A huge oak forest is now protected in the Twin Cities

It's Minnesota's newest wildlife management area.

Nearly 200 acres of oak forest is being permanently protected in the metro area. 

The land is home to a bunch of rare species and is one of the "last and largest" wooded areas left in Dakota County, according to the Minnesota DNR

It's now called the Hampton Woods Wildlife Management Area, and is being protected through efforts from the DNR, Dakota County and the Friends of the Mississippi River conservation group

The DNR will manage the 191 acres of land as a wildlife habitat and public hunting area. 

"This new [wildlife management area] is especially important because it not only protects an important and relatively rare forest area, it also provides close-to-home public hunting opportunities in the metro region," DNR regional wildlife manager Cynthia Osmundson said in a statement.

The oak forest is about four miles east of Farmington, making it the only forest for miles in an area that's mostly farmland. Plus, it's home to rare species like the red-shouldered hawk, and some more common game animals, including deer, turkeys and squirrels. 

It's an 'ecologically significant' area

The Minnesota DNR named the Hampton Woods area an "ecologically significant area worthy of protection" back in the 1990s. 

And Dakota County ranked the area highly in its 2002 Farmland and Natural Areas Protection Plan

The process to get this land protected began a few years ago, with Friends of the Mississippi River working with landowners to sell their land. The ownership was then transferred to the DNR to turn it into a wildlife management area. 

The land was paid for with money appropriated by the state legislature and funding from Dakota County. 

There are 1,440 public wildlife areas that span 1.29 million acres across Minnesota, the DNR's website says. People can visit these lands to watch wildlife or hunt animals. 

You can read more about Hampton Woods here

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