Lost Lake Waterfowl Production Area opens

Published 6:45 am Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mower County’s chapter of Habitat & Pheasants Forever officially opened the Lost Lake Waterfowl Production Area on Tuesday.

The 85-acre section of land will be open to hunters for years to come and those attending the ribbon cutting ceremony said it would be an area for people’s children and grandchildren to enjoy.

Pheasants forever originally purchased the property in 2005 and donated it to the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service in 2008 to be permanently maintained as public hunting area.

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“Our chapter bought the property 100 percent with money we raised,” said Sue Olson, chapter president of Mower County’s Pheasants Forever. “We restored the property from farm land to natural habitat; we put in two acres of ponds.”

The land isn’t just designated for waterfowl hunting, as it will be open to deer hunting as well, Olson said.

“It’s now home to some ducks and geese and pheasants and there’s plenty of deer signs through there,” she said.

Those hunting waterfowl must use non-toxic ammunition, as stipulated by the state laws.

Justin Hanson, resource specialist for the Mower County Soil and Water District, said the previous landowner sold the property as part of the set aside program.

The land was recently a field restored to a wetland. There are two ponds on the property, and each about an acre in size.

The ponds will be too small for fishing, but they’re a good size to support waterfowl habitat. Olson said she walked through the property with her dog recently and saw deer tracks leading to the property.

Olson described the ponds as having “nice clean, crystal clear water, lots of wildlife tracks leading up to it, so you know that the critter population has got some good habitat.”

Hanson oversaw the wetland restoration project on the land. About $25,000 was spent on the project. The crews had to break up the drainage tiles in place when the land was a field. The land was seeded with a variety of natural grasses.

Hanson said the land is not just for hunters, as people can come out and simply walk through the land.

The 85-acres of land is lower than the surrounding countryside, and Hanson said it will help collect water and slow flooding, so the benefits are not exclusive to hunting.

“Historically, this was huge like a basin,” Hanson said. “The water would come in here, and it would flow from up there and kind of sit in here before it would get into town slowly. That’s what we’re getting back to — trying to slow some of that water down.”

Hanson said the land is near other set aside land, and having habitat close together is beneficial for the animals.

Pheasants Forever worked on another hunting area near Lyle that the group bought a few years ago. That project consisted of 160 acres and is called the Shottler Wildlife Area. That land is now owned by the DNR.

Olson said they’re working on purchasing another property north of the Hormel Nature Center.

Lost Lake is located about two miles west of Austin on County Road 27 less than a mile from Freeborn-Mower Road. A sign is now up at the entrance. A short gravel road leads to a parking lot.

“People are really happy to have a nice spot that’s restored that’s so close to town,” Olson said. “You can get out of work and hunt for an hour and half before it’s dark out.”

The land has been open for the public for about a year, but only people in Pheasants Forever and their friends knew about the land.

Signs are posted around the property to show where the public property shifts to privately owned land.

“There isn’t very much in the area that’s actually been restored and well taken care of,” Olson said. “This is a great opportunity to have a really large piece available all in one spot that’s habitat to many different wildlife populations. It’s not just for duck hunters. It’s not just for pheasant hunters. It’s not just for deer hunters. It’s for anybody.”

Pheasant Forever is a national non-profit group of made up of 125,000 members who are dedicated to conservation programs to protect and enhance pheasant and wildlife populations in the U.S.

The Mower County chapter has worked on 21 projects and has reinvested nearly $700,000. The group will host their 10th anniversary banquet on Feb. 27, 2010, and that event is a fundraiser for the group’s projects.