ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Despite objections from the state’s largest deer hunters group, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said Tuesday it has approved new goals for raising the deer population in large portions of northeastern, north-central and east-central Minnesota.

The goals, covering 40 of 128 deer permit areas in the state, were approved despite complaints this spring from the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the Star Tribune reported. The 20,000-member group asked the DNR to delay the plan. The goals would mean fewer hunting permits, but the association also objected that the process for setting them was flawed.

The agency announced that it set the deer population goals but would postpone work on 54 other deer permit areas set to be examined next year, until a legislative audit of the state’s deer population management program is complete.

“These new goals will result in management to increase deer numbers in relation to last year’s levels in most of the 40 permit areas,” DNR wildlife populations manager Steve Merchant said in a news release. “The new goals largely reflect the desires shared by stakeholders who participated in the deer goal setting process and generally reflect the public feedback we’ve heard during the past few years.”

As a result, the DNR said, 85 percent of the 40 areas will be managed for populations higher than those experienced in 2014. The remaining will see no change.

In the DNR goal-setting process, citizen advisory teams weren’t allowed to make recommendations for population increases of more than 50 percent. The Minnesota Deer Hunters Association argued that in many cases, population increases of greater 50 percent were warranted.

“I’m disappointed but not very surprised they didn’t go above 50 percent,” said Craig Engwall, executive director of the group.

The DNR said that of the 40 deer permit areas with new goals, 26 will be managed for deer densities higher than those established by the previous goals. Eight will be managed at similar densities to former goals, and six will be managed for densities below former goals.

The goals are intended to be in place for three to five years. Goals for southwestern and portions of northern Minnesota were set in 2012. Goals for southeastern Minnesota were set last year.

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Online:

http://mndnr.gov/deer

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com