By Nick Simonson
In the formative years of my upland experience, CRP was at its peak, grouse, partridge and pheasants were plentiful and there was an area of PLOTS, WPAs and WMAs just up the hill from my backdoor that provided a young hunter and his dog everything they could want in a walk. A mixture of food in the surrounding soybeans and corn tied seamlessly into a spread of uplands, cattail sloughs, wetlands and stands of brush and treelines. It was a place that provided sweaty dove hunts in September, where the early morning crack of heavy loads from nearby goose and duck hunters echoed through the haze of dawn and dusk, to late afternoon October tromps which all but guaranteed a shot at a covey of sharpies or a pack of pheasants, all the way up into December. This place still exists today in the amalgamation of yellow, green and red on the NDG&F Department public lands map, but now stands to be completed by an amazing acquisition which will provide even more for wildlife, hunters and potentially anglers.
The addition of the Ranum Waterfowl Production Area (WPA) to the area just a few miles north of Valley City is a project led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) with the help of Dick Monson, a farmer and conservationist from rural Valley City. The recent purchase looks to not only link together two great parcels in that particular space that are open to public hunting, but also conserve and advance spaces for waterfowl, big game and upland species on down to providing critical habitat for disappearing songbirds such as the bobolink and vital pollinators like monarchs and honeybees which have seen declining numbers in the last 50 years. What’s more, if the waters test right, the parcel could lead to expanded fishing options in the area as well. As part of the project, the FWS is looking to establish native prairie habitat on the parcel to promote more upland game, and provide nesting cover for waterfowl, along with nectar sources for pollinators with the help of the state’s various sportsman’s groups and conservation organizations.
“It will be seeded down to a native mix of grasses, forbs and flowers for wildlife habitat,” Monson states, suggesting that all supporting entities, regardless of the habitat and the animals they look to promote, will benefit from the project, adding, “it doesn’t just target waterfowl but all wildlife species, so it will be a great addition into the WPAs of North Dakota.”
Currently Monson, with the help of the North Dakota non-profit Prairie Pothole Partners, has set up a Facebook Page and donation link for individuals, businesses and organizations to contribute and defray costs of seeding and leverage grants to maximize the effectiveness of the efforts. What’s more, thanks to a generous donation, all dollars pledged will be matched on a one-to-one basis. In total, Monson hopes to raise $32,000 to pay for the planting mix, which runs about $500 per acre on the 64 acre portion of uplands to be seeded. While the planting will help raise birds and butterflies, it will also increase soil quality and that of the nearby water, which at approximately 12 feet in depth, may present an ice fishing option in the near future.
“The general area there north of Valley City is an old lakebed, there are some existing WPAs, the Adams Slough WMA is in there,” Monson relates of the easily-identifiable circle of public access lands on the state’s hunting maps, “and the North Dakota Game & Fish Department is going to check the oxygen level on the wetland at the Ranum WPA with the possibility of stocking fish, so potentially we could get a new fishing spot in Barnes County.”
For those interested in learning more about the Ranum WPA project, visit the effort’s Facebook page at facebook.com/RanumWPA, or contact Kurt Tompkins, FWS District Manager via phone at: 701-840-3128 or via email at: email@example.com. Donations to the project can be made by clicking on the Facebook page’s donation button, or by sending a check payable to Prairie Pothole Partners, 9754 143 ½ Ave SE, Cayuga, ND 58103, Attn: Ranum WPA.