Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Minnesota
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Minnesota Project

Visitor use of Wildlife Management Areas

July 2015 - December 2016


Participating Agencies

  • Minnesota DNR

The DNR, Section of Wildlife manages over 1,400 wildlife management areas (WMA) totaling more than 1.3 million acres. WMAs are part of Minnesota's outdoor recreation system and are established to protect those lands and waters that have a high potential for wildlife production, public hunting, trapping, fishing, and other compatible recreational uses. They are the backbone to DNR's wildlife management efforts in Minnesota and are key to: 1. Protecting wildlife habitat for future generations, 2. Providing citizens with opportunities for hunting, fishing and wildlife watching, and 3. Promoting important wildlife-based tourism in the state. WMAs range from prairies and wetlands to forests and brushlands. They provide opportunities for hunting, fishing, trapping, and wildlife watching activities. Wildlife resources and habitat are very important to Minnesota; 500,000 Minnesotans hunt and 1.6 million watch wildlife, one of the highest participation rates in the country. Combined, hunting and wildlife watching are over a $1 billion dollar industry in Minnesota (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). Some research has been conducted in Minnesota on lands open to public hunting. Vlaming et al. (2003) measured use on Federal Waterfowl Production Areas (WPA) and found that most visited them to hunt. Cross (2014) surveyed Walk-In Access (WIA) users and found that respondents also hunted WMAs and found them more crowded. However, use of WMAs and WPAs was higher for all species hunted, as compared to WIAs. While agency staff agree WMA use is high, little data exists to quantify and categorize either consumptive or non-consumptive uses. These data are particularly important to determine not only uses, but species hunted, effort, distribution of uses, and economic considerations (e.g., travel cost, local economic impact). For each survey, the first 2 mailings will be comprised of an invitation to complete a survey online, and the third mailing will be a traditional self-administered mail-back questionnaire. All use of private data will adhere to MN DNR data privacy standards. No requests for state ELS data are required to complete this work order. The objectives of this study are to assess, 4.1) Seasonal visitor uses and characteristic of users 4.2) Visitor activities, experiences, and attainment of experiences 4.3) Visitor knowledge of and attitudes toward wildlife management areas 4.4) Economic benefits of wildlife management areas to local communities The potential respondent population includes any visitor, 18 years of age or older, to the WMAs that will be selected for study. WMAs will be selected at random throughout DNR Regions 1 and 4. Driving routes will be selected that maximize WMA visits and minimize travel distance. The WMA GIS layer will be used to identify WMA access points and drivers will be instructed to look for parking lots and pullout areas around the entire WMA. Temporary technicians, managed by the contractor, will drive those routes to solicit study participants. When the driver sees a vehicle parked around the WMA, they will place a numbered card and a cover letter in a waterproof pouch and affix the pouch under the vehicle's windshield wipers. The cover letter will explain the nature of the study and ask if they would be willing to share their opinions about WMAs. The card will be a business reply postcard that asks for the size of the party and individual's names, addresses, and phone numbers that can be used to contact them later about the study. Visitors who are present in the parking areas will be approached, explained the nature of the study, and postcard information will be collected onsite. Visitors will be informed that their participation was voluntary. Drivers will also instructed to distribute cards to all vehicles and groups they encounter. We will mail follow up surveys per the 'traditional mailing' design in the approach discussion of adequacy, reliability and efficiency above. This study includes up to 10 seasonal technicians to drive the routes and solicit participation in the study and a graduate student (MS level) at the University of Minnesota.