Waterfowl in western Minnesota have another quality spot for brood-rearing and migration stops thanks to an improving Upper Lightning Lake in Otter Tail County.
In partnership with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Section of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited installed a pump station and water-control structure to manage water levels on the 720-acre shallow lake.
The infrastructure and ability to control water levels will help wildlife of all types. Healthy wetland water levels fluctuate, which improves the abundance and diversity of aquatic vegetation, enhances migratory waterfowl habitat and improves water quality.
Water levels are being lowered now to kill off invasive species and promote vegetation growth. Infrastructure work will continue this winter.
According to the Minnesota DNR, Upper Lightning Lake was known as an excellent waterfowl migration, staging and breeding area. The lake also has a long history of waterfowl hunting, with public access through a federal waterfowl production area adjoining the lake's east side.
Local residents and DNR wildlife staff noted a degradation of the lake in the mid-1980s. High water levels damaged the lake because of an increased number of undesirable fish, poor water quality and declining vegetation.
As a result, the Minnesota DNR designated Upper Lightning Lake as one of only 54 state wildlife management lakes, which gives it legal authority to manipulate water levels to enhance habitat for waterfowl and other wetland-dependent wildlife.
The project is funded through a 2014 state appropriation to Ducks Unlimited for shallow lake enhancement projects throughout Minnesota from the Outdoor Heritage Fund as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
This area in southwestern Otter Tail County is rich with publicly owned wetlands and grasslands, including nine U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Waterfowl Production Areas totaling 2,338 acres, and four state-owned wildlife management areas totaling 748 acres, within a three-mile radius of Upper Lightning Lake.