Located four miles east of Farmington, off of highway 50, is Minnesota’s newest Wildlife Management Area (WMA), Hampton Woods. This new area encompasses 191 acres of oak woodlands smack dab in the middle of farm fields and other agricultural lands.
It’s unique location has led to a thriving wildlife population: the red-shouldered hawk (a very rare species) can be spotted alongside Turkey, deer, squirrel and other game species (hunting is allowed).
This isn’t an area that is new to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). It was first identified as an area worth protecting in the mid-1990’s, and also came up on the Dakota County 2002 Farmland and Natural Areas Protection Plan.
Friends of the Mississippi River (FMR) stepped in a few years ago to help several landowners contact the county and discuss the potential sale of their land. This resulted in Dakota County purchasing 24 acres from Joan Uselmann and Mary and Glen Bakalars, and then another 167 acres from the estate of Rose Kuntz. Dakota County recently transferred ownership to the DNR, which granted permanent protection to this area of land.
Now it is Hampton Woods Wildlife Management Area.
Mike Slavik is the Dakota County Board of Commissioners Chairman and represents the district where Hampton Woods is located. He had this to say about the new WMA and the help of FMR “This is a beautiful area of Dakota County that will now be preserved and publicly accessible for future generations. Many people and organizations made this possible, and we are very thankful for their many contributions and collaboration.”
Mr. Slavik wasn’t the only person to praise the partnership with FMR, Cynthia Osmundson DNR regional wildlife manager had this to say, “This new WMA is especially important because it not only protects an important and relatively rare forest area, it also provides close-to-home public hunting opportunities in the metro region. Transactions like this can be complex and drawn out, and we’re very fortunate to have good partners like Dakota County and Friends of the Mississippi River.”
The Outdoor Heritage Fund was created in 2008, after Minnesota voted in favor of a constitutional amendment which dedicates a portion of sales taxes to restore, protect, and enhance fish and wildlife habitat in the state. The acquisition land that now makes up Hampton Woods was paid for in part by $540,800 from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, along with $197,700 From Dakota County.
Friends of the Mississippi River’s involvement with the area will not stop with facilitating the purchase of the land that now makes up Hampton Woods. FMR has received a $133,000 grant from the Environment and Natural Resource Trust Fund to conduct management activities in the new WMA; management responsibilities will include keeping the area healthy and teeming with wildlife, and especially removing an unwanted invasive species like Buckthorn that would strangle the wooded area.
For more information on this invasive species: Buckthorn: How can a shrub be so harmful?