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USFW looks to restore habitat on Root River

Federal wildlife officials are seeking public input on a plan to restore and enhance habitat on 825 acres of Minnesota land along the Root River in Houston County.

Managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as part of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge, the Root River Tract sits to the east of Hwy. 26 between La Crescent and Brownsville.

The site includes 664 acres of hunting and farmland purchased in 2009 with money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Under the previous owner, National Decorative Products, the land was managed for private hunting of pheasant and waterfowl as well as some agricultural uses, said Tim Miller, La Crosse District manager for the refuge.

A network of dikes, ditches and drainage pipes are now failing or deteriorating, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service, which is proposing to remove some of the dikes and restore the natural topography and drainage patterns.


Fish and Wildlife estimates the habitat restoration will cost $400,000 to $500,000, which would be paid for with a grant from Minnesota's Outdoor Heritage Fund.

FWS also considered active and passive drainage systems as well as taking no action.

The tract would remain open to public use under each alternative, although an existing slow-no wake area would more than double in size to encompass 1,634 acres, including most of the Root River Tract.

Fish and Wildlife will host a public meeting on the project at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Hokah Fire Station.

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