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Ducks Unlimited to oversee projects on newest designated wildlife management lakes

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Jennie Lake in Douglas County and Smith Lake in Wright County have become Minnesota’s newest Designated Wildlife Management Lakes, boosting the number of designated lakes to 42.

Jennie Lake, a 316-acre lake south of Evansville, and Smith Lake, a 330-acre lake just west of Howard Lake, are important waterfowl lakes in their respective parts of the state. Their new designation gives the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) authority to manage water levels to benefit habitat, waterfowl and wildlife.

“While all lakes support wildlife needs, it is the shallow water zone that provides the most important wildlife habitat,” said Dennis Simon, DNR wildlife section chief. “Adding these two lakes as Designated Wildlife Management Lakes allows us to improve water quality and restore habitat so these areas attract waterfowl, wildlife and people who enjoy outdoor activities.”

Minnesota has more than 5,000 shallow lakes larger than 50 acres. These lakes are typically less than 15 feet deep and dominated by wetland habitat.

Habitat improvement projects on Jennie and Smith lakes are among the first year of projects recommended for funding by the Lessard-Sams Outdoors Heritage Council. Ducks Unlimited, working closely with DNR, will oversee projects on both lakes as part of its effort to structurally enhance 18 shallow lakes totaling about 12,000 acres of wetlands. Local organizations contributing to the projects include the Chippewa River Watershed Project, Evansville Area Sportsmen and Viking Sportsmen.

A $75,000 grant to DU from funding made available by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act also will help fund the Jennie Lake project.

“We’re glad to partner with the DNR to improve and enhance habitat and the wildlife these lakes can support,” said Ryan Heiniger, Duck Unlimited director of conservation programs in Minnesota and Iowa. “Designated wildlife management lakes remain a critical habitat component for Minnesota waterfowl and wildlife.”

Both lakes currently have poor water quality and poor waterfowl habitat. This status is typically the result of altered watersheds, intensive agriculture and the introduction of exotic species.

In the years ahead, project partners will install new water control structures at the lake outlets. Once the outlet structures are in place and conditions allow, lake levels will be temporarily lowered. These draw-downs, which mimic past natural drought cycles on these lakes, increase the likelihood of winterkill of undesirable fish and promote the re-establishment of aquatic vegetation, greatly enhancing wildlife and waterfowl habitat.

Active management of these shallow lakes is an integral part of several conservation and management plans, including Minnesota’s Long Range Duck Recovery Plan and Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes Initiative. Habitat and management work conducted as part of these plans is designed to enhance waterfowl habitat, increase waterfowl populations, and provide more opportunities for waterfowl hunters and birders.

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