It has been a great week from a weather standpoint, and I have tried to be outside every evening. How often do you get a 75-degree high in late July?
For part of those evenings I was Ranger-riding around the county looking for wildlife. Most of the wildlife in Nobles County is on or near many of the citizen-owned lands.
There are many different kinds of citizen-owned lands but, in our area, they fall under two primary categories. They are wildlife management areas and waterfowl production areas. I thought I would take this space to help my readers understand the distinct difference between these two similar-looking properties.
Wildlife management areas are citizen-owned lands that are located within the boundaries of the state of Minnesota. They are managed by the Minnesota DNR. Waterfowl production areas exist all over North America and are managed by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. So, WMAs are state properties and WPAs are federal properties.
A big myth is that these areas don’t pay any taxes. The myth has been repeated tens of thousands of times by folks who wished there were no citizen-owned acres anywhere in North America. This misconception, or lie, depending on who is telling it, has been repeated so many times that there is a large percentage of the population that now actually believes it.
Here are the facts of the matter.
Taxes are paid from the general fund each year to the county where a WMA is located. These dollars are called payment in lieu of taxes. It is paid at three-fourths of one percent of the appraised value for the first five years and reappraised by the county assessor at each five-year period that follows.
In the 35 projects that I have been involved with over the past 35 years, the payment in lieu of taxes runs anywhere from 9 percent to 125 percent higher than the taxes paid by the private person seller. I have the facts to back it up.
Waterfowl production areas also pay the equivalent of taxes, but they are called by different names. There is a large up-front lump sum payment made to the county and then smaller annual payments called refuge revenue sharing. The county is ahead of the game for approximately the first 18 years and then receives a slightly smaller amount for the years that follow. I have the facts to back it up.
So, these citizen-owned lands pay taxes, which is a similarity, but they are managed quite differently for wildlife purposes. WMAs are managed for all wildlife. That includes waterfowl, pheasants, deer, and furbearers. The areas include grasslands, wetlands, trees and other winter cover for wildlife.
WPAs are managed strictly for waterfowl. As ducks and geese don’t winter here, they don’t need thermal winter cover like non-migrating species do. It means that trees, for the most part, are not allowed on WPAs and are removed when they try to take root. Wetlands are almost always associated with WPAs but not always on WMAs.
Currently, you can hunt with lead shot on lands managed by the state but you need non-toxic shot like steel or bismuth shot to hunt on WPAs. Pond-feeding ducks can ingest lead shot and die. Non-toxic shot passes through with no ill effects.
You can use both of these lands for many purposes. Hunting, photography, hiking and birdwatching are common activities. You don’t need to pay a fee to walk on or use the spots.
Pretty nice, don’t you think? Waterfowl hunters do need a state and federal duck stamp to hunt ducks and geese on either of these two kinds of citizen-owned lands.
We are blessed to have a great citizen-owned lands system in Minnesota. We are the envy of many other states.
Take an afternoon and visit these gems of the prairie. The deer fawns are out in good numbers. Now is the best time to go see them. Winter will be here soon enough.