CLEARWATER – A new wildlife management area south of Clearwater will honor Minnesota veterans by providing a place for people to hunt and enjoy nature.
The 604-acre site in Stearns and Wright counties will be set aside permanently for both veterans and the general public. It is being dedicated in a ceremony Wednesday evening..
The project is part of Pheasants Forever's Build a Wildlife Area campaign. It received funding from Minnesota's Outdoor Heritage Fund created by the Legacy Amendment, as well as private donors and local Pheasants Forever chapters. The cost to acquire the property was $3.02 million.
The idea was conceived more than a year ago when Pheasants Forever officials decided they wanted to honor veterans, said spokesman Anthony Hauck.
Most wildlife management areas are named for the property donor or seller. This is one of the first to recognize a group such as military veterans, Hauck said.
The site was chosen in part because of its proximity to the St. Cloud and Twin Cities metro areas. The property includes native prairie, oak woods and wetlands — one of which has wild rice — and is important to migrating and nesting waterfowl. The Clearwater River runs through it for about half a mile.
The property is within a mile of the 1,000-acre-plus Succonix Wildlife Management Area, helping create a corridor of wildlife habitat.
The wildlife management area will be managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and open to the public for hunting and seasonal outdoor recreation, such as hiking and birdwatching.
"Anyone can use it," Hauck said. "But the real point of doing this project and honoring military veterans is it will bear their name and it is a place they can go to."
Hauck noted that many military veterans enjoy outdoor recreation. In the last decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, many service members have had to put those pursuits on hold while they were deployed, he said.
"There's been a lot of people who have given up a lot of time," Hauck said. "They've given up a lot of their own hunting and fishing seasons for their service."