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Pheasants Forever buys more land for public hunting

Mower County Habitat & Pheasants Forever closed a deal Wednesday to purchase a 13.1-acre extension to the Lost Lake Waterfowl Production Area.

While the extension is small, it adds valuable land that has likely never been tilled for farming, according to Justin Hanson, a resource specialist for the Mower County Soil and Water District and a volunteer with Habitat and Pheasants Forever.

The $48,700 purchase closed around noon Wednesday. The land has most recently been used for grazing, and as far back as the history can be tracked, it’s never been used as farmland. Hanson said obtaining land that has never been tilled is a high priority because there is only about 1 percent of such land left in the state.

“We have such good quality land, so everything that can be agriculturally produced is,” Hanson said.

The extension will be located on the east end of the Lost Lake. The site was officially opened last November as an 85-acre section of land for hunters and wildlife enthusiasts. Habitat & Pheasants Forever originally purchased that 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.

Lost Lake is located about two miles west of Austin on County Road 27 less than a mile east of the Freeborn-Mower Road. A sign will soon be up to mark the entrance where a short gravel road leads to a parking lot.

Like the original 85 acres, Habitat & Pheasants Forever will donate the land to the U.S. Fish and Wild Life Service, which will manage the land. Since the additional 13.1 acres has never been tilled, there likely won’t need to be any native grasses planted at the site, like there were on the other 85 acres. The land will likely be burned down and allowed to grow back naturally, Hanson said. The land could be marked with signs and open to hunters by this fall.

While the piece of land cost about $49,000, Hanson said only about a quarter of the money came through the donations made to pheasants forever. The group is able to take the money it raises and obtain grants and funding.

Habitat & Pheasants 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 more than 20 projects and has reinvested more than $700,000 into county projects. The group is still working to purchase a 91 acre site north of Austin.