DU restoring Minnesota's iconic prairie potholes

Murray County is a rolling outwash of small wetlands and prairie vegetation.

DU has restored over 130 acres at Badger Lakes Wildlife Management Area.

DU has restored over 130 acres at Badger Lakes Wildlife Management Area.

Prior to human settlement, thousands of migrating waterfowl could rely on a dense supply of wetlands in southwest Minnesota’s Murray County.

Located in the heart of the state’s Prairie Pothole Region, Murray County is a rolling outwash of prairie hills with small wetlands and native prairie vegetation dotting the landscape. Migrating birds used these stepping-stones of habitat each spring and fall to rest, feed and refuel.

Unfortunately, many of these wetlands have been drained and the prairie converted for agriculture. More than 90 percent of Minnesota’s prairie potholes have been lost due to drainage and conversion and more than 99 percent of its prairies have been plowed under or paved over.

DU is acquiring and restoring drained cropland back to wetlands and native prairie grasslands and enhancing shallow lakes by engineering and installing infrastructure that allows conservation agency partners to better manage water levels.

Recent and ongoing projects include:

  • Acquisition and restoration of 137 acres of cropland on Badger Lakes Wildlife Management Area, which resulted 131 acres of prairie and six acres of small wetlands.
  • Acquisition and restoration of 80 acres of cropland on Shetek Wildlife Management Area, which resulted in the restoration of 73 acres of prairie and eight acres of small wetlands.
  • Wetland restoration of 14 acres of wetlands on Buffalo Lake Waterfowl Production Area, including berm construction, sediment removal and seeding.
  • In 2020 DU will enhance Lake Maria with water management infrastructure and a fish barrier.

“Ducks Unlimited supporters are improving Minnesota’s landscape for waterfowl and wildlife, but their commitment reaches deeper,” said Kassy Dumke, Ducks Unlimited biologist in Minnesota. “These public lands are cherished by outdoors enthusiasts, and by local residents who rely on clean water.”