Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Winsted-Lester Prairie Journal & Howard Lake-Waverly Herald, Minn.

March 24, 2003

Common sense urged while waiting for spring

OHV users urged to check trail conditions and restrictions

With warm weather on the way, many off-highway vehicle riders are anxious to hit the trails. But because state forest roads and trails are typically wet during the spring, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will need to temporarily close some areas.

These closures will come soon if the warm weather continues. The DNR asks riders to check on trail conditions and temporary closures before planning riding trips.

"Spring is hard on trails," said Tim Browning, DNR Trails and Waterways regional manager in Brainerd. "The spring thaw leads to soft soils, which may be susceptible to damage. We expect temporary closings to begin within the next couple of weeks," he said. "Even though the DNR will temporarily close some roads and trails, we also want to give riders as many riding opportunities as possible, and provide a convenient way users can check on which roads and trails are still open.

"We urge riders to check with the DNR about trail conditions and temporary closings," Browning said.

The DNR will post signs at entry points and at parking lots in state forests.

Road and trail closing information will be updated weekly. Closures, which depend on the local precipitation and soil conditions, will be on a forest-by-forest basis. Generally, all roads and trails in a particular forest will be closed. However, within some forests there may be roads and trails that can handle OHV traffic and they will remain open. The DNR web site will also list open roads and trails.

"The DNR will work to let users know when and where they can ride," Browning said. "We will lift road and trail closures as soon as possible. In turn, we ask users to check before riding to avoid areas that are temporarily closed, and to ride responsibly wherever they are."

DNR also reminds riders that Minnesota law prohibits ditch riding south of the agriculture line between April 1 and Aug. 1. The agricultural line runs roughly from

Burning restrictions coming soon, so clean up now

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and other wildfire agencies are gearing up for an active spring fire season.

Below average snowfall this winter and the prediction for a dry spring have these agencies concerned. Snow cover statewide is well below the averages for this time of year. Due to these conditions, restrictions on burning permits will be imposed in the northern two-thirds of the state within one to two weeks after snow cover has melted.

April 1 restrictions will go into effect in the central Minnesota counties of Morrison, Mille Lacs, Kanabec, Stearns, Benton, Chisago, Isanti, Sherburne, Anoka, Washington, Ramsey, Hennepin, Wright, Carver, Scott, and Dakota.

Property owners are encouraged to dispose of their brush piles and other yard waste now, said Olin Phillips, DNR State Fire Section manager.

"Chipping, composting, and leaving small piles far from buildings for wildlife habitat are preferred alternatives to burning," Philips said. "Property owners who must burn their vegetative debris will need to use extreme caution and get a burning permit until restrictions are implemented."

Since April and May are the most active months for fires in Minnesota, the DNR has been imposing restrictions that do not allow for the issuing of burning permits.

"During this period, the DNR responds to approximately 1,200 fires," Phillips said. "However, restrictions were initiated five years ago and fires during the restriction period have been reduced by 35 to 40 percent statewide. Also, since 99 percent of wildland fires are human caused, restricting burning permits is an excellent way of controlling fire starts and the costs associated with them."

The following firewise tips can help property owners protect their homes from wildfire loss:

· chip or compost vegetative debris piles

· remove leaves, branches, and other debris from roofs and gutters, which are places that burning embers from a wildlife can ignite a home

· rake up the leaves and debris from around the foundation, especially in planting areas

· move woodpiles, lumber, or other burnable debris at least 30 feet from any buildings.

HL Sportsmen's Club hosts gun training Tuesday

Howard Lake Sportsmen's Club will host gun training at the community center above the public library tonight, Tuesday, March 25, and Monday, March 31 from 6 to 8:30 p.m.

More sessions will be scheduled in April.

For more information, call Ken Durdahl at (320) 543-3372.

Winsted Sportsmen's Club hog roast planned

Winsted Sportsmen's Club will host a winter hog roast Saturday, April 5 from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Winsted Legion Club.

The roast will also include a euchre tournament, membership drive, meat raffle, and a band beginning at 8 p.m.

Outdoor notes

­ Please remember that no ice, especially ice at this time of year, is ever completely safe. The warm weather and rain fall we have received in the past few weeks has created varied and potentially dangerous ice conditions on lakes and small ponds in our area.

The smaller the body of water, the faster the ice will melt. Please be very cautious on any ice at this time.

­ New bag limits for pan fish take affect Saturday, May 10, 2003, which is also the 2003 Minnesota fishing opener. Sunfish limits will change from 30 to 20, and crappie limits will change from 15 to 10. New limits also take effect for lake trout and catfish.

­ Ducks have started to arrive in our area in big numbers. In the past week I have seen big flocks of mallards, some redheads, and a few large flocks of blue bills. The number of Canada geese in the area is also growing as they arrive from winter feeding grounds further south.

­ As the ice begins to melt, look for bald eagles in our area. Bald eagles tend to follow the ice outline on their way north. With some luck, we will have a few more nesting pairs stay in our area this spring.

­ The Wright County Chapter of Pheasants Forever will conduct its annual banquet Monday, April 7, at the Buffalo Civic Center.

­ Storing your winter clothing and equipment can be a real chore.

Here a few tips:

Take the time to clean it, fix it and organize it before you throw it in a box and set it in the shelf in the garage. Large plastic bins work great for storing heavy winter clothing.

The new vacuum bag systems also work well. Sort your items in clean dry places. Keep them out of sunlight.

Remove the gas from engines. On items with rubber tires, like snowmobile trailers, keep the tires off cement. A few wood blocks do the trick.

­ Take some time to get outside and enjoy spring. Spring officially started Friday, March 21.

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