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Compass Prairie SNA considered for public hunting

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducts a controlled burn on the Compass Prairie SNA in Ransom Township in this April 2010 photo. Submitted Photo

WORTHINGTON — A 19-acre native prairie southwest of Worthington was the subject of a public meeting Tuesday evening as the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) considers changing its public use to allow hunting and trapping.

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The Compass Prairie, located on 290th Street west of Lais Avenue, is considered the largest known prairie remaining in Nobles County. The land slopes toward the Rock River and is home to compass plants, a native species that grows to heights of more than 6 feet and features small, yellow flowers. The plants were once common on the prairies of southwest Minnesota. Locoweed, which produces a mildly toxic substance for livestock, is also found on the site.

Brad Bolduan, DNR Scientific and Natural Area specialist for Region 4 at the Windom DNR office, said surveys done of the site in the 1980s also showed the site was home to the poweshiek skipperling, a butterfly that is a candidate for federal endangered species listing.

“Its population has crashed,” Bolduan said. “It’s thought the butterfly was completely wiped out in Minnesota in the last five years.”

The Compass Prairie was donated to the DNR in 1991 by The Nature Conservancy. Since then, the site has been classified as a Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) open to the public for enjoyment of nature photography or activities that do not impact the natural resource.

Now, the prairie is one of eight sites across the state to be reevaluated in the next two months to consider allowing additional recreational uses.

“You can’t take plants. You can’t geocache,” Bolduan said. “You can just walk around and enjoy nature.”

Compass Prairie SNA has come up for evaluation because, at one time, someone asked that it be considered for other uses such as hunting and trapping.

“It’s part of a bigger effort statewide to look at a significant portion of the state’s SNA’s … to determine if the areas are compatible (for other uses),” Bolduan added.

The Minnesota DNR manages 159 SNAs across the state, totalling approximately 185,000 acres. Compass Prairie is Nobles County’s only designated SNA, and one of less than half a dozen in the six counties of far southwest Minnesota.

“It is a smaller prairie,” Bolduan said, adding that the DNR will continue to manage it with fire regardless of its potential future use.

Les Johnson, a board member for Nobles County Pheasants Forever, was the only attendee for the public hearing. He said he’d like to see the parcel managed for the best of all species.

“Hunting makes no difference on long-term wildlife populations,” Johnson said.

Public comment will remain open on the Compass Prairie SNA through April 9, with comments due to the DNR Windom office on that date. Written comments may be mailed to: Hearing Officer, MN DNR, 175 Co. Road 26, Windom, 56101.

If comments are favorable for opening Compass Prairie for hunting and trapping, Bolduan said a decision could be made as early as May, and the designation for additional uses would be posted prior to the 2014 hunting season.

All comments collected on the matter will be used by Bolduan to create a finding of fact, which is then forwarded to the Minnesota DNR Commissioner for a final decision.

Daily Globe Reporter Julie Buntjer may be reached at 376-7330.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at The Farm Bleat

(507) 376-7330