Chris Schultz

Outdoors Column

By Chris Schultz
Herald Journal

March 26, 2007

Open burning restrictions to begin soon

From the DNR

Open burning restrictions for this spring will start Monday, April 2, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Above freezing temperatures in recent weeks have considerably reduced the amount of snow cover throughout the state.

This is a cause for concern, according to DNR Fire Prevention Specialist Larry Himanga.

“The lack of snow on the ground allows the vegetation to dry out much faster, which increases the likelihood a fire will start and spread rapidly,” Himanga said. “This year’s general lack of snow cover and continued drought will leave vegetation dryer than normal going into the spring season.”

Traditionally, April and May are months when local, state and federal agencies respond to the highest number of wildfires.

Approximately 80 percent of all wildfires in Minnesota occur during this period.

This will be the eighth year the DNR has issued spring burning restrictions.

As a result, the number of wildfires in April and May have decreased significantly.

Once the restrictions are in place, they will continue for four to six weeks, or until vegetation greens up enough to significantly lower the fire danger.

The DNR can issue a limited number of permits through a variance process during the restriction period.

However, these permits are confined to situations such as prescribed fires that are conducted by trained personnel, burning for approved agricultural practices and construction, or economic hardship burning for which there is no feasible alternative.

Himanga said the burning of yard debris is a major cause of wildfires in Minnesota.

He noted this is especially true in the spring because the combination of burning near dry, dead grasses and the normal springtime gusty winds often create conditions perfect for fire spread.

“State law dictates that the costs associated with the suppression of fires that escape control are the property owner’s responsibility,” Himanga said. “By restricting unnecessary burns, we’re helping to suppress that likelihood and protect personal property and lives.”

Instead of burning, the DNR recommends property owners consider other alternatives such as composting and chipping their yard debris.

Specific locations and dates for the open burning restrictions will be determined and announced at a later date.

Rainbow Sportsmen’s Club to offer firearms training

The Rainbow Sportsmen’s Club will sponsor firearm safety and training classes beginning Tuesday, April 3 in the Cokato City Hall.

Classes begin at 7 p.m. with registration open to students 11 years old and older.

The cost is $15. For additional information contact Harlan Kotila at (320) 286-5482.

Register for DNR firearms class at LP Sportsmen’s Club

A Minnesota DNR firearm safety class will begin Thursday, April 5 at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club. Class will meet Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30-8:30 p.m. and will run until Monday, May 7.

Cost is $12, and space is limited. If you plan on getting your certification this year, call Gary Godel at (320) 395-2561 to register for the class.

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club hog roast/meat raffle

The annual Winsted Sportsmen’s Club hog roast, meat raffle, and membership drive is scheduled for Saturday, March 31 at the Winsted American Legion Club.

The event begins at 5 p.m. and will run through 8 p.m.

Tickets at the door are $8, while in advance, they are $7. You can get advance tickets at the following locations in Winsted: Winsted Co-op, Winsted Floral, Keg’s Bar, Papa Tom’s, and from club members.

Crow River Chapter Ducks Unlimited banquet

The Crow River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited will host its 27th annual banquet Tuesday, April 10 at the Blue Note in Winsted.

The doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the dinner starting at 7 p.m., and the auction to follow.

Tickets are $50 per individual, or $75 for a couple.

Your ticket includes dinner, and the opportunity to participate in the auction, silent auction, and numerous drawings.

To RSVP, call (320) 543-3372. The early bird deadline is Monday, March 26.

Wright County Pheasants Forever banquet April 2

The 22nd annual Wright County Pheasants Forever (WCPF) banquet is scheduled for Monday, April 2 at the Buffalo Civic Center.

The doors will open at 5:30 p.m., with dinner scheduled at 7 p.m.

All proceeds raised at the banquet are used to purchase, restore, and enhance wildlife habitat for local and regional projects, as well as fostering conservation education for our youth.

Over the past 22 years, the WCPF chapter has raised over $500,000 that has been dedicated to acquiring and preserving habitat in the state of Minnesota, and conservation education.

If you would like to attend the banquet, contact Walt Barlow at (320) 543-3660, Brad Hayes at (763) 682-3117, or Bruce Bartl at (763) 682-0653.

McLeod County PF Spring Banquet April 14

The 21st annual McLeod County Pheasants Forever Spring Banquet is scheduled for Saturday, April 14 at the Commercial Buildings at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

The banquet begins at 4 p.m. with a prime rib dinner to follow at 7 p.m. A special event will then kick off at 8 p.m.

For banquet registration or questions, call either 866-352-1270 or (320) 587-0052. If no answer, leave name and number and your call will be returned.

Duck nesting habitat initiative
From the Wright County FSA

A cooperative effort between Ducks Unlimited and the Farm Service Agency are introducing a conservative reserve program: duck nesting habitat initiative.

This new program is available on about a third of the acres in Wright County.

Specific areas in the county have been designated as high quality nesting habitat.

If your farm is located within that area, you may be eligible.

Eligible acreages include cropland that is adjacent to wetlands and/or hydric (wet) soil types.

Participants will plant a typical CRP Native Grass cover and/or restore wetlands. Note: buffers of existing non-cropped wetlands may be eligible.

Acreage minimum and maximums apply, based on a four-to-one “upland to wetland” minimum ratio, up to a 10-to-one “upland to wetland” maximum ratio.

Contact Joe Schroeder at (763) 682-1982 for additional details on this new program.

Central MN prescribed burning season to begin
Press Release

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Litchfield Wetland Management District will soon begin its annual spring prescribed burn program on waterfowl production areas in the Litchfield area.

The prescribed burns will be conducted from late March through early June and are carefully planned and controlled to ensure there is no damage to adjacent property.

The Litchfield Wetland Management District manages approximately 45,000 acres and annually conducts prescribed burns on approximately 2,000 to 4,000 acres of planted grass, remnant native prairies and woodlands within Kandiyohi, Meeker, McLeod, Wright, Renville, Stearns and Todd counties.

Prescribed burning is an essential management activity designed to replicate natural processes and maintain and enhance the vitality and biodiversity of Minnesota’s tallgrass prairie ecosystems.

In addition, these burns can provide a margin of safety to firefighters and property owners by reducing the natural fuel in an area in case a wildfire should occur.

If you have any questions or would like additional information, please contact the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service Litchfield Wetland Management Office at (320) 693-2849.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people.

The Service manages the 96-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas.

It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations.

The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts.

It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.

Summer youth habitat camp offered
From Pheasants Forever

The Minnesota Lady Slippers Chapter of Pheasants Forever (PF) has announced that the group is collaborating with the Twin Cities Chapter of Trout Unlimited (TU) to hold the first PF/TU Youth Habitat Camp.
The camp is slated for July 12-15, 2007 at the Audubon Center of the Northwoods in Sandstone, Minn.

The camp aims to pass on renowned author and conservationist Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic to the next generation of land stewards, focusing on upland and riparian habitats and the mutual benefits between them.

“The goal of this partnership is to offer Twin Cities area youth the opportunity to learn how habitat is the key component of many of our outdoor activities. In order to hike, fish, hunt and camp, we must become stewards of the land,” said Janine Newhouse, the Lady Slippers’ Banquet and Public Relations Director and TU member.

“This partnership, focusing on youth, is the beginning of a great relationship between two of the most recognized conservation organizations in the country,” said Nick Altringer, Education Chairperson for the Twin Cities Chapter of TU. “This is a prime opportunity for two premier conservation organizations to combine forces and educate the next generation of land stewards and we excited for that to begin with our two local chapters.”

Twenty high school students entering 9th-12th grade will participate in the habitat camp, where they will take part in shooting, fly-fishing and fly-tying clinics, rope courses, dog training, canoeing and fishing.

The teenagers will also learn about upland habitat and land management practices and stream ecology and aquatic life.

The Audubon Center of the Northwoods is set on 500 acres of pristine streams, prairies, wetlands, hardwoods, a pine plantation and beautiful Grindstone Lake.

Cost of the PF/TU Habitat Camp is $350 per student.

For registration information, contact Janine Newhouse at (651)209-4971 or via e-mail at jmn@pheasantsforever.org, or contact Nick Altringer at (612)803-3962 or via e-mail at nick_flyquest@yahoo.com.

The Minnesota Lady Slippers chapter will hold their 3rd Annual Membership Banquet Friday, April 20 at Jimmy’s Conference Center in Vadnais Heights, Minn.

For tickets and more information, please contact Diane Weyandt, President of the Minnesota Lady Slippers Chapter of PF, toll free at (877)773-2070.

The Twin Cities Chapter of TU will hold its annual banquet at 5 PM Saturday, March 24 at the Airport Hilton in Bloomington.

The Minnesota Lady Slippers, the state’s first all-female chapter of Pheasants Forever, formed in 2004.

The conservation-minded metro chapter promotes conservation education in local schools and education facilities throughout the metro area.

All the net funds raised by the chapter are spent on schoolyard habitat projects, youth mentor programs, conservation education, teacher training and community related conservation projects.

For additional information about Pheasants Forever, please visit www.pheasantsforever.org.

DNR publishes new trail guidelines
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has completed its much anticipated “Trail Planning, Design & Development Guidelines.”

This 300-page spiral-bound publication, several years in the making, provides a first-ever comprehensive how-to guidebook for developing all types of recreational trails.

These best practices for professional trail builders are intended to aid Minnesota land managers in applying new, innovative and environmentally sustainable approaches to trail planning, design and construction.

According to Pete Webber, special projects director with the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) of Boulder, Colo., the publication is among the very best.

“By detailing a variety of trails from greenways to single-track, Minnesota’s new trail manual provides an impressive range of information in one of the most complete and helpful planning resources available,” Webber said.

Long a leader in natural-surface trail design, IMBA, which served as a consultant on this project, has also just released its fourth in a series of highly-acclaimed Trail Design Guides, “Managing Mountain Biking,” aimed at mountain bike trail builders and trail managers.

Development of the Minnesota Trail Guidelines was funded, in large part, by dedicated trail funds, with additional support from the Federal Highway Administration’s National Recreational Trails Program.

The project was undertaken in response to the growing, changing demands for trails of all types, particularly the rapid growth in off-highway vehicle trails use.

The DNR expects this guidebook to prove useful for grant-in-aid trail clubs and volunteers, local government sponsors, educators, and both public and private land managers.

The guidelines address both new and existing trail corridors, summer and winter-use trails, and multi-use trails with paved or naturally-surfaced treadways.

Practical, low-cost and low-tech solutions to the unique challenges faced by Minnesota trail builders are highlighted, recognizing the state’s wide range of soil and site conditions, riparian area concerns and climatic extremes.

Trail project planning, funding, permitting and environmental review steps are also discussed and references provided for those wishing to learn more.

To order copies of the new publication, contact Minnesota’s Bookstore at (651) 297-3000 or toll free 1-800-657-3757.

People may also visit the Minnesota Bookstore online at www.minnesotasbookstore.com, refer to Stock No. 9-66.

Lights Out project launched to save birds
From the DNR

Two downtown Minneapolis skyscrapers, the 57-story Wells Fargo Building and the 33-story Accenture Building, are the first to sign up with Lights Out Twin Cities, an effort to make the cities more bird friendly during migration.

The Lights Out Twin Cities project is encouraging city, state and privately owned buildings to turn off non-necessary lighting during peak migration hours during spring and fall.

The Minneapolis and St. Paul Building Owners and Managers Associations have expressed interest as well, and are encouraging their members to sign on to this exciting project.

This spring’s Lights Out effort started March 15 and runs through the end of May from midnight until daylight.

Most songbirds migrate at night and must navigate around hazards like tall buildings along their routes.

Millions of birds die preventable deaths each year as they are drawn to and collide with lighted buildings or are dazed by the lights and circle until exhausted.

Lights Out programs in Toronto, Chicago and New York, where many buildings are dimmed during migration, have a proven track record of saving migratory birds, according to Mark Martell, director of bird conservation for Audubon Minnesota.

“Reducing bird deaths from collisions will have a positive effect on bird conservation,” said Martell. “The Lights Out program costs building owners or managers little or nothing to implement and will save energy and money at the same time it saves birds.”

Lights Out Twin Cities is a joint effort by the Department of Natural Resources’ Nongame Wildlife Program, the Audubon Society, the Bell Museum of Natural History, the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center and Bird Conservation Minnesota.

Minnesota citizens can help this effort by donating to the Nongame Wildlife Program on their state tax forms.

Volunteers are needed to monitor buildings where they live or work to collect fallen birds.

This information can be used to assess the magnitude of bird mortality in the Twin Cities.

Those interested in volunteering for Lights Out Twin Cities may sign up for a training session in mid-April by contacting the state Audubon Society office at (651) 739-9332.

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