DNR aims to boost waterfowl populations through new approaches

December 20, 2010

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Two new tactics to add more ducks to Minnesota’s skies were the focus of a signing ceremony Tuesday, Dec. 14, attended by leaders of Ducks Unlimited, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and other conservation organizations.

The gathering, convened by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), celebrated the formal signing of the state’s first-ever shallow lakes plan and the publication of new state guidelines for creating and managing temporary wetlands.

“Hunters want more ducks. We do, too,” said Mark Holsten, DNR commissioner. “To make this happen, we are refocusing our sights on existing public ownership. Our goal is to improve what we have and create what we don’t.”

Holsten said the agency will accomplish the latter by increasing agency emphasis on building very shallow, food-filled seasonal wetlands on state-owned Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs).

The building and managing of seasonal wetlands is called moist soil management.

These temporary wetlands can be powerful magnets for attracting migrating ducks in spring and fall and provide critical food resources for both ducks as well as shorebirds.

These two strategies will compliment the agency’s other pillars of waterfowl management, which are providing refuge and feeding areas and creating multi-square mile complexes of grassland and water.

“The agency’s focus on more aggressively and intensively managing what we own is the right move for the times,” Holsten said. “We’ve spent decades building our WMA habitat base. Now we need to reinvest in making it the best.”

Waterfowl leaders at Tuesday’s ceremony supported the agency’s shift in direction.

“We like it,” said Ryan Heiniger, Ducks Unlimited director of conservation programs in Minnesota and Iowa. “Shallow lakes are the cornerstone of Minnesota’s remaining habitat. Improving these basins meets the goals of the DNR’s duck recovery plan and our Living Lakes conservation initiative.”

“Our organization was founded on the importance of shallow lakes to Minnesota waterfowl,” said Brad Nylin, executive director of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. “It makes sense to maximize the potential of these assets.”

The DNR’s new shallow lakes plan is a 53-page blueprint for rebuilding waterfowl populations by focusing on managing 1,800 of Minnesota’s shallow lakes.

The plan’s primary objectives are to:

• Assess the habitat quality of Minnesota’s shallow lakes so management and protection efforts can be prioritized;

• Maximize waterfowl habitat efforts on all 200 shallow lakes that are currently Designated Wildlife Lakes or located completely within DNR or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) ownership;

• Maximize waterfowl habitat on 1,553 shallow lakes that abut federal, state or county ownership;

• Increase wildlife management on 201 shallow lakes with public access sites but no adjacent public land, especially those already designated as Migratory Waterfowl Feeding and Resting Areas; and

• Increase awareness and protection of lakes that contain natural stands of wild rice, an important waterfowl food.

The DNR’s new moist soil management guide is a 60-page document that details how to create and manage temporary wetlands that mimic naturally occurring seasonal wetlands.

This document will accelerate the DNR’s ability to design, fund and construct moist-soil units similar to those on the Thief Lake, Roseau River, Teal Lake and Lac Qui Parle wildlife management areas.

It also will be a tool that other waterfowl-minded organizations can use.

Dave Schad, DNR Fish and Wildlife division director, said the moist soil guide will be a valuable resource inside and outside the agency.

“It’s a cookbook for how to create temporary wetlands by manipulating water by the inch rather than the foot,” Schad said. “We have trained our staff on these new guidelines. We’re looking forward to getting projects on the ground this spring and summer.”

The shallow lakes plan signing ceremony was conducted in Minneapolis as part of the 71st Midwest Fish and Wildlife Association annual meeting.

Copies of the DNR shallow lakes plan and moist soils guidelines can be found online at mndnr.gov/ducks.

Conservation officers reports from area
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked sleds. CO Mies also checked anglers and took part in career day at Kimball high School.
CO Mies also checked deer hunters and worked on a complaint.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) checked anglers and snowmobilers.
Reller also followed up on several complaints and assisted a neighboring officer on a TIP call of an individual taking a turkey out of season.
A student also did a job shadow with Officer Reller.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked the few deer and pheasant hunters who braved the cold weather.
Not many ice anglers were out with the heavy snow fall ice conditions are poor.
Most of the weekend was worked helping with accidents and injuries caused by the blizzard conditions in Carver County.
The heavy snow is already causing stress on the pheasants, observing many birds on and along roadways looking for food.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Mound) patrolled the Luce Line State Trail and Carver County for snowmobile activity.
Violations included failing to display snowmobile registration, no trail permit, no safety certificate, operating on the shoulder of the roadway, and trespassing.
She continued investigating cases from the firearms deer season and responded to a deer that had fallen through the ice and was stuck on Lake Minnetonka.

• CO Angela Graham (Hutchinson) spoke at youth firearms classes, and the local radio station in regards to snowmobile safety.
Officer Graham also checked anglers, deer and small game hunters, snowmobiles and numerous spearing houses.
Enforcement action was taken on snowmobile registration, spearing without a license, no blaze orange, no identification on fish shelters, no license in possession, and trespassing.

• CO Wayne Hatlestad (Litchfield) checked angling and spearing activity.
Additional time was spent checking muzzleloader and archery deer hunting activity, and pheasant hunting activity.
Hatlestad also enforced ATV and snowmobile laws, and patrolled state trails and lands.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) worked mainly snowmobile enforcement during the week.
An area crappie bite was also worked, with limits being caught.
Snowmobile trails were in good condition prior to the snow storm, so they should be in excellent condition once groomed.
A trapping and trespass complaint continues to be worked.

Two new snowmobile map products available from DNR
From the DNR

A new online interactive snowmobile trail map and a downloadable GPS background map are now available to help people explore and navigate Minnesota’s extensive snowmobile trail system, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

These maps can be found at mndnr.gov/snowmobiling.

The online snowmobile trail map, developed by the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails, displays all of the DNR and Grant-in-Aid trails across the state.

The map makes it easy to zoom, search, pan, and get more information about more than 22,000 miles of snowmobile trails at the click of a mouse.

The map also includes a print function so custom maps can be printed at home.

The downloadable GPS background maps are compatible with Garmin GPS units.

The maps are available for free on the website and will help snowmobilers navigate trails with their handheld GPS units.

“These two new map products make it easier for snowmobiles to explore Minnesota’s world-class snowmobile trail system,” said Forrest Boe, deputy director of the DNR Division of Parks and Trails. “They also showcase all of the work and dedication of the thousands of snowmobile club volunteers who make the trail system possible.”

Minnesota was recently named “Best Trails State” in the country by American Trails for facilitating an outstanding statewide system of trails.

The Grant-in-Aid snowmobile trail system consists of more than 21,000 miles of snowmobile trails maintained by local club volunteers, and the DNR maintains another 1,000 miles on state trails and in state parks.

DNR report highlights advancements in conservation, agency effectiveness
From the DNR

A new report just released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) profiles important on-the-ground conservation triumphs and improvements in the agency’s operational efficiency and effectiveness over the past eight years.

The Accomplishment Highlights Report shows an unparalleled achievement in land protection and access in Minnesota, according to DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten.

“Together with our partners, we have protected from development more than 366,000 acres of priority conservation lands, ensuring continued public access and sustainable economic uses.”

Another is advancement in connecting more people to Minnesota’s great outdoors, as evidenced by an 8 percent rise in state park visitation, and by acquisition of property for a next generation state park on Lake Vermilion.

The DNR has also fostered private sector partnerships designed to introduce more people to outdoor recreation, such as the “Break a Bat, Plant a Tree” promotion with the Minnesota Twins, state parks geocaching opportunities in partnership with Best Buy, and “I Can Camp” events with Recreational Equipment Inc. (REI).

The DNR has also adapted to significant shifts in the state’s budget climate by better integrating its work, being innovative and entrepreneurial in its business, improving efficiencies in operations, and reducing staffing levels.

Examples include approximately $3 million in fleet debt payment savings over the past five years, and approximately $540,000 in facility cost savings.

“We have been able to make these and many other noteworthy achievements happen by literally becoming a different agency, by doing such things as engaging more public involvement and support from the citizens of Minnesota,” Holsten said.

The release of the Accomplishment Highlights Report coincides with the rollout of the DNR’s “Strategic Conservation Agenda 2009-2013.”

The Agenda addresses performance indicators and targets that the department uses to track progress toward conservation goals.

Both the DNR Accomplishment Highlights report and DNR Conservation Agenda can be viewed on the DNR’s website at www.mndnr.gov.

DNR releases Strategic Conservation Agenda
From the DNR

A new plan, which sets strategic direction for natural resources and measures conservation results, has just been released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The DNR “Strategic Conservation Agenda 2009-2013, Part II: Performance and Accountability Report” clearly explains the role natural resources play in the state’s quality of life and economic prosperity.

The agenda provides a framework for responding to Minnesota’s conservation challenges.

The Agenda, a companion piece to Part I issued in 2009, uses 83 measurable indicators and targets to summarize natural resource conditions, DNR management activities, and results that the DNR strives to accomplish.

Both Part I and Part II of this report are available at www.mndnr.gov.

While Part I described the three driving trends that shape the state’s natural resources and defined a core set of strategies to address these challenges in an integrated and comprehensive way, Part II tracks progress toward those conservation goals with select indicators.

A special section on natural resources and economic prosperity introduces the key performance indicators.

They are organized under five themes: waters and watersheds, natural lands, fisheries and wildlife, outdoor recreation, and organization effectiveness.

Examples of indicators include:

• Aquatic invasive species: Number of water bodies infested with Eurasian watermilfoil and zebra mussels.

• Forest conservation easements: Acres of permanent forest conservation easements

• Ruffed grouse: Ruffed grouse harvest levels.

• State park visitation: Number of visitors and overnight guests at state parks and recreation areas.

• Renewable energy use and carbon emissions: Percent renewable energy used at DNR facilities; carbon emissions from DNR facilities and fleet.

“Minnesotans care deeply about their natural resources, as evidenced by the passage of the 2008 Legacy Amendment,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “These reports detail how we have developed conservation strategies, and even reinvented the department, to achieve significant results.”

DNR offers a variety of books for holiday gifts
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has a variety of books available this holiday season.

Outdoor topics range from bird feeding to landscaping, nature appreciation to woodworking.

The works of Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program supervisor, are top sellers among books of its kind in Minnesota.

Henderson’s “Wild about Birds: The DNR Bird Feeding Guide” includes tips on 44 types of food and offers woodshop basics for construction of 26 different feeders, that will help increase the number and species of birds using their feeders.

“Woodworking for Wildlife,” which has just been revised, has more than 300 color photographs and 30 designs for wildlife nest boxes.

The book, authored by Henderson, includes diagrams for building bird houses, next boxes and platforms to attract wildlife.

It provides the latest information on how to attract everything from bluebird, chickadees, purple martins, wood ducks to bumblebees, toads, owls and woodpeckers.

“Landscaping for Wildlife” is packed with color photos and diagrams that show how to attract wildlife to your property using inexpensive, easy-to-follow landscaping plans.

“Restore Your Shore” is a multimedia CD-Rom that offers innovative solutions to common shoreland problems, includes worksheets and forms to design/implement your design plan using a customized plant list from an extensive searchable database of more than 400 native plants.

The “Traveler’s Guide to Wildlife in Minnesota” was co-authored by Henderson, Andrea Lee Lambrecht and the DNR nongame wildlife specialists.

The Traveler’s Guide, written for novice and veteran wildlife watchers alike, features 120 special places to observe and photograph wildlife in Minnesota, with easy to read maps, and information about facilities and recreational opportunities about each site.

The books and CD-Rom can be ordered from bookstores and online booksellers.

They are also available from the Minnesota’s Bookstore in St. Paul and can be ordered on line at www.comm.media.state.mn.us/bookstore/mnbookstore.asp or by calling ( 651) 297-3000 or toll-free 800-657-3757.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: Where does the balsam fir boughs used to make holiday wreaths and garland come from?

A: The specialty forest products industry uses many of the natural resources found in Minnesota’s forests, such as pinecones, mosses and birch twigs, to make everything from decorative items to medicinal and herbal products.

One of the most important specialty products is the balsam bough.

Approximately 4,000 tons of boughs are harvested annually from Minnesota forests, and each ton makes roughly 400 wreaths.

However, the number of holiday wreaths and garland made per ton varies depending on the size of each item.

Most of the boughs used by Minnesota’s special forest products industry are harvested from public and private lands across the northern part of the state. Itasca, St. Louis, Aitkin and Cass counties support more than half of the total bough harvest in Minnesota.

The state’s balsam bough industry has annual retail sales topping $20 million.