In memory of his efforts to protect and enhance critical wildlife habitat, the Park Rapids DNR Wildlife office dedicated the latest addition to Yeager Lake Wildlife Management Area to Rob Naplin.
A longtime employee of the DNR, Naplin was Park Rapids area wildlife manager when he died suddenly in 2013. Naplin, 64, fell while cleaning ice from sewer vents on his roof.
About 50 friends, family and colleagues gathered for Saturday’s dedication, held at the Menahga Senior Citizens Center and at the new 279-acre Rob Naplin Tract.
“We had this idea for quite some time, but it took awhile to achieve,” said current Park Rapids Area Wildlife Supervisor Erik Thorsen, who was initially hired by Naplin.
The Rob Naplin Tract was made possible through funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.
Wildlife management areas (WMA) are part of Minnesota’s outdoor recreation system. They are established to protect land and water that have high potential for wildlife production, public hunting, trapping, fishing, wildlife watching and other recreational uses.
The Yeager Lake WMA is located about six miles southeast of Menahga. It’s part of the Park Rapids DNR work area, explained Thorsen. Naplin was actively involved in developing this WMA, including constructing a 600-foot floating boardwalk for all to enjoy.
Thorsen describes the Yeager Lake WMA as a “popular destination.”
“It’s one of our crown jewels in our work area and a fitting place to attach Rob Naplin’s name,” he said.
Yeager Lake WMA’s diverse wildlife resources match Naplin’s diverse interests, Thorsen said.
Wild turkey, white-tailed deer, waterfowl, pheasants and bear thrive in the upland-wetland complex.
Naplin was an avid conservationist, hunter and angler.
A “nice network of hunter walking trails” on the north side of Yeager Lake is maintained by the DNR, Thorsen noted.
Both Yeager and the neighboring Mud Lake are natural wild rice lakes. They serve as breeding, nesting and foraging areas for many species.
The DNR designed and engineered a water-control structure on Yeager Lake’s outlet. The structure controls sudden rises in water level, which can uproot wild rice during the floating-leaf stage.
The DNR is also in the process of acquiring 286 acres of Potlatch land next to the existing WMA.
There are over 1.3 million acres of WMA in Minnesota, according to John Williams, Northwest Regional Wildlife Manager.
There are 20 WMAs and 10,000 acres in the Park Rapids work area. Naplin acquired more than 4,000 of those acres during his tenure, Williams said.
Wetland Wildlife Program Leader Ray Norrgard knew Naplin for 35 years.
“The thing that really sticks out to me is that his life was characterized by hard work and play, a good sense of humor and humility,” Norrgard said. “He had this great love – passion for wildlife, passion for water resources.”