There is a lot more to the story than what is reported below. Reasons for transferring this gem of Minnesota’s outdoor heritage are window dressing for the DNR bureaucracy’s dodging its responsibility to represent and serve ALL Minnesotans. See Rob Drieslein’s intro below.

Outdoor Insights

By Rob Drieslein Outdoor News Minnesota July 14, 2023

The public policy low point for this scribe in 2023 has been the ongoing transfer of the Upper Sioux Agency State Park to the Upper Sioux Community. By the time state residents became aware of this deal a few months ago, the matter already looked like a foregone conclusion. The few opportunities for public discourse or comment have been causal lip service, then the Walz administration and DFL Legislature slammed through a plan to simply turn over a 1,300-acre, multi-million-dollar state asset. The lack of transparency on this matter has been disappointing.

In the story by Deb Gau in last week’s Outdoor News about a June 29 “public engagement session” in Granite Falls, we had a quote from a DNR official noting that the meeting was for information, learning, and discussion – not for debating legislation that already had passed. Well, that’s certainly convenient for the DNR. They can lay responsibility for this decision on the Legislature, which hightailed it out of St. Paul a month ago, and voters inevitably will forget about the whole thing by November 2024.

As much as I dislike how this all transpired, we’re stuck. What’s not water under the bridge, however, is how the state spends the $5 million the Legislature earmarked to offset the recreational opportunities all citizens are losing via the state park. In a democracy, we still should be able to influence how this money is spent.

In the Gau story last week, DNR officials said those recreational opportunities “could” include new land acquisitions. Ann Pierce, DNR Parks and Trails Division director added, “It could also enhance opportunities that are there, such as improving existing outdoor recreational amenities. So it’s pretty open.”

I called Pierce after reading that quote, and she assured me that identifying new outdoor recreation sources will not mean a $5 million park playground. She says the working group process will consider a range of options, including public land acquisitions, even if they’re different from state park classifications.

“The biggest piece is working with the local community to create something meaningful and valuable to the community,” she said. “What that is will come through the working group process.”

To be blunt, I think citizens should be demanding no net loss of public lands here. We’re out 1,300 acres plus presumably a public water access to the Minnesota River. Outdoor users should not be quiet about the DFL shoving this transfer down our throats until we replace it acre for acre. You can monitor this process and chime in. Simply go to and search “Upper Sioux Agency State Park Land Transfer.” That will take you to a page where you directly can provide feedback and sign up to receive regular email updates. Every public lands advocate needs to take responsibility here and make it clear to the DNR that we will be heard.

Minnesota has an active and vibrant chapter of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, and I asked its chair, Eli Mansfield, where the public lands advocacy group stood on the transfer. He provided a statement urging BHA members to visit the website above and push for direct engagement from the DNR. As for the issue itself, here’s MN BHA’s diplomatic statement:

“It is the position of BHA MN that the transfer of almost 1,300 acres back to the Upper Sioux has offered an opportunity to meet goals of both the native tribe and public land advocates. The money set aside as part of the transfer has the ability to maintain and enhance access to multi-use public lands in the Granite Falls community. BHA would like to see a commitment from the DNR to invest specifically in the immediate area that would replace lost water access and outdoor recreational opportunities, not limited to hunting and fishing.”