Friday, December 19, 2014

DNR, partners working on 4-year plan to boost pheasant numbers





Citizen input from the Minnesota Governor’s Pheasant Summit soon will be converted into a four-year action plan to increase and enhance grassland habitat on public and private lands.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr said agency staff and partner organizations are analyzing dozens of recommendations from the Dec. 13 summit in Marshall.
This first summit brought together Gov. Mark Dayton and 300-plus hunters, farmers and conservation experts, including those from Pheasants Forever. Together, they focused on pheasant habitat, pheasant biology and they spent much of the day identifying potential solutions to the plight of a bird whose numbers are declining at a significant rate.
“Citizens talked. We listened. The next step is to convert words into actions,” Landwehr said.
Landwehr said citizen input will be used to develop a summary of the Pheasant Summit recomendations that will be shared with the public in mid-January.
“The focus will be about increasing bird numbers not government regulations,” Landwehr said. “Realistically, that means zeroing in on the interests and needs of private landowners as they own 95 percent of the property in the pheasant range.”
Landwehr said the action plan to be completed in 2015 will include recommendations for increasing the quality and quantity of public grasslands but “the inescapable truth is what happens on private farmland is what drives pheasant numbers because of the vastly higher proportion of acres in private ownership.”
The summit was emceed by Minnesota conservationist Ron Schara, who termed the pheasant the proverbial canary in a coal mine.
“As pheasant numbers go, so go our bobolinks, butterflies, pollinators and more,” he said.
Both Schara and Dayton urged the group to focus on strategies that will increase pheasant numbers, improve habitat, and make sure future generations have the opportunity to enjoy one of the state’s most popular game birds.
“I was pleased we could have a candid conversation about habitat loss and its impact on our pheasant population,” said Minnesota Agriculture Commissioner Dave Frederickson. “The summit produced a good variety of strategies to consider as we work to improve the future for pheasants in Minnesota.”
Minnesota’s current pheasant population estimate is down 71 percent from the long-term average. Minnesota hunters harvested more than one million pheasants annually from 1931 to 1964; the 2014 harvest is projected to be about one-fourth of that.

Said Landwehr: “That’s what happens when only two percent of the state’s original 18 million acres of prairie remain and 490,000 acres of grassland have disappeared since 2007 through expiring contracts in the Conservation Reserve Program.”
Landwehr said it will take a couple of weeks to “accurately sort out the input of such a large group” and that he is buoyed by the depth and breadth of innovative ideas.
“Finding strategies that work for both land and people is key,” said John Jaschke, executive director of the Board of Water and Soil Resources. “Projects and practices to achieve clean water or soil improvement can help the pheasant population. Site selection and design can be adjusted to build habitat into watershed protection projects. Grassland buffers are one such example of a multi-benefit practice that was highlighted at the summit.”
   
Convened by Dayton, the Pheasant Summit was attended by citizens, conservation groups and many state, local and federal entities that deliver habitat conservation programs, including the DNR, Board of Water and Soil Resources, Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Department of Transportation, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resource and Conservation Service and more.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

BBB Advice on Charitable Giving




Burnsville, MinnesotaDecember 11, 2014 –Some people support their favorite charities and causes throughout the year, but many wait until the holidays to extend the spirit of the season to those in need in their communities and throughout the world. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers some DOs and DON’Ts that apply year-round when it comes to charitable giving, and these tips will help ensure your donations reach their intended destinations this holiday season.

DON’T succumb to high-pressure, emotional pitches. Giving on the spot is never necessary, and if a telemarketer or person on your doorstep plays the guilt card things may not be what they seem. Well-run charities won’t impose on you or put you in a tough spot. They will welcome your donation just as much after you’ve had time to do your due diligence.

DO research the charity. Make sure you feel comfortable with how your money will be spent. Don’t just take the word of someone else; the most important action a donor can take before donating is to check the trustworthiness of the charity. BBB Wise Giving Alliance (give.org) evaluates charitable organizations on 20 holistic standards covering governance, effectiveness reporting, finances, appeal accuracy and other issues to assist donors in making informed giving decisions.

DON’T give out your credit card number over the phone. The days where you could give out sensitive financial information over the phone are over. With the number of fraudulent solicitors out there, you want to be sure your information – personal and financial – stays secure. Go directly to the website of the charity you’re supporting and make your donation there. Always look in the address box for the “s” in https:// or in the lower-right corner for the “lock” symbol before making your donation.

DO be sure it’s the right charity. With so many similar-sounding organizations, names can blur in a donor’s mind. Many phony charities purposefully choose a name that sounds similar to more familiar, legitimate outfits. Do the legwork and make sure your gift reaches the group or cause you’re looking to support. Donors can research BBB Wise Giving Alliance evaluations on nationally soliciting charities for free anytime at give.org.

DON’T assumethat the charity wants any item you donate. Worn out, unusable or unwanted goods cost charities millions of dollars each year because the organization has to bear the cost of disposing of unacceptable donations. If you have questions about an item’s acceptability, visit a given charity’s website or call them directly and ask.

DO consider easy text-to-give options. BBB Mobile Giving Foundation makes it easy to give smaller donations (usually $10) to charities they monitor, including those providing relief to victims of famine and natural disasters the world over. Visit mobilegiving.org to learn more.

Lastly, if you’re planning on claiming your donations as tax deductions, verify the charities you’re supporting have received their 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status.

Give Minnesota state parks gift cards this holiday season




This holiday season, the Department of Natural Resources encourages shoppers to give the gift of the outdoors with Minnesota state parks gift cards. The cards can be purchased for any dollar amount over $10, and they never expire. They can be used for:
  • Camping.
  • Overnight getaways in camper cabins, yurts, lodge rooms and modern suites.
  • Minnesota state parks vehicle permits and tours.
  • Canoe, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, cross-country ski and snowshoe rentals.
  • I Can Camp!, I Can Climb!, I Can Paddle! and I Can Mountain Bike! programs.
  • Minnesota State Parks and Trails apparel, books, jewelry, kids’ activity kits and more.
Gift cards can be purchased at:
  • Minnesota state parks with office hours.
  • Minnesota DNR License Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul weekdays from 8 a.m. to 4:40 p.m.
  • 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.
  • www.mndnr.gov/reservations.
Minnesota state parks gift cards feature a photo of the state’s highest waterfall and come packaged in a special folder with a full-color guide to Minnesota state parks and trails, a new 24-page lodging brochure and a brochure with information about hundreds of free programs and special events happening at state parks and trails this winter.
For more information, visit www.mndnr.gov/giftcard or contact the DNR Information Center at info.dnr@state.mn.us or 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.