OUTDOORS: Wetlands of all types needed for nesting successWORTHINGTON — If you are a parent, you have no doubt asked your child at one time or another what he or she learned in school on a particular day. If you were lucky, they could spout out at least one thing.
By: Scott Rall, Worthington Daily Globe
WORTHINGTON — If you are a parent, you have no doubt asked your child at one time or another what he or she learned in school on a particular day. If you were lucky, they could spout out at least one thing.
When I got home from my Lessard-Sams meeting Thursday afternoon, my wife asked me what I had learned that day. I was filled with way more than just one bit of knowledge.
The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council was in town for the past two days and had meetings in Worthington and Heron Lake. These were the very best attended public meetings that the council has had since its inception two years ago, and that makes me very proud of the fact that the residents of southwest Minnesota really care about the condition of their wildlife habitat.
As part of the meeting, the council also toured several different sites that had been purchased with the proceeds of last year’s funding. I went with about 15 people to a recently purchased tract of land in Cottonwood County, which the local chapter of Pheasants Forever had just closed on. It was a 320-acre parcel that was currently enrolled in the CRP farm program and the entire property had great vegetative cover for all sorts of wildlife.
As with almost all of the farms in this part of the state, it had a fair amount of field tile that had been installed to drain the numerous wetlands that were located within its boundaries. This was, and is still, a practice used extensively to improve drainage and, subsequently, the productivity of the soil. The interesting fact about this was that the tile that was installed on this farm was dug in by hand in about 1910. Can you imagine digging a trench, four feet deep, by hand, for literally miles?
One of the restoration efforts that will be undertaken is to locate and destruct the tile. This will involve digging up and removing the tile for a distance of at least 100 feet. This will allow the water to again pool in these shallow areas and provide the necessary elements needed to effectively raise waterfowl. Finding the tile is no easy task, as there were no maps made to show its location for those who want to know more than 100 years later.
The slow process is accomplished with the use of a steel rod with a handle on the top. A person will push the rod into the ground to see if it hits anything solid. If no contact is made, the rod is raised and inserted again several inches from the first and this goes on until contact is made. The process on this site to locate all of the tile could take many, many man hours.
As part of a demonstration, the biologist from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used an implement that when, with great effort, is driven into the soil and removes a core of sediment about 24 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. When the core was examined, it showed the different soil types and after a little investigation gave the biologist an idea of how long the wetland would hold water. Wetlands are divided into several different types based on many factors. A Type I wetland will be very wet in the spring but will not hold water all summer long.
Other wetlands with different soils can hold water all summer. I assumed wetlands that held water longer would be more desirable, but I was a little off track with that way of thinking. It was explained to the group that Type I wetlands that only hold water for a short time are equally as important as those that hold water longer.
Type I wetlands are the shallowest. This means they warm up the fastest and are the first ones to develop the insect community that nesting ducks really need in preparation for their nesting efforts. Without Type I wetlands, ducks will be in a poorer body condition and less successful in their nesting efforts. So wetlands that are wet in the spring and dry by mid-summer are still critical in the waterfowl landscape.
The parcel of property in Cottonwood County will be added to the Waterfowl Production Area system that is operated by the federal government. If the service had tried to purchase this property on its own, it would have taken them about two to three years to accomplish it. The Pheasants Forever chapter, with Tom Hansen as its president, was able to complete the same transaction in seven months. They will now hold the property and wait patiently until the transfer process to the USFWS can be completed.
There should be a big “atta boy” to this chapter for its efforts on behalf of Cottonwood County wildlife. Without their work, this parcel would most likely have gone back under the plow and a vital, pristine piece of southwest Minnesota habitat would have been lost.
This was a great example of the work being done with proceeds of the Outdoor Heritage Fund. This fund was created with the passage of the dedicated funding amendment in 2008. The goal of the fund is to make measurable and lasting improvements to game, fish and wildlife habitats across the state. With 25 years of funding, it is the hope of all sportsmen and conservationists that southwest Minnesota might again be a place in which waterfowl can reproduce and thrive in. When that happens, it will go a long way to continuing our outdoor heritage that so many Minnesotans hold dear.
I saw the efforts of the first year’s funding and look forward to more progress and success in your and my backyard. The more I learn about wetlands, the more I understand why they are so critical. I learned a lot Thursday and can say that I am looking forward to more days like the one I had.