Tuesday, September 30, 2014

DNR urges motorists to be alert for deer in the fall

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges motorists to be especially alert this autumn to avoid vehicle/deer accidents.

“Fall is an extremely active time for wildlife, especially deer,” said Colonel Ken Soring, DNR Enforcement director. “Drivers need to remain alert and drive with particular caution this time of year.”

In the fall, deer population numbers are at a peak. Consequently, the potential for drivers to encounter them on the roadways is greatly increased. In addition, autumn is the breeding season for white-tailed deer and reproductive urges cause the animals to become increasingly mobile throughout October and November.

“When you see deer along the roadside, reduce your speed and be wary of any sudden movement,” said Soring. “If a deer crosses the road, others may follow in its path.”

While deer may be seen crossing roadways at any time of day, they are most active at dawn and dusk. These are the same hours most people are traveling to and from work. Drivers can avoid hitting deer by slowing down during these hours and being particularly alert in areas where deer typically cross.

Rydell Refuge will be closing the trails to the public

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Rydell National Wildlife Refuge will be closing the trails to all public during the asphalt overlay for the trail improvement project, the Deer Hunt for Persons with Disabilities, and the Youth Deer Hunt. The closures will begin Monday October 6th, 2014 and continue through November 1st, 2014. Due to the heavy equipment necessary for the project and the use of rifles during the hunting season, the entire trail system will be closed for this entire period.  

These closures are for the safety and welfare of the general public.  The Refuge will be placing signs at every entrance detailing that the trails will be closed. We appreciate your help and cooperation in keeping our Refuge safe while we work on improving the trails and providing a unique experience for hunters. For any questions or concerns, please contact the assistant manager Trina Brennan at (218)687-2229 ext. 16.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

MN service members are to claim 2010 military credit by Oct. 15

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Revenue is helping Minnesota service members take advantage of a refundable tax credit that is about to expire. The Credit for Military Service in a Combat Zone will expire on Oct. 15, 2014, for service time in 2010.
The department recently sent letters to 2,600 qualifying service members to ensure they are aware of the credit and to explain how they can claim it. More than $2.4 million in refunds have already been claimed by service members for the 2010 credit. The average refund is $650.

“We are so grateful for our dedicated service members because they give so much to our country and this military credit is one small way we can thank them for their hard work and sacrifice,” said Revenue Commissioner Myron Frans.

To date, the department has received more than 35,000 claims for the military credit, totaling more than $18 million in refunds.

This credit is for service members who served in a combat zone or qualified hazardous duty area in 2010. The 2010 credit is $120 per month, or partial month served.
To receive the credit, service members must file Form M99, Credit for Military Service in a Combat Zone, and attach corresponding Form DD-214. If still on active duty, service members may attach Leave and Earnings statements for each month of qualifying service. They must have been a Minnesota resident during the time of service to qualify. For more information on the military tax credit and to fill out the form, visit our website at www.revenue.state.mn.us. Applications must be postmarked by Oct. 15, 2014.  
Tax credits for service in a combat zone are also available for 2011, 2012 and 2013. For more information, visit the Members of the Military page on our website and sign up for email updates on military credits, application deadlines and tax law changes.

For information on locations that qualify for the tax credit, visit the IRS website at www.irs.gov.

Follow the latest news and updates from the Minnesota Department of Revenue on Twitter, Facebook and sign-up for our email subscription list.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

‘Cabin close-up’ a time to inspect boats and water equipment for invasive species

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources asks every cabin and lakeshore owner to watch for aquatic invasive species (AIS) when removing docks, boat lifts, swim rafts and other equipment from the water.

“Since those items have been in the water for several months, now is the ideal time to spot invasive species that may be attached to them,” said Heidi Wolf, DNR invasive species unit supervisor. “Carefully inspect everything you remove from the water to see if there are invasive species attached. Your observations will provide invaluable information to the DNR in tracking the distribution of AIS – and give us a chance to rapidly respond if new infestations are found.”

People should look on the posts, wheels and underwater support bars of docks and lifts, as well as any parts of boats, pontoons and rafts that may have been submerged in water for an extended period. In newly infested waters, adult zebra mussels may not be abundant and there may only be a few mussels on a piece of equipment. On a smooth surface, juvenile mussels feel gritty, like sandpaper.
If a new infestation of zebra mussels, faucet snails or other aquatic invasive species is suspected, the exact location should be noted, a photo taken and a specimen should be kept for positive identification.

Call 888-646-6367 or contact a local DNR AIS specialist or a fisheries office. Responding quickly to new AIS infestations is critical to help curb the spread into other water bodies.

There are also specific legal requirements for cabin owners and boaters when removing and storing watercraft and equipment for the winter – or hiring someone to handle it:

Transporting and storing watercraft
  • When hauling boats or other watercraft to a storage facility away from the shoreline property, make sure there are no invasive species attached. It is illegal to transport watercraft with invasive species attached.
  • A list of permitted lake services providers is on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/lakeserviceproviders.
  • The form should be downloaded, completed, signed and kept in possession during transport. Zebra mussels and other invasive plants and animals must be removed before transporting the watercraft back to a lake or other water body.
Transporting and storing docks, lifts and equipment
  • It is legal to remove a dock, boat lift, dock, weed roller, swim raft, or irrigation equipment from infested waters and place it on the adjacent shoreline property – even if there are zebra mussels or other prohibited invasive species attached. A permit is not required to place equipment on the shoreline. Contact a DNR AIS specialist if an invasive plant or animal is found that has not been sighted on the lake before. 
  • However, if someone wants to transport equipment from infested waters to another location for storage, cleaning or repair, they must have an authorization form to transport equipment to legally move it to another location.
  • If equipment is to be installed in another water body, all aquatic plants and animals such as zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil, must be removed – and equipment must be dried for 21 days before placing in other waters.
Hiring a business or individual to remove boats and equipment from any water body
  • Any business or individual in Minnesota paid to decontaminate, install, or remove boats, docks or water-related equipment is legally required to complete AIS training and obtain a permit before working in state waters.
  • Anyone hired to remove a boat or dock must have a current DNR permitted service provider sticker on their windshield. If they work for a lake service provider business, ask to see an employee certificate.
  • A list of permitted lake services providers is on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/lakeserviceproviders.
Learn more about Minnesota’s aquatic invasive species rules and regulations, and the DNR’s lake service provider program at www.mndnr.gov/AIS.

BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota offers Customer Reviews

Burnsville, Minn – September 18, 2014 – Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) now offers verified customer reviews in their free BBB Business Reviews. This provides consumers the option of submitting customer reviews after dealing with a business. Though these reviews will not affect companies’ BBB ratings, they will be publicly available after BBB’s review process has run its course.

“When we asked consumers and businesses what else they wanted from our BBB, time and again we heard ‘customer reviews,’” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota. “So this is another tool we now offer, and our reviews are verified, which is fair to both consumers and business owners.”

BBB rules state that customers may not file a complaint and a customer review in regard to the same transaction. In situations where customers are seeking a resolution from a given company, they are encouraged to file a formal complaint. In other situations where they are looking to commend a business or simply share their experience, they can file an online customer review.

All customer reviews are processed by BBB staff and sent on to the business referenced. Businesses then have 10 days to respond and/or inform BBB the person writing the review wasn’t a customer. From there, the person writing the review is asked to provide verification of the transaction. Once the 10 days have passed and/or BBB’s verification process is complete, the customer review and business response, if one is provided, are made available online at bbb.org. BBB also monitors for duplicate customer reviews – and complaints – and multiple reviews filed by the same IP address, to prevent possible abuse.

Since January 1, when BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota launched their customer review option, more than 1,100 reviews have been received, with nearly 70% of them positive.

“We are pleased to note that a solid majority of customer reviews filed so far reference positive experiences,” added Badgerow. “We know most businesses in our marketplace are upstanding, and we’re pleased to offer this feature to them as a way to stand out and be recognized, and to consumers as another free BBB tool they can use to find reliable businesses.”

BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota is one of 44 BBBs that offer customer reviews. Consumers can file or read customer reviews online at www.thefirstbbb.org. Since March of 2012, BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota has also published complaint details in their free Business Reviews.

For the latest fraud alerts and marketplace news, visit bbb.org.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

DNR to celebrate reopening of the Itasca State Park bike trail Sept. 18

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division will celebrate the completed Itasca State Park bike trail on Thursday, Sept. 18, at 1 p.m. at the North Picnic Area.

The ceremony will include a ribbon-cutting event with remarks from Mike Carroll, DNR assistant commissioner; Erika Rivers, DNR Parks and Trails director; Chris Weir-Koetter, Parks and Trails strategic program manager; and Bob Chance, Itasca State Park manager.

Trail design and placement ensured that new segments of the trail avoided old growth forest areas, wetlands and archeological features while meeting current design standards for paved recreation trails.
“This was a remarkable planning effort to create a paved trail design that incorporated recreational opportunities while reducing impacts and protecting the park’s natural resources,” Weir-Koetter said.

Work was completed on more than 5 miles of the trail between the North Picnic Area and Jacob V. Brower Visitor Center. The completed trail includes a new segment on the east side of Main Park Drive, resurfaced and widened segments of the old trail and upgraded trail crossings on Main Park Drive. The obliterated segments of the trail (about 1 mile) are being restored to natural conditions.

“It’s great to see people getting outdoors on the trail. Bicycling at Itasca State Park is very popular,” said Luke Skinner, deputy director for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “Bikers can expect a safe and enjoyable experience while they meander through the incredibly scenic rolling hills of the park.”

The $1.5 million trail project was funded by the 2013 Legislature bonding bill, a Federal Recreation Trail Program grant and the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008. The Parks and Trails Fund receives 14.25 percent of the sales tax revenue and may only be spent to support parks and trails of regional or statewide significance.

The celebration will also include an open house of the newly remodeled guesthouse in the Bear Paw line of cabins at the Bear Paw Campground.

The guesthouse has a rich history. Built in 1935, this historic cabin served as a camp store for park visitors and campers. In the early 1970s, it housed seasonal staff and was used for storage.

Because it is a historic building, the DNR collaborated with the Minnesota Historical Society and the State Historic Preservation Office, which approved the renovation. Remodeling began during the fall of 2013, using funds from the Parks and Trails Fund.

The log cabin has three bedrooms, two pull-out couches, a full kitchen, two bathrooms and a living area, and is ADA accessible. It combines modern comforts with a rustic feel and has a beautiful view of the lake.  Watch the visitor alert on the park’s Web page at www.mndnr.gov/itasca for reservation information.

"We're excited to offer this historic building as a place for folks to stay," said Bob Chance, Itasca State Park manager. “It is a great addition to the variety of lodging opportunities available at Itasca State Park. There is something for everyone here.”

For more information about the trail, including a map, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_trails/paul_bunyan. Trail information is also available from the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.