As of March 15 the water level on South Fork of the Crow River a mile or so southwest of Lester Prairie was the highest I have ever seen it.
It’s been close, but never as high as I saw it that day.
I grew up on that stretch of the south fork, have played, fished, hunted, and explored it for almost 40 years.
I’ve seen the water so low the current was no more than a trickle and you could easily walk across without getting the bottom of your knees wet.
I’ve seen the water level very high, flooding over its banks and the current raging, many times in the past.
Knowing the river, high water and some flooding are expected in the spring.
After typical spring water levels, I have also come to expect noticeable changes in the river’s structure, like sandbars in new locations, eroded banks, damned up debris, or newly exposed rock outcroppings.
This year, with water levels higher than I have ever seen them, the structure of the river will most likely be much different than it was.
Although I am scared to see the impact of more erosion on the rivers’ banks, I’m interested to experience, first-hand, what the structure of that section of the south fork is going to look like after this year’s flooding.
Without question, the river, flooding or not, is an intriguing part of our local culture.
March 16, I drove to the area just east of Lester Prairie, where the county road was flooded and closed to traffic.
At 7 p.m., the water in that area was still pushing back and rising.
At 7:20 p.m., only two miles to the west, the water levels on the river had already begun to dissipate.
Creeks flowing into the river had dropped and areas of standing backwaters were slowly giving way to dry land.
Farther downstream, the Crow River in Delano was expected to crest late Saturday, March 20 or early Sunday, March 21.
McLeod County PF banquet April 10
The annual banquet for McLeod County Pheasants Forever will be Saturday, April 10 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.
Social hour begins at 4 p.m., with dinner at 6 p.m., and some special events at 7 p.m.
The event will take place at the commerical building exhibit hall on the fairgrounds.
The cost is $50 for a single, $65 for a couple, and $75 for a package purchase.
For tickets or additional information, call (320) 587-0052.
Wright County PF banquet March 29
Wright County Pheasants Forever will host their annual fundraising banquet Monday, March 29, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. at the Buffalo Civic Center.
Funds raised at the chapter event are used to promote wildlife habitat restoration, purchase land for public access, and youth conservation education in Wright County and greater Minnesota.
If you would like to attend this event, contact Walt Barlow at (320) 543-3660.
Ducks Unlimited banquet in Winsted April 13
The 30th annual Crow River Chapter of Ducks Unlimited Banquet will be Tuesday, April 13 at the Blue Note in Winsted.
The doors open at 5:30 p.m., with the dinner starting at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $50 for a single, $75 for a couple, and $35 for youths.
Your ticket includes Ducks Unlimited membership, dinner, and the opportunity to participate in the auction, silent auction, and numerous drawings.
To purchase tickets, contact Bonnie Durdahl (320) 543-3372; Ken Durdahl (612) 790-0227; or April Debner (320) 543-2903.
Firearms safety training at LP
DNR firearms safety class at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will begin Monday, April 5 and run through Tuesday, May 4.
The class will be Monday and Tuesday nights from 7 to 9 p.m.
To register, contact Gary Godel at (320) 395-2561 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Firearms safety training in Delano
The Delano Sportsman’s Club is hosting a 10-day firearms safety training course this spring.
The registration date is Monday, March 29, from 7-8 p.m. at the Delano Sportsman’s Club.
The course is for students 11 years old and older. A parent is required to register minors. Adults are welcome and encouraged to take the course. The cost is $8 per person.
Each class is from 7-9 p.m. each night, starting Thursday, April 1. A parent or guardian is requested to attend the April 1 class. The course will end Saturday, May 1, with a field/range day, from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The training course will cover hunter responsibility, firearms handling, archery, marksmanship, wildlife identification, game management and care, survival, water safety, and first aid.
Questions, call John McClay at (763) 675-2397 after 6 p.m.
The course dates
Thursday, April 1
Tuesday, April 6
Thursday, April 8
Tuesday, April 13
Thursday, April 15
Monday, April 19
Thursday, April 22
Monday, April 26
Thursday, April 29
Sat., May 1 field/range day
Archery Venture Crew open house
An Archery Venture Crew open house will take place Wednesday, April 17 from 3:30 to 6 p.m.
The open house will be at the Dassel Rod and Gun Club fieldhouse at Lake Waschington, one mile west of Dassel, south of Hwy. 12.
There will be pizza, pop, and archery at the open house.
There is also an archery club for teens (guys and girls) ages 14 to 20 every Wednesday after school from 3 to 5:30 p.m.
There will be outdoor archery training and practice, and the club will provide equipment or you are welcome to bring your own.
Instruction will come from William Bull, a Level II NAA instructor and a member of the National Archery Assosciation.
Other adult archers with many years of experience will also be on hand to help.
Annual membership fee of $20 is required.
DNR files petition to have gray wolf status reflect MN reality
From the DNR
The Minnesota gray wolf should be removed immediately from the federal government’s endangered and threatened species list and returned to state management, according to a petition filed today by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The DNR filed the petition with the Washington, D.C., office of the U.S. Department of the Interior and asked the government to make its decision within the next 90 days.
The petition is a procedural step between state and federal natural resource conservation agencies.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has tried to delist the wolf in Minnesota and the western Great Lakes region from federal protection on two occasions.
Both times the decision was overturned due to legal challenges related to procedural issues.
“We filed the petition because it is time to have the federal classification match the Minnesota reality,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “Federal officials agree that the Minnesota gray wolf population is not threatened or endangered. They agree our wolf management plan ensures the long-term survival of the wolf. They have seen it in action during 2007 and 2008, when the wolves in the Great Lakes Region were delisted.”
The Endangered Species Act allows states to petition the federal government to delist a species.
Holsten said the DNR is using this process on behalf of Minnesota citizens who should not have to wait for national wolf conservation issues to be resolved when our state’s population is clearly recovered.
“Today, with a fully recovered Minnesota gray wolf population, we are asking the federal government to delist the animal to ensure that scarce resources for federally endangered and threatened species can be directed to those species that truly need protection,” he added.
In its petition, the DNR asks that the FWS delist the species based on a 1978 federal classification that stated the Minnesota gray wolf was a separate species from other wolf populations in the lower 48 states.
The Minnesota gray wolf has recolonized portions of Wisconsin and Michigan, resulting in a regional population of about 4,000.
The species achieved recovery in Minnesota as early as 1989, and is estimated at approximately 3,000.
That is about twice what is required by the federal Eastern Timber Wolf Recovery Plan.
The fully recovered populations in Wisconsin and Michigan satisfy the federal government’s secondary criteria that at least one viable wolf population exists outside of Minnesota.
• Human-wolf conflicts
A large part of modern wolf management is addressing human-wolf conflicts, according to the DNR.
Since 1978, federal officials have trapped and euthanized more than 3,000 Minnesota wolves in response to depredation of domestic animals.
Most of these incidents have involved cattle in the forested regions of central and northern Minnesota, and the problem seems to be growing.
Gene Hugoson, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, said he supports the DNR’s petition because wolf depredation is a major problem for livestock producers in northern Minnesota.
“Since 1998, we have received more than 1,000 claims from producers who lost livestock to wolves, and Minnesota taxpayers have spent nearly a million dollars to compensate them for those losses,” said Hugoson. “We believe it is time for the state to have greater flexibility to manage this issue in a way that reflects reality in northern Minnesota.”
Spring burning restrictions to begin Monday, March 29
From the DNR
Due to rapid snowmelt across much of the state, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced today that open burning restrictions will start in 25 counties at 8 a.m. Monday, March 29.
The counties include: Aitkin, Anoka, Benton, Cass, Crow Wing, Chisago, Carver, Dakota, Hennepin, Hubbard, Isanti, Itasca, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pine, Ramsey, Scott, Sherburne, Stearns, Todd, Wadena, Washington, Wright, and the south half of Beltrami.
Dry conditions have increased the risk of wildfires, particularly in grassy areas which can ignite easily and spread quickly.
“The lack of snow on the ground allows the vegetation to dry out much faster, which increases the likelihood for a fire to start,” said Larry Himanga, DNR fire prevention specialist. “The rapid snow melt has drastically increased the risk for wildfires.”
Additional counties will be added shortly, as the snow cover recedes further north.
For those who plan to burn in counties that still have open burning, the window of opportunity will be brief.
Soon most of Minnesota will be under restrictions.
Once restrictions are in place, special permits will only be written for extenuating circumstances.
This may include time sensitive construction projects and prescribed burning conducted by professional firefighters.
The DNR encourages the use of composting, recycling, and chipping as alternatives to burning.
While debris burning will be curtailed, the use of campfires, if smaller than 3 feet in diameter and 3 feet in height, will continue to be allowed.
Permits are not required for this type of fire if it meets the above conditions and is monitored until the coals are dead out.
DNR reminds homeowners to complete open burning activities now
From the DNR
With the quickly receding snow cover exposing last year’s leaves and other dead vegetation, yard clean-up isn’t far behind.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds homeowners that spring is fire season, and to think safety first when disposing of yard waste.
The safest way to dispose of yard waste is to recycle or compost it.
However, homeowners who choose to burn yard waste should try to accomplish this while snow still blankets the area.
Three inches or more of continuous snow cover drastically reduces the chance a fire will escape and burn unintended areas.
A DNR burning permit is not required under snow-covered conditions, but local city and municipalities may require a permit at all times of the year.
Spring fire restrictions will soon take effect and will severely limit open burning.
The restrictions are weather dependent, but normally last from four to six weeks until summer green-up.
Most wildfires happen during April and May and more than 95 percent of these fires are caused by human error.
Past experience has shown that spring fire restrictions dramatically decrease both the numbers and sizes of these “escaped” fires.
If the DNR or a fire department is called on to put out an escaped fire out, the homeowner is responsible for the costs.
More information is available online at www.mndnr.gov/news.
Question of the week
From the DNR
Q: What are the requirements to become a volunteer safety instructor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR)? What type of training is required?
A: The main requirement to become a DNR safety-training instructor is a love of hunting or other outdoor activities, and a desire to teach ethics, responsibility, and important safety considerations.
We are always looking for that special someone who wants to give back to the community and share their passion for outdoor activities.
A certified volunteer instructor for DNR Division of Enforcement Safety Training programs must be 18 years of age or older and pass a thorough background check.
The typical instructor training session lasts four hours, where new instructors are introduced to policies and training techniques; course outlines for specific programs are also discussed.
Information about specific programs and instructor training opportunities is available on the DNR Web site at www.mndnr.gov/safety/instructors/training.html or by calling 800-366-8917.
• The first official day of spring was Saturday, March 20.
• Waterfowl and other migratory birds are returning earlier than normal this year.
Last week I saw my first pair of mallards.
• Expect an early ice out this year. The average ice out date on Howard Lake is April 12.
The earliest ice out recorded occurred March 15, 2000, and the latest ice out was May 2, 1950.
• Look for more signs of spring and remember to take some time to actually watch spring happen.