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DNR habitat project planned near Marshall

MARSHALL — Work to remove some trees and brush from two wildlife management areas near Marshall is planned to start in March, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said this week.

A habitat restoration project at the Clifton and Rolling Hills WMAs east of Marshall will take place over a two-year period.

The project will improve the grassland ecosystem, as well as nesting habitat for birds like pheasants and waterfowl, said assistant area wildlife manager Troy Dale.

Contractors will be doing strategic tree and brush removals at each of the two WMAs.

“We’d like to let people know we’re not trying to cut down every tree on the landscape,” Dale said. There was still a place for trees, where they fit into the landscape, he said.

“The majority (of the project) is scattered trees,” Dale said. The DNR plans to remove non-native tree species like Russian olive and Siberian elm. There are also areas of buckthorn that will be removed, Dale said.

In 2017, wildlife staff planted a 5.5-acre area in the WMAs with native shrubs and trees to help benefit wildlife like birds and deer.

The trees and brush that will be cut down will be stump treated, piled and burned, the DNR said. Dale said the two-year project window will allow time to find invasive trees that might have been missed earlier, especially in more wooded areas.

The project will affect about 385 acres of land spread across the two WMAs, Dale said. The Clifton WMA and the Rolling Hills WMA are two separate wildlife areas located next to each other across 270th Street in rural Marshall. Together, the two WMAs total about 738 acres, he said.

Dale said the habitat project includes guidelines for contractors to help protect the land and wildlife. For example, contractors will not be able to use equipment on the site during the primary nesting season. Tree cutting will also be limited to avoid conflicts with the firearms deer hunting season and the early fall pheasant season, he said. WMAs are open to the public, and offer opportunities for hunting.

The habitat project at the Clifton and Rolling Hills WMAs is being done in partnership with Pheasants Forever’s Enhanced Public Lands program and the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

People with questions about the habitat project can contact the Marshall area DNR wildlife office at 507-706-6170, or email troy.dale@state.mn.us.

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