The Minnesota Chapter of Backcountry Hunters applauds a decision this week by District Judge Thomas Van Hon, which affirms the private property rights of land owners to sell their land as they see fit and the Minnesota Department of the Natural Resources’ rightful authority to purchase new public lands in the state.
Starting in 2019, the Minnesota Chapter of BHA worked hard to show the Lac Qui Parle County Commissioners broad support for the purchase of 80 acres of public lands adjacent to the Baxter State Wildlife Management Area (WMA) as well as an additional 158 acres adjacent to the Gollnick WMA in Mehurin Township which were not part of the lawsuit. Unfortunately, the county commission ignored the desires of a willing private landowner to sell their lands, and voted to block the proposed purchase by the Department of Natural Resources. While the future of this particular 80-acre land purchase still needs to be approved by the Land Exchange Board, this case importantly helps ensure that county commissioners cannot egregiously block future public land purchases for ideological reasons.
In Minnesota, we are fortunate to be granted the expressed right to hunt and fish through our State's constitution. Across Minnesota the population in rural counties continues to shrink, more and more landowners have become absentee, and city dwellers have lost their family connections to rural areas, resulting in Minnesota hunters and anglers depending upon quality public hunting and fishing access on public lands statewide. We are hopeful that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will continue to pursue the purchase of this property and others, which would provide much-needed new public hunting access for small game, pheasants, waterfowl, deer and more.