ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) —The Department of Natural Resources has decided against opening more of Minnesota’s Scenic and Natural Areas to hunting and trapping, citing heavy public opposition in its announcement Tuesday.
The DNR said it won’t loosen hunting restrictions in the 10 of the 159 areas that were up for review this year. And it has dropped similar plans to review other areas next year.
The areas are protected because they contain rare native plants and undisturbed shorelines. The state agency had hoped that opening the natural areas to hunting, trapping and dog walking might help boost public support and funding, which has declined in recent years.
Steve Hirsch, director of the DNR’s Ecological and Water Resources Division, said the opposition led the agency to reconsider.
“We certainly have to take a pause now,” Hirsch said.
However, the DNR said it does plan to open the Lake Alexander Woods SNA in Morrison County to deer hunting without a special permit. The DNR said it also plans to allow dogs on leashes at Minnesota Point Pine Forest SNA in Duluth, consistent with a city ordinance. The DNR will take public comments on those two proposals until Sept. 2.
SNAs originated in the early 1970s to preserve pieces of the state’s natural heritage. Minnesota now has about 189,000 acres of SNA lands, 90 percent of which are open to some form of hunting, trapping or fishing. But on the parcels that are still protected, only the lightest human touch is permitted. Camping, picnicking and swimming are not allowed, for example. Visitors can’t walk dogs or pick berries in them either.
This DNR held public hearings this spring on proposed activities at the 10 SNAs. The DNR received 123 written comments, mostly opposed to the proposed changes.
“The process worked as intended,” Peggy Booth, the DNR’s SNA program supervisor, said in a statement. “We thought the proposed changes could provide public benefits while still protecting the natural resources, but we asked for input and most people told us they didn’t want changes in these areas.”
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