Imagine walking through area forests without having to push through thick bushes of buckthorn. Imagine hiking through a prairie without seeing any 6-foot-tall wild parsnip, an invasive plant that can give you severe rashes when bumped against.
These are but a few of the goals that Great River Greening and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have for restoring four wildlife management areas in the Cannon River Watershed. WMAs are part of Minnesota's outdoor recreation system, established to protect lands and waters with high potential for wildlife production, public hunting, trapping, fishing and other recreational activities.
GRG will soon be working with the DNR to seed a new forest in the new 200-acre Sunktokeca Creek WMA, northeast of Faribault. The Trust for Public Land acquired the land with funding from Minnesota's Outdoor Heritage Fund and conveyed it to the DNR to be managed as a WMA. Restoration plans include reseeding croplands to prairie and forest cover and improving some of the existing woodlands to remove invasive species and improve wildlife habitat. The timber stand improvement project envisions harvesting the mostly low-grade trees, like box elder, currently populating the 31-acre stand, and then reseeding with oaks and other high-quality hardwoods.
The project is part of a larger effort by TPL, GRG, the DNR and Cannon River Watershed Partnership to protect seasonally flooded wetlands, improve wildlife habitat and open more outdoor recreation land to the public.
Sunktokeca WMA will be open to the public for hiking, hunting and fishing. It will also provide habitat for nongame wildlife, insect pollinators like bees and butterflies, and songbirds providing many opportunities for hikers, hunters and anglers.