The Free Press, Mankato, MN


April 28, 2014

Our View: Take full advantage of bison at Minneopa

Why it matters: DNR should go all-in with its plan to bring a bison herd to Minneopa.

The high interest in bringing bison to Minneopa State Park was evident at a public meeting this past week that drew more than 60 people who reviewed the plans and offered input.

The DNR plans to fence in about 350 acres of the prairie that stretches west of the campground and past Seppman Mill.

About 40 bison, mostly from Blue Mound State Park, would be brought in.

The existing road to the mill would remain open for people to drive through the prairie and observe the bison.

There would also be an overlook atop the hill near the mill.

The DNR reports that feedback so far has been “overwhelmingly positive,” although a few people voiced concerns at the Mankato open house.

One bird-watching enthusiast worried the plan could reduce birders’ access to the prairie and it’s songbirds and suggested a smaller bison range.

Obviously bison in the park will change some of the past uses, but birders should still be able to find plenty of enjoyment.

Part of the plan is to build a long hiking trail that would circle the edge of the entire enclosure, giving plenty of opportunity for viewing birds with binoculars.

Making the bison range smaller than proposed and bringing in a smaller herd would limit the potential and impact of the plan.

While most people eager to see bison at Minneopa are simply interested in the entertainment of watching them, the DNR has a serious and important goal of protecting the American bison’s genetic purity. Most bison left in the country have cattle genes in them, while a few herds — including those at Blue Mound — have maintained a pure bison lineage.

With space limited at Blue Mound, the DNR has looked for spots to expand and protect the herd.

There are few suitable publicly owned prairies like Minneopa that work well for introducing bison.

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