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Acreage will become new state wildlife area

By Jeffrey Pieters

jpieters@postbulletin.com

Olmsted County’s 12th state Wildlife Management Area will be 491 acres of forest and fields in Rock Dell Township.

The land, owned and cared for since the early 1970s by Mayo Clinic Dr. Donald H. Nelson, could be in the state’s hands by this fall’s deer season.

The purchase would culminate about a decade’s worth of periodic talks and negotation, said Don Nelson, area wildlife supervisor for the state Department of Natural Resources. (He and Dr. Nelson are not related.)

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The property centers around Olmsted County Road 3 immediately north of Rock Dell, in southwestern Olmsted County, and includes about two miles of the Zumbro River running through it.

As a state Wildlife Management Area, it would be opened to hunting, fishing, hiking, berry picking and mushroom picking, the DNR’s Nelson said.

"It’s going to be a pretty good place for hunting pheasants and deer," he said. Access would be from County Road 3. Entrances will be marked with signs, and parking eventually will be added.

Dr. Nelson, who is retired and lives in Northfield, Minn., planted many trees and kept weeds mowed at the property, the DNR’s Nelson said. He described the land as "is in wonderful shape."

The DNR would acquire the property with conditions set by the Minnesota Land Trust. The conditions prohibit development or legally dividing or subdividing the land. None of it could be converted to cropland unless part of a wildlife management plan. And a buffer must be preserved along the river.

That’s not a problem, the DNR’s Nelson said.

The land will be appraised within the next two months, and then a price will be negotiated, Nelson said.

The purchase received the blessing of the Olmsted County Board on Tuesday. Nelson presented information about the purchase to the Rock Dell Township Board in May.

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The town board can probably expect a comparable amount of tax revenue from the property after the purchase, Nelson said. The DNR makes payments in lieu of taxes to local governments with calculations based on property appraisals. It’s not known yet whether or how the conservation easement on the property might affect its value.

The DNR does expect to pay less for the land than it’s worth, but that’s because the purchase will be subsidized by a matching contribution from the Trust for Public Land.

"This will be a bargain sale to us," the DNR’s Nelson said.

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