wetland waterfowl program leader. "We are particularly interested in suggestions on the appropriateness of our goals, strategies and timelines."

Under the draft plan, 200,000 acres of wetland and 400,000 acres of grasslands need to be protected by 2025. Longer term, the plan calls for restoration and protection of a total of 2 million acres of habitat and 1,800 shallow lakes.

Major objectives in the plan include:

- boosting the average breeding duck population from 636,000 to 1 million birds, producing a fall flight of 1.4 million birds from Minnesota

- restoring hunting opportunities at levels that existed during the 1970s

- maintaining an average of 140,000 hunters with high satisfaction rates.

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

Also, 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.

"These goals are ambitious and require a significant commitment of resources over a long period of time," said DNR Commissioner Gene Merriam. "This situation was not created overnight - it developed over decades - and we cannot fix it overnight. The magnitude of the challenge requires aggressive strategies and ambitious goals. This will not be a quick fix and the DNR cannot do it alone. Success depends on many pieces and from many partners, public and private."

he plan is available online at www.dnr.state.mn.us.

Comments will be accepted via e-mail or in writing through March 1. The plan will be finalized before the April 22 duck rally. Copies of the plan are available by calling toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367).

Online comments may be e-mailed to waterfowl@dnr.state.mn.us. Written comments may be mailed to: DNR Waterfowl Plan Comments, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4002.