Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources: Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area


Minnesota DNR staff used the Adaptation Workbook at a NIACS workshop in the fall of 2015. They are currently refining their project ideas. 

Staff from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources used the Adaptation Workbook to consider climate change risks and management opportunities for a large Wildlife Management Area.

Project Area

The Mille Lacs Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is owned and managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. This area protects 60.5 square miles (about 39,000 acres) of moist hardwood forest and wetlands in east-central Minnesota. It was established in 1949, mostly from tax-forfeit land. About sixty percent of the WMA is forested, mostly moist red oak - basswood forest. The remainder is wetland, mostly sedge meadow and willow - dogwood swamp. This property is extensively developed for recreational access, with 80 parking areas and about 100 miles of forest roads, hiking trails, and hunter walking trails.

Management Goals

Habitat for ruffed grouse is one of the main management concerns at the Mille Lacs WMA. Photo credit: Doug Smith, Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) are part of Minnesota's state-owned land system and are designed to protect lands and waters that have a high potential for wildlife production, public hunting, trapping, fishing, and other compatible recreational uses. WMAs are supposed to protect valuable habitat and provide opportunities to hunt, fish, trap, and watch wildlife. On the Mille Lacs WMA, primary game species include bear, deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock, and a variety of waterfowl. Forests are managed to promote a mix of different ages with forest openings and edges between existing vegetation types.  For the purposes of climate change adaptation, Minnesota DNR staff were most interested in the goals of managing invasive species and ensuring that existing Native Plant Communities and Threatened and Endangered species can persist into the future. 

Climate Change Impacts

One of the many forest roads within the Mille Lacs WMA.
For DNR staff, the most important anticipated climate change impacts at Mille Lacs WMA include:
Fluctuations in local hydrology leading to a net loss in wetland areas and a decrease in soil moisture
Warmer, shorter winters with less snow may impact hibernation patterns for some wildlife species, but may benefit species like deer
Nonnative and invasive species may be benefited by climate change stress and disturbance
Heavy precipitation events and intense storms may damage roads, trails, and stream crossings across the property.

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for the Mille Lacs WMA, including:

Local hydrology
1.2. Maintain or restore hydrology.
Break nearby drain tile to restore natural drainage patterns
Evaluate water control structures to see if they are necessary and appropriately sized
Educate site managers on voluntary site-level guidelines for forest management
Invasive species
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Follow DNR best management practices to control invasive species spread
Limit or control access points and paths within the WMA
Native plant communities
4.2. Prioritize and maintain sensitive or at-risk species or communities.
Conduct targeted surveys to inventory NPCs across the property
Prioritize existing NPCs by quality and risk


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including:

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Locator map for the Mille Lacs WMA.

Next Steps

DNR staff are continuing to plan management actions for the Mille Lacs WMA.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen or learn more at: http://dnr.state.mn.us/wmas/detail_report.html?id=WMA0900400


Lowland/ wetland conifers, Lowland/ bottomland hardwoods, Upland hardwoods, Early-successional habitat, Wildlife habitat

Last Updated

Wednesday, November 16, 2016