Monday, April 21, 2014

Burning restrictions extend to northern Minnesota counties



The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will restrict debris burning in 11 counties in northern Minnesota beginning April 28. The additional counties under restrictions reflect increasing fire potential as the snow recedes. With the snow gone, the exposed dead grass and brush can light easily and spread fires quickly.

Counties beginning restrictions on April 28 include: Beltrami, Carlton, northern Cass (entire county is now under restrictions), Itasca, Kittson, Koochiching, Lake of the Woods, Marshall, Pennington, Roseau, and southern St. Louis (south of a line running from Silica on the west to Central Lakes and Brimson on the east. The exact line is a township line between 55 and 56 north and includes all of township 56). 

With the 11 northern Minnesota counties, there will be 38 counties under spring burning restrictions. Burning restrictions are already in place for many central Minnesota counties. Burning restrictions mean the state will not give out burning permits for burning brush or yard waste.  Debris burning is especially dangerous during April and May when most wildfires occur in Minnesota. The restrictions normally last from four to six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs.

“The spring fire restrictions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in both the numbers and sizes of accidental fires,” said Ron Stoffel, DNR wildfire suppression supervisor.

The DNR advises that even though a county is not currently under spring burning restrictions, residents can’t be ensured they may conduct open burning. Local DNR forestry areas monitor conditions and are able to turn off burning permits in individual counties whenever conditions warrant. This could occur if there is a dry, windy day where fires could start easily and burn quickly, Stoffel said. 

Many local areas, counties or municipalities have specific regulations or restrictions that affect burning operations. Check with local authorities to obtain proper permits before burning.

Campfires are still allowed. Clear an area around the campfire, watch it continuously and make sure it is out and cold to the touch before leaving.The DNR will add the far northeastern counties (Cook, Lake, and northern St. Louis) as conditions warrant.

Fire conditions may change quickly. Find more information and maps, and check fire conditions online www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.

10 candidates hope to join DNR conservation officer ranks

Ten conservation officer candidates with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will begin training Wednesday, April 23, at Camp Ripley in Little Falls.

It’s the first Conservation Officer Academy since 2012, and the 15th class since academy training began at Camp Ripley in 1994.

DNR Enforcement Director Col. Ken Soring praised the 10 candidates on their selection to the academy.

“This is a strong class of candidates that will receive some of the best natural resources protection training in the nation,” Soring said. “I'm confident that when they graduate these men and women will continue in the conservation officer tradition, willing and able to stand watch over our state’s valuable natural resources.”

The Conservation Officer Academy curriculum includes training in fish and wildlife laws, rules of evidence, patrol procedures, search and rescue, and fish and wildlife investigation. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officer Training Board, the licensing agency for police officer training, has certified classes presented at the academy. Upon graduation, the new conservation officers will spend 16 weeks in field training assigned to veteran conservation officers for “hands-on” training.

“It’s an intensive program,” Soring said. “We ask a lot of both the candidates and their families, but it is worth it as these are their future partners.”

Conservation officers ensure the future of natural resources for the people of Minnesota through responsible enforcement of appropriate laws, regulations and rules. A normal station covers 650 square miles so they usually work alone and cover extensive and often remote areas of Minnesota.

List of 10 candidates:
  • Joe Kulhanek has experience as a seasonal park ranger with the National Park Service.
  • Chelsie Leuthardt has been a patrol officer with the Breckenridge and Wheaton police departments, and a corrections and dispatch officer for the Traverse County Sheriff’s Office.
  • Bill Landmark, police officer, Watford City (North Dakota) Police Department; experience with the National Park Service.
  • Jim Van Asch has experience in the building, construction and property management trade. 
  • Erik Benjamin is an Afghanistan and Iraq veteran with more than 15 years of U.S. Army and Army National Guard experience. He was a deputy sheriff with the Anoka County Sheriff’s Department. 
  • Nick Prachar is an EMT who completed a 200-hour internship with multiple Minnesota conservation officers.
  • Hannah Cowden, community service officer, St. Cloud Police Department.
  • Beau Shroyer, police officer, Detroit Lakes. 
  • Marc Hopkins is a Minnesota state trooper. Previously he was a police officer/police chief in Morton.
  • Nick Klehr worked on a dairy farm and a campground/riding stable.  
Graduation is scheduled for July 15. The department has already started the hiring process for the next Conservation Officer Academy tentatively scheduled for 2015.

DNR urges homeowners to resist pruning evergreens with red needles



The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds homeowners to wait to prune evergreen tree branches that have brown or red needles.

“This year evergreen trees in Minnesota had a long, hard winter with plenty of opportunity for injury,” said Val Cervenka, DNR forest health program coordinator. “Chances are your trees are alive and healthy even though they have damaged needles.”

Cervenka recommends waiting till late spring after the tree has put on new growth to decide if pruning is needed.

Moisture loss from drying winter winds, intense winter sunshine and low humidity causes damage to evergreen needles. Therefore, the south and southwest sides of evergreens show more winter damage than other parts of the tree. Trees that are protected by snow, shade or less wind show little to no signs of damage.

Evergreen needles are also damaged when deicing salts are splashed on the tree. Brown and red needles are especially noticeable on pines and spruces planted along highways.

To help prevent winter injury, keep evergreens properly watered throughout the growing season until the ground freezes. Choose tree species that are adapted to local growing and winter conditions. Avoid planting white and red pines, balsam fir and white spruce within 150 feet of a roadway to prevent salt damage.

Consider planting yews and arborvitae on the north and northeast sides of buildings, out of exposure to sun and wind. Wrapping evergreen trees in burlap or other materials in late fall can also help prevent moisture loss from the needles.

For more information on tree care and forest health, visit www.mndnr.gov/treecare/forest_health.

DNR announces video-streaming peregrine falcon camera


Once pushed to the brink of extinction, peregrine falcons have returned to Minnesota’s skies and their natural habitat, including the state’s bluffs, cliffs and buildings, the Department of Natural Resources said. 

Live video from a nesting pair of peregrine falcons in downtown St. Paul is now featured on the DNR website at http://webcams.dnr.state.mn.us/falcon/.

The female has already laid four eggs and will incubate them for the next 30 or so days. Last year, the pair laid and incubated three eggs, but none of the eggs hatched.

Hopefully this year will be different.

“This is a wonderful opportunity to watch peregrines raise their young in an urban setting,” said Carrol Henderson, nongame wildlife program supervisor. “It is exciting to watch the birds first-hand, in their normal habitat, without disturbing them.”

A video camera was placed in a nesting box at the top of the Bremer building several years ago. Peregrines have been using the box and raising their young there since 1988, a year after the box was installed.

The peregrine camera was paid for by DNR’s nongame wildlife program, which is largely funded by donations, especially those made when Minnesotans file their state income and property taxes. The lines on the Minnesota income tax form and property tax form, marked with a drawing of a loon, give taxpayers the option to donate to the program, a feature often referred to as the “chickadee check-off.”

The nongame wildlife program works to protect and preserve more than 800 species of animals in the state that are not traditionally hunted or harvested. In addition to peregrine falcons, populations of species such as bald eagles, trumpeter swans, loons, and American white pelicans are directly benefited by contributions to the nongame wildlife check-off. People can help Minnesota wildlife by donating on their tax forms, or donate directly online at www.mndnr.gov/nongame/checkoff. 

Bear hunt application deadline is Friday, May 2

The deadline to apply for a Minnesota bear hunting license is Friday, May 2.

Licenses are available at any Minnesota Department of Natural Resources license agent, online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense and by telephone at 888-665-4236 at a cost of $44 for residents and $250 for nonresidents.

The season opens Monday, Sept. 1, and closes Sunday, Oct. 12. The deadline to purchase licenses awarded by lottery will be Thursday, Aug. 1. Remaining unpurchased licenses will be available to anyone eligible starting at noon on Wednesday, Aug. 6.

An unlimited number of bear licenses will be sold over-the-counter for no-quota areas in east-central and far northwestern Minnesota. No-quota licenses are valid only in a no-quota area. Hunters with a no-quota license can harvest one bear. Information on the fall bear hunt is available on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/bear.

Biking is a new option at the annual ‘Walk for Glendalough’


The completion of a new paved trail at Glendalough State Park in Battle Lake late last summer means that bikers can now join hikers on the annual fundraiser, “Walk for Glendalough,” at 9 a.m. on Saturday, April 26. The event starts at the park’s trail center.

The Glendalough Park Partners, along with Department of Natural Resources, will host the 18th annual “walk” to raise money for new park amenities and features. Over the years, the walk has contributed close to $250,000 in park improvements.

A portion of the proceeds from this year’s event will go toward benches, bike racks, and interpretive kiosks along the new trail, and the construction of an outdoor seating area near the trail center suitable for student activities, interpretive programs and weddings. At least two automated external defibrillators also will be purchased for the park.

Two lakeside yurts -- circular fabric tents -- will be constructed along the new trail this spring that will be accessible by backpacking, biking or canoeing. The yurts will be equipped with bunk beds, similar to the park’s camper cabins.

Funds have been used to provide year-round restrooms at the trail center, restore and furnish the historic lodge, build a picnic shelter and a hiking bridge, add heat and electricity to the camper cabins, purchase rental canoes, construct and fund a bird-feeding station and plant trees and native prairie flowers.

“Many of the amenities that park visitors enjoy today would not have been possible without the funds raised by the walk,” said Park Manager Jeff Wiersma.

Those who chose not to walk can ride a park shuttle down the trail. Returning walkers will gather at the old tennis court to hear the latest park news, total funds raised. The event is an opportunity for park visitors to see new park developments and learn about future park projects.

The park’s new paved bike and pedestrian trail is the first phase of a trail system that will soon connect to the city of Battle Lake, 3 miles away. Completion of the Battle Lake connection is expected in July.There is no fee to enter the park on the day of the walk/bike.

It wraps up by noon, but visitors can always extend their day with an overnight stay in the cart-in campground or one of four camper cabins. For more information, call the park at 218-864-0110 or visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/glendalough.

Upper Red Lake’s summer walleye regulations unchanged for 2014


Regulations that allow Upper Red Lake anglers to keep larger walleye after June 15 will be in effect again for the 2014 open water season, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Beginning Saturday, May 10, to Saturday, June 14, anglers must release all walleye 17- to 26-inches long.

Effective Sunday, June 15 to Sunday, Nov. 30, anglers may keep walleye less than 20 inches and must immediately release all walleye 20- to 26-inches long.

The possession limit for both periods is four fish and only one of those fish can be longer than 26 inches.

The more restrictive size limit is necessary for the early season when angler catch rates are high and mature walleye are extremely vulnerable. As the open water season progresses, catch rates and fishing pressure decline, reducing the impact of harvesting larger walleye.

Winter regulations will not be finalized until open water harvest is determined. Winter regulations will be announced in late summer and will be posted on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/fishingregs.