Hunting and Trapping on River Warren Outcrops SNA
The response from MDNR dated December 5 fails to provide any biological justification as to why trapping and hunting are permitted on River Warren SNA. They base their reasoning on the lack of rare wildlife species on the site, hence in their minds no impacts. SNAs are not just about rare species but also about maintaining ecological processes and relationships. Targeted wildlife species like coyotes, fox, woodchuck and others dig burrows. Burrows are important for a variety of other wildlife species that use them in their life cycle for shelter and other purposes. Reptiles and amphibians are but two examples. The construction of burrows also create small areas of disturbed soil, scattered on a site, that provide locations for plants to become established. Unlike trail disturbances they occur randomly. Removing any species from a site does alter ecological processes on a site.
Friends of MN SNAs from the start did not feel the River Warren site should be an SNA for a couple of reasons beyond the lack of biological justification. First the inclusion of an easement to permit the seller to retain a horse trail corridor through the site is inconsistent with the purposes of SNAs. Wouldn’t everyone like to sell a piece of land to someone else for a couple hundred thousand dollars and yet retain the right to use it for your own purposes? Is this a good use of public funds? Recreational trails, especially horse trails introduce and encourage exotic species through the spreading of seeds in manure. Horse trails disturb the soil and result in erosion to the detriment for which a site is established. This in turn will damage plant species, a number of which are found on the site. Horses also intimidate some users from using a site as does permitting hunting and trapping on an SNA. Another major reason for not supporting the acquisition as an SNA was that the site was to be opened to hunting with no biological justification. MDNRs reasoning was that there was a Wildlife Management Area (WMA) across the river hence the uses on the SNA would be consistent on DNR administered lands. To this point, Friends advocated that the site should become an addition to the existing WMA. MDNR frankly didn’t want it as a WMA since WMA policies don’t permit horse trails! MDNR has also attempted to justify it, as a way to communicate consistency with the public regarding administration of public lands in close proximity to one another. Apparently MDNR feels the public would have trouble following the regulations regarding trapping and hunting? Yet, a number of WMAs have refuges within them where regulations prohibit hunting or trapping. Apparently they feel the public can’t and won’t follow regulations on SNAs yet will continue to do so on WMAs?
Friends of MN SNAs continues to believe that if MDNR wanted to have another site to hunt and trap and not worry about maintaining ecological processes and relationships they should have established the site as a WMA. Friends will continue to advocate that SNAs are one of the unique units of the State Outdoor Recreation system and need to be administered and managed consistent within the spirit of this legislation.