On September 16, 2022, Windom Wetland Management District unveiled the newly renamed Martin J. Baker Waterfowl Production Area in Cottonwood County. Friends, family and coworkers past and present gathered on the site for a special memorial and unveiling. This 720-acre unit includes a rolling landscape of native wildflowers and wetlands, including remnant prairie, and is a respite for wildlife and people alike.
Martin “Marty” Baker worked for the Windom Wetland Management District as a biological science technician for almost 30 years until his untimely passing due to an off-duty farming accident on March 14, 2021. Baker's contributions to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and program were extensive and diverse. While a dedicated mentor and patient teacher, Baker’s skills and accomplishments were very broad. All that aside, he truly loved and excelled at reconstructing native prairie. Tens of thousands of acres of native grasses and wildflowers have been sown across southern Minnesota by the hands of Baker, and seeds from those plants will continue to be harvested to restore new lands. Baker is recognized in the conservation community for his passion and dedication to the resource, and he will be remembered by family and friends for his hard work, addictive smile, positive attitude and all-around good nature.
“With Marty’s passing, we’ve lost his experience, expertise and understanding of the prairie. As one of his coworkers pointed out though, every time they step onto the prairie with someone, and they teach them something that Marty had taught them over the years, it is as if Marty is still with us,” said Suzanne Baird, assistant regional director for the National Wildlife Refuge System.
Previously known as the Lake Augusta Waterfowl Production Area, this unit is considered a most appropriate part of the Windom Wetland Management District to commemorate Baker’s life and career, as Lake Augusta was one of Baker’s favorite places. He had expressed great passion for its large assembly of native prairie plants and had spent substantial time over the years working to protect and enhance habitat there. Baker was dedicated to the resource and spent considerable time researching and using personal experience to recommend and implement habitat improvements for this unit. Regularly conducting prescribed fire, grazing, tree removal and control, he reseeded the former crop fields as acreage was added to the unit over the years. He also harvested seed from its native prairie remnant to create new prairie and enrich wildlife habitat.
Baker worked on this land to ensure that everyone could enjoy this jewel of the prairie by improving wildlife habitat and expanding access to hunt, watch wildlife and learn in nature’s classroom. We invite you to visit Martin J. Baker Waterfowl Production Area and make your own memories with the prairie.