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memyself@I

MN WMAs open to grazing

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I spent some time talking to a DNR wildlife manager yesterday-he works in the "transition zone" between prairie and forest. He said that cattle can help control cattails, that if the goal is to control or eliminate woody vegetation goats are effective, but not very viable due to small herds etc. Every WMA is supposed to have a management plan written with specific goals. So we may see a variety of lightly grazed upland to trampled down mucked up cattails to decimated all season long grazed uplands. He also told me that removing trees, even if widely scattered individual trees, was for predator control-the predators that destroy nests, and he went on to say that a lone tree will create a 200 foot circle of danger to predation around it.

Very educational for me. I've hunted enough of W and SW MN to know there is more of a variety of landforms out there which should influence goals and grazing/haying management.

That said I think the hunters are being thrown under the bus here. I say that because I've witnessed firsthand the destruction of cover in the Dakotas with the grain boom, GMO corn and soybeans-planned for 5 years being grown on WPAs on the Sand Lake Wetland management district upland areas in the name of invasive grasses control. And now this on MN WMAs and WPAs. Its a shrinking resource of available and huntable cover for me the upland bird hunter. Why would I be happy about losing it on OUR public land?

Yes we are supposed to love our farmers warm and fuzzy blah blah blah they feed us, right? But the truths of what they've done to the land and water surrounds us. And worldwide demand for corn as Asia has developed a taste for western food means that just as with oil, it matters little that we produce it here, it gets sold to the highest bidder on the commodity market, so we get thrown under the bus that way as well.

I would like to see Ag do something substantial in return for haying and grazing CRP WMAs WPAs. Perhaps requiring that they open up their lands for hunting. Admitting Ethanol was a mistake. Taking off the misleading TV commercials like "farmers have less of a carbon footprint than in the 50s" etc.

And lastly, in this very political world we live in, the Twps, Counties, Farm Bureau, Cattlemens Assn etc etc can and will put pressure on the DNR politically to expand, favor, get them to back off regs. I worked for the DNR for 34 years and I can assure you that once St Paul gets involved as a local manager you are cut out of the decision loop. Its been progressively getting worse since the early 90s regardless who is governor or controls the house or senate.

Dan

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harvey lee

Very good post Me.

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Thanks for the good words, Harvey. I was working at Game Fair yesterday and hoped to get over to meet the Fish On guy but was only one staffing our booth so I had to stay put.

One other consequence of opening lands to grazing will be that Ag will take all the credit for any and all successes in managing public land without even acknowledging or thanking us the public and they may even push to sell the land to ag since they do the management. Some may be skeptical about that notion, but we already have people in the MN House and Senate, democrats and republicans, northern and southern MN who see no value on public land because it doesn't generate enough revenue etc.

Dan

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harvey lee

I can surely believe that, any way to make a buck.

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LandDr

Careful with taking "this is what they said" as the truth...kinda like saying "I seen it on the internet, so it is true". :-)

I have been at this long enough to know that what they say is not always the way it is. I used to work for MPCA, FSA, NRCS, SWCD, etc...I know how the system works. They have their beliefs and their agendas and they will defend them to the end.

You asked if the farmer has to pay for the grazing...they said "yes". Do you just take that as a "yes"? If you want the fact, then ask for the "report" or documentation that shows what the farmer paid...only then will you know the fact. I'm not saying they aren't paying...I just really doubt it...but would be interesting to see the actual financial sheet that shows it. These reports or documents are public information.

"A tree produces a 200 ft. circle of predation"...I am sorry, that is just a bunch of lip service. If that was true, I wouldn't have a pheasant or deer on any of my properties...but that is definitely not the case. I have more pheasants and deer than any WMA and more than most private lands. I agree that tall deciduous trees such as cottonwoods, maples, box elder, elm, etc provide perches for predators and I would agree that those types of trees can be taken down...but, taking all of the brush and conifers? Really? Again...this goes back to their "agenda". They use their "research" and opinions to support their agenda.

I will put my 20+ years experience (a few million trees planted, over 150,000 acres of prairie planted, thousands of wetland acres restored, tens of thousands of acres designed, along with food plots, feeders, etc., etc.) up against the "research". Proof is in the pudding as they say...just have to look at the results rather than the ink on the paper.

This weekend at Game Fair they had a panel discussion right after my seminar on ag and wildlife issues...couldn't have been better timing. I had a really good crowd at my seminar and they took in all that I have been talking about...so they were really prepared for the panel discussion.

There was a representative from BWSR, NRCS, DNR, a couple of research guys and a farmer to round out the panel. There were questions about farm drainage, water quality, wetlands, farming, etc., etc. Ron Shara was moderating.

It was hard to hold back on commenting but I really wanted to save one question...grazing on WMAs...since there were so many people already chiming in on the other issues.

So right at the end there was about 5 minutes left and I raised my hand...Ron allowed me to ask my question..."To the DNR, Mr Walsh...I have a question in regards to the management of the WMAs and what they are being managed for. We are seeing A LOT of WMAs being grazed as part of management and there is a lot of concern from the people that paid for these WMAs and the people that use these WMAs, primarily pheasant and deer hunters, that show up this fall to see a pasture. It is known that grazing is a management tool for managing prairie for more diversity and more simulate what the buffalo did. This is great for bob-o-links, butterflies and other non-game species, but it is not good for pheasants and deer, which the primary user and people that paid for the purchase of these WMAs want out there. Also, the rural economies depend on these pheasant and deer hunters to come out and spend money in our communities...but they are not coming out any more because the WMAs are not being managed for these species. Can you tell us what the WMAs are being managed for and what the grazing is for?"

There was a big smile from Mr. Walsh and a long pause. He then started giving his long political answer about how grazing benefits the prairie and how grazing removes woody vegetation, etc., etc...same thing we hear when we ask the tough question. He was kinda stuttering along and not knowing exactly what to say...so I stopped him and said..."but all of that does not benefit pheasants and deer, which the people that paid for the land and primarily use it want to see out there...pheasants and deer don't do well in diverse prairie...it doesn't provide winter cover and food to get the wildlife through the winter!"

He smiled again and was trying to think of something to say...then he said..."pheasants and deer to benefit from the prairie". I said..."maybe the 5 or 10 lucky ones that made it through the winter, other than that it does not manage them to their highest potential".

Dennis Anderson then chimed in expressed that they tax payers paid for $600,000 worth of fencing for these "pastures" and also asked what the DNR was managing for.

The DNR guy then admitted that the push was for diverse prairies and the management directive is for management to have more diverse prairies.

So there you have it...the DNR "is" managing many of the WMAs in central and southern MN for diverse native prairies, not for pheasants and deer. Although there there will be some pheasants and deer on these WMAs, without the good winter cover and good food sources, you will see only mediocre pheasants and deer. If we have a string of mild winters, then you will see more...but one harsh MN winter and it will be right back down.

My perception is that there is a minority group of people at the top that are prairie preservationists, special interest, and they are making the decisions. Only thing that will change it is to continue asking the tough questions, holding them accountable and contacting all of the representatives you can.

Just to clarify...I am NOT against having diverse prairie. I am just against managing for one objective. There is no reason what so ever that there can't be some good winter woody cover developed on each WMA along with good food sources...along with some good diverse native prairie as well. To manage the entire WMA for diverse prairie with only one goal and objective in mind is ridiculous. Cutting down all of the shrubs and conifers is ridiculous. Not having any winter cover and food for pheasants and deer is ridiculous. IMO, the DNR's objectives are very one sided and very self serving with no regard to who's money purchased these WMAs and who the primary users are as well as the disregard for the economic benefit that pheasant and deer hunting bring into our already economically stressed communities.

I think you will start seeing a lot more on this...especially this fall when hunters show up to their favorite "pasture" to hunt in.

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candiru

"Dennis Anderson then chimed in expressed that they tax payers paid for $600,000 worth of fencing for these "pastures" and also asked what the DNR was managing for."

Can we assume that the $600,000 was legacy money? If so it seems like they are using it to hose hunters.

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Landdr

I am guessing you may have started or worked for PLM?? Based on your location and number of acres you talked about. Back in the late 80s when I started hunting pheasants seriously we hunted Pope county mainly. Had some great hunting until 92 or 93 when it got really wet out there. Some of the WPAs had great grassland cover before the brome and other less beneficial grasses came in. Last time I hunted one of my favorite large WPAs S of Terrace the USFWS had the trees and brush, even native brush along the edges of large sloughs cut down. It was hard to get bearings on where I was and patches of cover that produced birds.

I was a forester and if I had a logger make ruts like they did along the slough I would have stopped it and myself and the logger would have been taken to the woodshed.

You are correct as you have to be VERY SPECIFIC on the questions you ask and how you phrase the questions. The message is very controlled and few are allowed to speak on it as a DNR manager. MPLS Star Tribune excellent articles on "Plowing Up the Prairie at a Price" and another article on how MN is losing and polluting aquifers is quite compelling. A well known DNR wildlife manager commented on what is happening on the prairie (in regards to the ag boom) and did NOT identify himself as a DNR wildlife manager-only as a wildlife biologist or manager

Facts and the Truth DO MATTER. As you say-The DNR tells us that the farmer pays to fence. We ask? Do they pay for only the property line fence (between public and private land) Do they pay or do we pay for internal (all public land) fences. How much do they pay? Do they get reimbursed? How do they get reimbursed? And so on.

I think predation around 200 feet of individual trees may very well be a factor. The question is what species are you concerned about being preyed upon?

I also think that the goals-specifically the combination of grasses and forbs, shrubs,and animal species that depend on those specific needs on the different prairie landforms we have, is unobtainable for a variety of reasons, the most obvious is the destruction and degradation of all prairie land ecosystems in MN.

Why do I say that? Sharptail grouse. For a while it was the holy grail of recovery efforts in MN. Forestry was taken to task by wildlife for putting out fires and planting trees within their native ranges. Yet in spite of a very active and intensive effort through prescribed burning, shearing, brush chopping etc, those local populations are staying small and remnant. And I would venture to say the reason why is when those adjacent lands, and lands that came back through forfeiture do not have small grain fields which helped populations climb, and that the surrounding areas became too developed to help support sharptails as well. A lot of effort, with few results, and not enough thinking with all affected DNR managers at all levels and divisions before acting. AND lets try this on a small scale and monitor it for 10 years before we decide to act or not act any further. Been to Itasca Park since they began prescribed burning in a big way in the 90s? Lots of PR about bringing fire- a natural management tool back to the landscape. I detested what they did as I think they were killing way too many of the large pine trees from the burns and more importantly after 5 years no pine regeneration-from natural seeding-was showing up and should have been. The burning continued on for a total of 10 years or so before someone finally wised up and pulled the plug.

I am happy to know of a DNR Parks resource manager-for several parks in a region of MN-who has done logging along with other "radical" tools in land management in the parks she works on. I asked her why she chose logging when it had been so ostracized in DNR parks. her answer was "I will never rule out using any of the tools in my toolbox"

That is the right answer.

Dan

Landdr was the forum at Game fair recorded and if so how and where can I watch it?

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LandDr

Me...I understand that staff have to "tow the line" even though they may not agree. You have to...otherwise you don't move up. Or do you have to? :-) May be a death sentence speaking up.

You are right in the predation of "what species". The research gets used to fit their agenda...ie, if they are managing for prairie species, rather than pheasants and deer.

I remember the sharptail grouse agenda. There is also the prairie chicken agenda that destroyed hundreds and hundreds of acres of winter woody cover for pheasants and deer mostly through the LQP refuge area but extended out to a lot of other WMA\WPAs. How much money does Prairie Chicken hunting bring into our local economies?

It's really enough to pull our hair out and many of us don't have much hair left.

I am sure someone recorded it but I wouldn't know who...maybe someone from GF, Outdoor News or it seemed like there was a gal from the Soybeans people with the farmer that might have had a recorder. You could ask Ron Shara or some of the other media that was there. I am sure you will see an article on it in the next issues.

Candiru...I am not certain, but Dennis Anderson did make the comment that the funds came from Legacy Money so that would be a good place to start tracking it down...part of the sales tax increase that a lot of pheasant and deer hunters voted for. My first guess would be that it is part of the "Accelerated Prairie Grant" through the Legacy Money that the DNR received...but they received two or three other grants through Legacy that could also be tied in.

Thanks for the comments

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Snag

Pheasants are non native, so that in itself hurts us. Just imagine if they were native to Minnesota. We could spend a ton of money on them.

I would be surprised if they bring in any money from the grazing. I'm sure they want citizens to go hide under a rock.

I personally went to a WMA last year that was grazed and it looked like a football field. Last year was an emergency situation, this year it was too wet???

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B. Amish

why no mention of waterfowl? why just beat your drums to pheasants and deer? more acres were probably purchased with duck dollars than deer or pheasants. duck stamp has been around much much longer.

it wasn't too long ago that most hunters were extremely outraged over prescribed fires and burning up all the nests. i see rx grazing and haying the same way. it will take time but people will see the results and start to understand the need for it.

after you've seen these football fields, have you gone back to look and see what they look like the next year?

the tallgrass prairie is the most endangered ecosystem in north amercia. could you imagine if we lost 9,900 of our 10,000 lakes (99% loss same as the prairie) and managed the last 100 lakes for carp (ie non native pheasant) and sunfish (is deer that do well in just about any kind of habitat)?

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harvey lee

I wonder who plowed up all the prairie grasses?

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rundrave

it wasn't too long ago that most hunters were extremely outraged over prescribed fires and burning up all the nests. i see rx grazing and haying the same way. it will take time but people will see the results and start to understand the need for it.

after you've seen these football fields, have you gone back to look and see what they look like the next year?

if you go back and re-read the posts many of us are not against efforts to manage the WMA's etc, but is has to be part of a maintenance plan not an emergency effort.

Pheasants, ducks, grouse, deer etc I don't care who hunts it or what they hunt for. At the end of the day the hunting licenses/stamps etc pay for the WMA's and they need to be utilized by hunters and not an emergency effort to feed PRIVATELY owned livestock.

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LandDr

Duck stamps are FEDERAL...USFW gets the federal dollars and some of that is used for purchase of WPAs. That is the arguement that USFW always uses when we ask if we can put some food plots or winter woody cover..."These properties were purchased with duck stamp dollars so the priority is ducks". I get tired of that "one focuse one priority" management as well when so much could be done to manage for all wildlife. But it is true that it was purchased with duck stamp dollars so we lose that arguement every time.

WMAs were not purchased with duck stamp dollars...but rather with MN licenses and tax payer dollars.

Amish...have you seen what they look like the next year? I have. The Sedan WMA has not been grazed now for a year or two...I would definitely not call it pheasant or deer cover! To me...it REALLY looks like it needs a "burn".

Don't confuse burning with grazing...two different management tools and completely two different results.

I agree with not using them for emergency grazing...but grazing even in other years is very questionable if it is for managing for pheasants and deer. That is why we are having this conversation. Grazing is a tool for higher diversity and prairie "preservation"...not for pheasant and deer habitat development. More diverse prairie or more pheasants and deer...it's one or the other because you can't have both...unless the prairie people are willing to compromise and allow the development of some winter woody cover and food plot areas on each WMA as well.

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123fish

Question... how long will a grazed WMA take to return to it's former condition once the cows are pulled based on normal growing conditions?

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B. Amish

Duck stamps are FEDERAL...

there is a state duck stamp too. maybe you've bought one before?

yes, i've seen prairies after being grazed. graze, burn, hay, drought too. they all do different things and should be used in conjunction whenever possible.

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B. Amish

if you go back and re-read the posts many of us are not against efforts to manage the WMA's etc, but is has to be part of a maintenance plan not an emergency effort.

yes, if you go back and re-read the posts, i said the same thing a couple times.

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CaptainMusky

Pheasants, ducks, grouse, deer etc I don't care who hunts it or what they hunt for. At the end of the day the hunting licenses/stamps etc pay for the WMA's and they need to be utilized by hunters and not an emergency effort to feed PRIVATELY owned livestock.
Agreed 100%. I guess I dont have a problem with WPA's being managed for ducks, because that was the reason they were purchased in the first place. WMA's on the other hand should focus on deer and pheasants in that regard.

I particularly liked the email reply the person received when asking someone at the DNR if the farmer has to pay for grazing, I will paraphrase "yes, they pay OR they can choose to control weeds, etc...."

OK, so said farmer chooses to control weeds on his land in exchange for having his cattle graze on public land? Major problem with that.

If they wouldnt tile every square inch or turn their set aside back into row crops they could have "emergency grazing" there.

This whole ethanol boom has caused a major cost to each and every one of us at the hands of the government mandating it. As a business owner (the farmer) would obviously want to get every square inch of land to get the most production.

If the federal government took a long hard look at the dollars being spent toward these subsidies (ethanol) we could certainly have a farm bill that would allow for thousands of additional set aside acres to be enrolled in CRP benefitting wildlife and water quality. But no, they will just cram this ethanol dump down our throat and we will choke on it.

News flash, you can make ethanol from Native grasses. Government put the money toward THAT instead of corn based. Native grasses regenerate, corn does NOT!

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Well I think we were all pretty gullible to the hype and marketing of Ethanol-remember how we were going to reduce our need for foreign oil-particularly in the mid east? At the time we were already getting most of our foreign oil from Canada, Mexico, Venezuela. And corn was already something we knew how to grow and get ethanol out of. The government alone didn't shove it down our throats, Ag giants, farmers and assns, farm equipment manufacturers etc etc etc actively promoted it as did car makers and we are suckers for anyone who uses the flag and patriotism to promote their agenda. How many people actually burn E85? Thats why Ethanol continues to push for a higher mandate than 15%.

Ask your local wildlife manager for maps of WMAs open to haying and grazing this season, and ask to see the management plans for all of their WMAs that they want to graze and hay. Ask if on their website if the public sites have the shape files loaded for overlays on WMAs for the grazing and hayed areas and if the management plans are on the public site as well. If nothing else, if in fact that is available at least we'll be able to see if some of our stomping grounds are being abused before we hit the road.

Dan

I think the chink in the armor is the funding sources. We have pheasant stamps, waterfowl stamps, hunting licenses, legacy money, etc etc and they may be quite specific in desired outcomes.

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snapcrackpop

I think an important distinction is the difference between crop farmers and livestock farmers.

the crop farmers are making piles of money and guaranteed a break even.

I don't think the same can be said for the livestock farmers.

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BobT

Quote:
remember how we were going to reduce our need for foreign oil-particularly in the mid east?

The only way this can happen is if we completely eliminate all foreign sources of fuel of any type.

Suppose we suddenly chose to buy all of our oil from Canada. Canada would be forced to drop other customers in order to supply us unless they could somehow increase production. Those customers in turn will have to buy their oil from somewhere else and on down the line until they fill the void we created in the middle east. It all comes out of the same virtual bucket.

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Hi Bob T

I agree that with the ever expanding demand for oil, especially in highly populated countries with powerful expanding economies, that the demand taps all markets wherever the source countries are.

All I was pointing out was the fact that during the hype promoting Ethanol it was reducing our dependence on foreign oil, which suggested subtlety or not oil from the mid east, which was not true since US was getting it from mainly Canada Mexico Caribbean nations.

That helped create blind support for ethanol.

Dan

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BobT

Hi Bob T

I agree that with the ever expanding demand for oil, especially in highly populated countries with powerful expanding economies, that the demand taps all markets wherever the source countries are.

All I was pointing out was the fact that during the hype promoting Ethanol it was reducing our dependence on foreign oil, which suggested subtlety or not oil from the mid east, which was not true since US was getting it from mainly Canada Mexico Caribbean nations.

That helped create blind support for ethanol.

Dan

Agreed. I wasn't posting a counter argument but actually agreeing with you that it was and is hype, which is true with almost everything lately it seems. Nobody really cares to dig and find the truth. We are more interested in supporting our own agendas.

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