EXPLORE: A Pocket Guide to WIldlife Management Areas

Photo of field with tan-colored grasses and trees in the distance

Alec Olson

As a hunter, there are few experiences I welcome more than setting foot onto the uneven, diverse prairie lands in western Minnesota come fall.

Gearing up, meeting friends, watching dogs pop their heads out of the tall grass, scouring prairie lands for pheasant — these spaces are full of joy.

As someone who loves and respects the outdoors, I venture into these areas to pursue game but I also relish what feels like a well-kept secret: the 1.37 million acres of public lands across the state that offer refuge to popular game animals like pheasant, turkey, and deer. Today, there are more than 1,500 Wildlife Management Areas in Minnesota, which is one of the largest programs of its kind in the country, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

What are Wildlife Management Areas?
Wildlife Management Areas, or WMAs, are parcels of land specifically set aside for the conservation and management of wildlife. Managed by the DNR, these areas encompass diverse ecosystems, from wetlands and prairies to forests and grasslands.

Conservationists work diligently within WMAs to protect endangered species, restore natural habitats, and promote biodiversity. For outdoor enthusiasts, WMAs offer recreational opportunities such as birdwatching, hunting, fishing, and wildlife photography.

Why WMAs Matter
WMAs are crucial to protect wildlife, foster biodiversity, and mitigate climate change. The forests and wetlands in WMAs pull and store carbon dioxide. Moreover, WMAs contribute to the state’s economy by supporting outdoor tourism and the hunting and fishing industries.

If you’re eager to explore Minnesota’s WMAs, start by visiting the DNR’s website to learn more about them, and help protect them by joining the Sierra Club’s Forests & Wildlife Stewards Team.

Alec Olson is a volunteer for the Sierra Club’s Communications Team.