News release: DNR, The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land team up to create new wildlife management area near Rochester

May 20, 2024

Moon Valley WMA is now open to the public and provides 420 acres of public recreation space 15 minutes from Rochester

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today that it received a 420-acre land donation near Byron in Olmsted County from The Nature Conservancy and Trust for Public Land. Named Moon Valley Wildlife Management Area, the property is now open to the public, providing a variety of public outdoor recreation opportunities 15 minutes north of downtown Rochester.

“This new WMA offers Minnesotans new opportunities to get outside and allows for the restoration and management of important habitat,” said Dave Olfelt, director of DNR’s Fish and Wildlife Division. “We’re grateful to The Nature Conservancy and Trust for Public Land for their partnership and dedication to preserving this land for future generations.”

With support from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, TNC and TPL acquired the property from the Moon family, who operated a family farm there for nearly a century. The family wanted to see the property preserved as a natural area.

“With urban spread there are fewer and fewer wild and open spaces for people and wildlife to roam,” Linda Moon said. “The Moon family hopes this can be a small refuge for our neighbors and for our family to come home to as well. It was our beautiful farm, and now it will return to its natural state open to everyone.”

“We are grateful to the Moon family for entrusting us with the future of this land,” said Ann Mulholland, who directs TNC’s work in Minnesota. “The DNR will ensure that visitors can continue to enjoy not only its natural beauty, but also maximize the many benefits it provides to people and nature, including clean water and carbon storage.”

Located in the Driftless Area, the new WMA includes forest bluffs, springs and shoreline along the Middle Fork of the Zumbro River; 200 acres of former cropland will be restored to wetlands, prairie and floodplain forest. In addition to conserving key habitat, the property offers plentiful opportunities for outdoor recreation like hunting, fishing, hiking and wildlife viewing.

“There is a growing need for publicly accessible outdoor spaces in southeastern Minnesota, and this nearly three miles of the Zumbro River will help connect thousands of residents and visitors with nature,” said Sophie Vorhoff, Minnesota State Director for TPL. “TPL is proud of our partnership with TNC and DNR to ensure important ecological and recreational landscapes like Moon Valley are protected for all to enjoy.”

For more information on Moon Valley WMA, visit the DNR website.

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