Plans for expanded wildlife management areas with options for public use in hunting and recreation received Crow Wing County support Tuesday.

The board approved the DNR's plan to acquire an additional 134.5 acres of land to be placed into the boundaries of the Little Nokasippi River State Wildlife Management Area in Fort Ripley Township. The state has 16 WMAs in Crow Wing County encompassing 7,335 acres. County approval is needed for the state to acquire more acreage for the WMA.

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The Little Nokasippi State WMA was created by the DNR in 2005 in partnership with the Camp Ripley project to create a buffer of about 3 miles around the camp and with The Nature Conservancy.

Adding the proposed 134.5 acres from a willing seller to the north of the Little Nokasippi WMA is being considered with the same partnership from the original project.

State wildlife management areas are open to hunting, trapping and compatible recreation. Options for non-motorized public use in the Little Nokasippi WMA includes a possible horse trail.

Commissioner Paul Thiede said he'd like to know what the tax consequence is as land comes off the tax rolls and in terms of benefits to the county regarding forest land management practices. Gary Drotts, DNR wildlife supervisor in Brainerd, said there are often gains for the county and those figures will be made available. Commissioner Dewey Tautges said that in other counties there are policies for no net increases in public lands as a way to stop the loss of farm land.

Drotts said another interesting aspect was found in Ross Lake Township, where the concern was for a loss of public access to land as Potlatch sells its property, which was typically open to the public.

In addition, the board approved a lease agreement for a cooperative WMA with the state on Birch Lake. The DNR is proposing the creation of a cooperative state WMA on nearly 54 acres of Crow Wing County tax-forfeited land next to Birch Lake's southwest corner.

Drotts said that in the last five years, the DNR has been looking at different lakes that should be managed for waterfowl habitat and wild rice production. Large but shallow Birch Lake in Bay Lake Township is that kind of lake, Drotts said. Timber income would go back to the county and the state would handle development of the site, which is expected to include a public water access.

The board supported the state's acquisition, through a Rossi family donation, of land in Ross Lake Township to be included in a state wildlife management area. The donation would connect separated tax-forfeited parcels.

A second lease agreement between the county and the DNR Wildlife Division was authorized in Ross Lake Township. The board approved the lease agreement with the county and DNR involving tax-forfeited lands to establish the Rossi State WMA.

Terry and Wendy Rossi approached the Brainerd DNR Wildlife office a couple of months ago in an attempt to donate about 300 acres in Ross Lake Township for a state WMA.

The tax-forfeited land in the Rossi WMA is about 359 acres. Drotts said the addition would facilitate access to about 160 acres of tax-forfeited land currently land-locked without access.

The moves came with the recommendations of Land Commissioner Tom Cowell and the county's Lands and Forestry Advisory Committee.

RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at renee.richardson@brainerddispatch.com or 855-5852.