160-acre enhancement begins at Caron WMA

DU, partners invest $700,000 on public wildlife area

© Fox Lake Conservation League

SHERBURN, Minnesota – Aug. 23, 2021 – Construction is underway to enhance 160 acres in four wetlands on the Caron Wildlife Management Area (WMA) north of Sherburn in Martin County.

The project features three new water-control structures designed to improve water levels in four large Prairie Pothole wetlands and provide the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) with better management capability.

The project will result in improved wetland water levels, clean water and increased wildlife use. The Caron WMA is public land open for public use, including hunting, hiking, bird watching and other forms of outdoor recreation. The WMA provides important breeding habitat for mallards, blue-winged teal and wood ducks, and is an important public hunting area for waterfowl and other game species in southern Minnesota.

Ducks Unlimited (DU) is engineering and paying for the $700,000 project through a partnership with the Minnesota DNR and the Fox Lake Conservation League based in Sherburn. Financial support is provided to DU through a 2021 state appropriation from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council for shallow lake and wetland enhancements throughout the state. Additional funding is provided by major donors to Ducks Unlimited’s Living Lakes Initiative, launched in 2004 to improve shallow lakes and wetlands in Minnesota and Iowa.

DU first constructed the original water infrastructure at Caron WMA decades ago and structure designs and materials have since been improved. The FLCL and Minnesota DNR have acquired additional public land around Caron WMA to allow for improved water-control structures and management.

Ducks Unlimited engineers designed the new structures and solicited competitive quotes for the work. Brunz Construction of Madison Lake, is the low-bid contractor selected for the job, which will begin this week. Construction will be managed by DU engineering staff and will be completed early this fall. The Minnesota DNR will use the structures to retain and manage water in the wetlands to benefit waterfowl, other wildlife and the public.

“Most wetlands in southern Minnesota have been drained and these wetlands on public land are too valuable to ignore,” said John Lindstrom, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist in Minnesota. “Improving these wetlands to provide better wildlife habitat is something local residents can be proud of and will enjoy for years to come.” 

Lindstrom said the project is large, complicated and expensive, and required strong support from local stakeholders and philanthropic supporters to leverage large state appropriations from the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The fund was created in 2008 when Minnesota voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

“Ducks Unlimited relies on strong philanthropic support from our members, fundraising event attendees, volunteers and major donors,” Lindstrom said. “Without their support, we wouldn’t be able to afford to make significant investments on public lands such as these water-control structures at Caron WMA. We greatly appreciate everyone’s support for our wetlands conservation mission”