Throughout a century of development, humans have slowly turned southern Minnesota's landscape into less waterfowl-friendly territory.

The vital Prairie Pothole Region is crucial to migrating and breeding ducks, but less than 10 percent of historic wetlands, and less than 1 percent of native prairies, remain in that part of the state.

"It's pretty critical we do as much work as possible in this area," said Kassy Hendricks, Ducks Unlimited biologist in Minnesota. "It's like putting a difficult puzzle back together. But when you see the different waterfowl moving through here each spring and fall, it puts it all into perspective."

Three projects in 2017 protected or restored 100 acres of wetlands and more than 200 acres of grasslands on the landscape. The projects were funded through a 2016 Outdoor Heritage Fund appropriation as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

Ducks Unlimited restored a new 155-acre tract on Perch Creek Wildlife Management Area in Martin County. Ducks Unlimited removed sediment, plugged ditches, removed a pump, broke drain tile and reseeded the area with native plants. The results are nearly 23 acres of protected and restored wetlands and 132 acres of protected and restored grasslands and wet meadows. Not only will this project benefit breeding waterfowl, it will provide valuable nesting and wintering habitat for threatened Blanding's turtles in nearby Perch Creek.

Following the installation of a water-control structure in 2010 and successful drawdown of Hurricane Lake in Cottonwood County, focus shifted to expanding the existing Hurricane Lake Wildlife Management Area to buffer the lake. Ducks Unlimited acquired 95 acres of land containing more than 1,500 feet of shoreline and permanently protected and restored 64 acres of wetlands and 31 acres of grassland.

Ducks Unlimited helped acquire a 59-acre parcel at Stokman Wildlife Management Area south of Mankato. The project resulted in the restoration of 13 acres of wetlands and 46 acres of upland prairies.

Hendricks said Ducks Unlimited tries to work near existing wetland complexes, to expand on food and breeding grounds. DU works with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and willing landowners to buy land and transfer it to the state for management.