New wildlife area dedicated in honor of Jerry Bue

Photos by Deb Gau Retired DNR member Bill Berg shakes hands with Jerry Bue, seated, at the dedication of a new Wildlife Management Area south of Marshall. The WMA is named in honor of Bue and his family, who donated part of the land for the WMA.

LYON COUNTY — There were plenty of reasons to celebrate the dedication of a new Wildlife Management Area in Lyon County. It will protect native grassland plants, provide habitat for pollinating insects, and give people opportunities to hunt and watch wildlife.

But there was one more important reason, said Bill Berg, a retired member of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

“Today’s dedication is really a historical landmark,” Berg said. It honored Marshall resident Jerry Bue, who was one of the 12 original area game managers hired by the Minnesota Department of Conservation. “That’s what makes this dedication today special,” Berg said. Because Bue, 91, is the last surviving member of the “originals,” nothing like it will ever happen again.

Family, friends, and representatives of the DNR gathered around Jerry Bue on Saturday morning for the dedication of a new Wildlife Management Area. “Bue-tiful Acres” WMA includes a total of 167 acres of land in Lake Marshall and Sodus Townships. Part of the property, which was donated by Bue and his family, includes grassland that was in the Reinvest in Minnesota program. Other portions of the WMA are being purchased from the Bue family by the DNR.

Bue said the idea to leave land for conservation was “something that had been in my mind for about 10 years.”

Bue said it was good to see that plan come to fruition.

“It looks real good right now,” he said of the new WMA.

The creation of Bue-tiful Acres WMA will be positive for both public recreation and conservation, said Wendy Krueger, Marshall area wildlife manager. The new WMA includes 62 acres of native prairie pasture.

“You just don’t find that much anymore,” Krueger said.

Krueger said Bue-tiful Acres has “good wildlife potential,” and will be open to the public for hunting this fall.

Speakers at the dedication ceremony talked about their memories of Bue, and the history of the Minnesota DNR. The Minnesota Department of Conservation — the agency that would later become the DNR — hired its first area game managers in the late 1940s, Berg said. Those 12 “originals” did important work fighting to protect wildlife and preserve important habitat like wetlands, he said.

“Their other name was ‘the Dirty Dozen,’ because they got in trouble sometimes,” Berg joked. “They were kind of my heroes.”

Bue said there were some parts of his career as a game manager that were really enjoyable.

“I got in on a lot of the flying” to do wildlife surveys, Bue said. From the air, game managers would look for waterfowl and muskrat houses. Bue said he was even able to take part in surveys looking for larger animals like moose, that were done around the state.

In 1951, Bue’s work as a game manager also meant following up on an unusual report. That year, large paw prints — possibly those of a mountain lion — were found in the snow on farmland near Ghent. Plaster casts of the tracks, as well as copies of wildlife reports Bue worked on, were on display at a table during the dedication Saturday.

Bue said he also experienced some disappointments. Conservationists’ efforts to save Minnesota wetlands from being drained weren’t always successful.

“The drainage going on at that time was very disheartening to me,” he said.

While some things about Minnesota conservation efforts have changed over the years, the regional model set by the 12 original game managers continues today, said Dave Trauba, regional wildlife manager at the New Ulm office of the DNR.

Krueger said conservation work will continue at Bue-tiful Acres. The DNR is in the process of doing some prairie restoration work on part of the property, and there are also plans to fix an existing dike that holds water for a pond. The plan is to work with local farmers to graze cattle on a different section of the WMA each year.

Speakers thanked Bue and his family for contributing land for the new WMA.

“Without their generous donation of this spot, we wouldn’t be here today,” Krueger said.

Minnesotans are blessed with an inheritance of wildlife and natural resources, Trauba said. “We owe it to future generations to protect that inheritance.”