Mississippi River volunteers
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A river group highlighted in each issue of Big River Magazine
Photos courtesy of the Red Wing Wildlife League
Red Wing Wildlife League
A 900-member group labors to return 2,800 acres of riverbottom land to 1930s condition.
The Red Wing Wildlife League was formed in 1935 as a sportsmens club. When a group of Twin Cities hunters began queueing up to buy prime hunting land in the Spring Creek bottomlands nearby, the league raised funds to purchase 1,600 acres, thus maintaining access for local hunters. Over the years the league has maintained this land, enhanced habitat, and grown its membership to more than 800. It now owns 2,800 acres and is the largest landowner in Goodhue County.
Projects & Activities
RWWLs current big project is raising $1,000,000 to restore their 2,800 acres of bottomland to its 1930s condition. This contiguous expanse of floodplain along the Mississippi, Vermillion and Cannon rivers includes some of the largest floodplain marshes in Minnesota, as well as forest where bald eagles and cerulean warblers nest. Over the years, high water levels and siltation have claimed 180 acres of wetlands. With partial support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the league hired the engineering firm Bonestroo & Associates to develop a restoration plan. Among the groups now reviewing the plan are the Minnesota and Wisconsin DNRs, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Minnesota Land Trust and Audubon Society.
The league is also taking a role in restoring Karner blue butterfly habitat in the Whitewater River valley.
Other activities include sponsoring youth hunting and fishing days and firearms safety courses; partnering with the local environmental learning center; and providing funds and materials for high school students to build bird houses, then getting them out to help install the houses. This year they built and hung 48 new wood duck houses.
Membership is open to residents in the city of Red Wing and seven other townshipsHay Creek, Featherstone, Welch, Vasa and Wacouta in Minnesota; and Trenton, Diamond Bluff and Isabelle in Wisconsin. Memberships cost $2 per year. Those who want to use the land pay an additional fee.
RWWL has more than 800 members, 230 of whom use the leagues property for hunting and fishing. Many also roll up their sleeves and put on their boots for work bees several times a year, and stick around to enjoy the cookouts afterward.
The RWWLs two paid staff members manage the charitable gambling that helps support the organization.
Awards & Accomplishments
The league this year gave four $1,500 scholarships to area youths who are going to school for environmental or conservation studies.
RWWL is supported by membership fees, charitable gambling in three area taverns, as well as profits from its operation of Red Wings River City Days beer tent, and donations.
Goals & Plans
The league has always maintained a low profile, except in the Red Wing area, where it supports many civic activities. The challenge now is to become more effective at gaining recognition and support so it can restore the Spring Creek bottomlands.
Originally published in Big River Magazine November 2004.