The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association (MDHA) and the Ruffed Grouse Society have agreed to work together to protect forest habitat and possibly partner on hunter recruitment efforts and other ventures.
The two Grand Rapids-based hunting organizations share an interest in similar habitat and already have been working together on a plan to buy thousands of acres of private forest in Cass, Wadena and Hubbard counties. They announced their new partnership this week after signing a memorandum of understanding.
In addition, MDHA said it has hired Joe Duggan as a consultant to tap his extensive experience as a leader of Pheasants Forever. Duggan has been a fundraiser, habitat specialist, organizer of special projects and a nonprofit manager in his many years of conservation work.
“I’m familiar with larger-scale partnerships,’’ Duggan said Tuesday. “Working together is really how thing gets done.’’
Meadow Kouffeld-Hansen, an upland bird biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society, said the first big challenge of the deer-grouse partnership is to complete a plan to buy private forest land from Potlatch Corp. that might otherwise be purchased by corporate farming interests for conversion to potato fields. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency has been watchful of the region’s forest-to-cropland conversions because farm chemicals have the potential to leach through the area’s sandy soils to pollute vast stores of underground drinking water.
Kouffeld-Hansen, Duggan and MDHA Executive Director Craig Engwall said they’re awaiting legislative approval of approximately $5 million in proposed funds that would be used to purchase some 3,500 to 4,000 acres of timberland from Potlatch. Engwall has identified certain tracts that connect to public lands. After purchase, the property would be turned over to county land managers.
The acquisition plan won the backing of the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, which recommends environmental projects for funding out of tax proceeds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.