According to Wikipedia, Meeker County, in west central Minnesota, covers 645 square miles, of which 608 square miles is land.
That converts to 389,120 acres.
When a family wanted to donate 153-acre property in Ellsworth Township, near Sioux and Willy lakes, for Wildlife Management Area, one county commissioner freaked out at the December 7 board meeting about the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) controlling too much land.
Stan Roeser reports in New vote: Wildlife Management Area proposal passes after County Board member changes his mind:
According to minutes from the meeting, Housman said the decision "sets a bad precedence," since the DNR already has 4,000 acres of land in Meeker County, and "enough is enough."
By a similar 3-2 vote, the request was originally rejected Dec. 7, with commissioners Bryan Larson, Mike Housman and Mike Huberty voting it down.
Housman felt that wetland acquisitions by the state in Meeker County have cost much in lost taxes. He said it is not good government to continue that trend. Larson cited his long-time concern with the ineptness of the DNR as the basis for his nay vote. . .
Surely, the DNR bumping up to owning 4153 acres out of 389,120 acres in Meeker County would be the end of the world as we know it.
Roeser reports that the December 7 vote was reversed when one commissioner regretted his vote:
Voted down earlier this month, a request to designate 153 acres of land as a Wildlife Management Area passed this week after a county commissioner changed his vote from yea to nay.
On a 3-2 vote at its meeting Tuesday, the Meeker County Board of Commissioners rescinded a Dec. 7 decision rejecting the DNR's request to establish the outdoor recreation area in Ellsworth Township.
Commissioner Mike Huberty noted that, after he got home from the Dec. 7 meeting, he simply did not feel good about his nay vote on the wildlife area and asked that it be on the agenda again. . . .
“Money isn’t everything in these discussions, and if the family wants to turn the land over the DNR, I don’t think the county should stand in its way,” Oberg said Dec. 7.
Commissioner Tacheny said people without ties to rural property should have a decent place to hunt and noted that hunters contribute in positive ways to the rural economy.
The 153-acre tract that will be converted to public recreational land is known as the Emma Boll farm and has been in the Boll family for more than 100 years. Family members attended the Dec. 7 county board meeting but were not given an opportunity to speak.
Under state law, county board approval is necessary before a wildlife management area can be established.
According to information from the Minnesota DNR, Wildlife Management Areas are part of the state's outdoor recreation system and are established to protect those lands and waters that have a high potential for wildlife production, public hunting, trapping, fishing and other compatible recreational uses. The DNR says they are key to protecting wildlife habitat for future generations; providing citizens with opportunities for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching; and promoting important wildlife-based tourism in the state.
The no vote prompted a spirited editorial by the local paper, Local boards shouldn't silence the public:
The Meeker County Board of Commissioners’ Dec. 7 denial of a proposed DNR Wildlife Management Area was disappointing — in more ways than one.
We agree with commissioners Beth Oberg and Joe Tacheny. With fewer and fewer private properties available, Meeker County needs more places for residents to hunt and connect with the outdoors.
Recreational opportunities are important to our residents. Most chose to live in west central Minnesota because they embrace a rural lifestyle. Will rural areas eventually be overtaken by building developments, thus increasing the tax base but hindering natural habitat, until there’s nothing left — until there are no places to acquaint with Mother Nature ... no places to take a walk in the woods ... to hear the songs of birds ... to watch the deer roam?
The 153-acre property in Ellsworth Township, near Sioux and Willy lakes, would have provided countless sportsmanship opportunities, but it appears county coffers and lack of confidence in the DNR took precedence on Dec. 7.
Of equal concern, the family offering the property wasn’t given a voice at the county board meeting, despite having several of its members in attendance. This was a painful reminder that residents continue to feel alienated from their governing bodies.
Citizen participation in local government is important. Our county’s elected officials should want to hear from citizens, especially those who bring proposals to the table. The vitality of any board is measured by levels of public interest and involvement.
Isn’t listening to the concerns/ideas of constituents what most elected officials cite as priorities during their campaign?
Unfortunately, in some cases, the law doesn’t guarantee the right to voice an opinion.
While elected officials are required to let citizens attend most meetings (excluding portions that the law permits to be closed), it doesn’t mean the podium or microphone is a free for all.
“Sunshine laws” require boards to allow public comment before making decisions on proposed budgets, bond issues and zoning. And they require that most records be classified as public information. Only public hearings and designated “public comment” periods allow citizens to address elected officials without prior approval. . . .
Read the rest at the Litchfield Independent Review. One reader was a lot more succinct about the matter. In Disappointed in Meeker County commissioners, Brian Knox wrote:
I am ashamed to live in a county that votes down a wildlife management parcel.
You commissioners will win no Teddy Roosevelt awards.
Mike Housman, I would like to take back my vote for you. Very disappointed in you.
It's become a standard conservative talking point to blast the DNR or sportsmen's groups for acquiring farms for recreation and hunting lands, but Meeker County isn't being taken over by the state. The Greenleaf Lake State Recreation Area (1,230 acres when it is completed) was established in 2007 in part because of the paucity of state parks in the area.
Photo: A wildlife management area.
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