A draft comprehensive conservation management plan and environmental assessment for more than 84,000 acres of federal land that the state of Minnesota leases in the Beltrami Island State Forest and Red Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA) has been released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
A public open house will be held June 27, from 4-8 p.m., at the DNR's Warroad Area Forestry office, 804 Cherne St. NW. The open house will include a brief presentation, a question-and-answer session, and an opportunity to provide oral or written comments. The formal public review and comment period runs from June 11 to July 26.
Known as Land Utilization Project lands, these lands were designated as the Beltrami WMA by executive order by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1942. The order designates the area "as a refuge and breeding ground for native birds and other wildlife and for research relating to wildlife and associated forest resources."
These lands contain upland coniferous forests, northern hardwood forests, lowland coniferous forests, and wetlands, bogs and brushlands. Important wildlife species include moose, white-tailed deer, black bear, wolf, ruffed and spruce grouse, short-eared owls, other irruptive northern forest owls, yellow rails and sandhill cranes.
The Land Utilization Project lands consist of widely scattered parcels embedded in several DNR conservation land units. Most are in the Beltrami Island State Forest and Red Lake WMA, but some are in Hayes Lake State Park and three peatland scientific and natural areas. The scattered nature of the parcels among DNR conservation units poses some management challenges, because each DNR unit has a different mission. In addition, many of the Land Utilization Project parcels are isolated and unmarked, which creates challenges for managing the public use on these lands differently than adjacent land parcels.
The draft comprehensive conservation management plan and environmental assessment contain three alternatives (Current Management Direction, Manage the Landscape, and Manage by Species). The plan identifies Manage the Landscape as the preferred alternative. The plan does not propose any changes to current off-highway vehicle rules or access routes. It does propose limited land exchanges to consolidate state and federal ownership patterns, and to create some special management areas.
The plan is available for downloading from the project website www.beltramiisland.info; by contacting project consultant Michael North at 218-833-8623 or email@example.com; at public libraries in Baudette, Bemidji, Warroad, Roseau, Thief River Falls, Crookston and East Grand Forks; at DNR offices in Warroad, Baudette, Norris Camp, Bemidji and Brainerd; and at the public open house.
People have several options for commenting:
• Filling out comment form at open house.
• Sending a letter to Michael R. North, DNR, 1601 Minnesota Drive, Brainerd, MN 56401.
• Sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A final comprehensive conservation management plan will be completed and released in the fall.