New law aimed at slowing the spread of aquatic invasive species

June 13, 2011

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Legislation aimed at strengthening Minnesota’s ability to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species was signed into law May 27 by Gov. Mark Dayton.

Among the results will be more thorough watercraft inspections and stronger regulations to prohibit the transportation of invasive species.

The new law, which received bipartisan support in the Legislature, is the product of a year-long effort by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to gather input from stakeholders, including lake associations, angler groups, conservation organizations, businesses, counties and local units of government.

That input was the key to developing legislative support, according to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

“Aquatic invasive species threaten the lakes and rivers that are so valued by Minnesotans,” Landwehr said. “With the support of Governor Dayton, legislators and water resource users, we are ramping up the battle to stop the spread of zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and other aquatic invasive species.”

As part of that effort, the DNR will add new authorized inspectors to ensure compliance with invasive species laws.

And those laws now cover more than just watercraft and trailers.

Docks, lifts, rafts, trailers, livewells, bait containers and other water-hauling equipment capable of transporting aquatic invasive species are addressed in the new regulations.

All such water-related equipment, including portable bait containers, must be drained before leaving any water access.

Anglers who want to keep leftover bait alive should bring fresh water to replace existing water in bait containers.

To help ensure that watercraft owners are familiar with the new regulations, free DNR decals will be distributed later this summer at boat and bait dealers, DNR license sellers, stores, at DNR offices, and by DNR conservation officers and watercraft inspectors.

Failure to display the decals on watercraft will be a petty misdemeanor after Aug. 1, 2014.

Accelerated inspections are a key element in the heightened efforts to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species.

Currently the DNR employs 100 seasonal watercraft inspectors who work at public accesses around the state.

The DNR will hire new authorized inspectors, who along with conservation officers will visually and tactilely inspect water-related equipment.

Those inspectors may require the removal, drainage, decontamination or treatment of water-related equipment to prevent the transportation of aquatic invasive species.

The new law puts some muscle behind the requirements.

Authorized inspectors can prohibit the launching or operation of water-related equipment if a person refuses to allow an inspection, or doesn’t remove water or aquatic invasive species.

A civil citation and a one-year watercraft license suspension can be the result.

Businesses that install or remove water-related equipment or structures will also be held to higher standards.

They must complete invasive species training and pass an examination in order to qualify for a required permit, which will be valid for three years.

People who work for the service providers must also complete DNR training.

“Through training and education, our goal is to make people aware of their responsibilities in limiting the spread of invasive species,” said Luke Skinner, DNR Invasive Species Unit supervisor. “Boat owners, recreationists and lake service providers must remove all aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species, drain all water from water-related equipment including portable bait containers, remove drain plugs and take other precautions or incur penalties.”

Boat drain plugs must be left our while transporting, and replaced before launching.

Zebra mussels, which are of particular concern, have been discovered in more than 20 Minnesota lakes and several major rivers.

They can affect water quality and navigation, destroy fish habitat, drive out important native species, impede beach access, and ultimately damage the state’s water-based recreation and tourism economy.

The DNR will need increased funding for this work, which is included in Gov. Dayton’s budget.

More details and a video about the new regulations are available at www.mndnr.gov.

GND Fishing Contest in Howard Lake June 25

The 29th annual Howard Lake Good Neighbor Days fishing contest will be Saturday, June 25 on Howard Lake.

Registration is from 7 to 8 a.m., with shotgun start for the fishing at 8 a.m. The contest ends at noon.

Entries will be limited to the first 200 received.

The cost is $30 if received by Saturday, June 18, or $35 if received after Monday, June 19.

Entry forms are available at local buisnesses, or at the web site, www.howardlakegoodneighbordays.webs.com.

For more information, contact Denny Decker at (320) 543-2992.

Wavery Gun Club upcoming events

The Waverly Gun Club will be hosting a number of classes and events in the upcoming weeks and months.

A complete list of the upcoming action at the Waverly Cub Club is listed below.

For more information, contact Al Moy (612) 889-4423; Ken Reinert (612) 308-9259; or Russ Johnson (763) 218-7376.

The Waverly Gub Club is at 4465 DeSota Ave. SW, Waverly.

• Youth trap league

The youth trap league is open to the public, and has begun.

It runs every Monday starting at 6:30 p.m. until Monday, July 9.

Shotguns, ammo, and targets are provided.

• Summer trap league

The summer trap league has started, and individuals and teams are still welcome.

For additional information, visit the web site www.waverlygunclub.org.

• Ladies only night

The ladies only night is open to the public, and no membership is required.

It takes place the second Tuesday of every month through October, from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.

Ammo, targets, .22 cal pistols, and rifles are provided at no charge.

You may bring your own ceter fire handgun and ammunition, if you prefer.

A NRA certified range safety officer will be present on the shooting line, and instruction is available upon request.

Rain or shine, shoot from the comfort of a shelter.

Handguns at seven to 25 yards, and rifles at 50 yards.

Cokato Lake Carp Tournament

Help support the game fish of Cokato Lake by reducing the carp population in a the lake’s first bow and arrow and fishing competition beginning Friday, June 24 at 10 p.m.

This is a one-night tournament that will end the following morning with a 10 a.m. weigh in.

The $25 entry fee is for one boat and two participants. The competition is limited to 12 boats.

Entrants must catch 300 pounds of carp to qualify for the cash prize, amount determined by number of entries.

Bow and arrow, or any other legal method listed in Minnesota Fishing Regulations 2011 (pages 59 and 60), will be allowed.

Please call Orv Jensen at Cokato Lake RV Resort to register or with questions at (941) 539-2514.

Fishing Klinic for Kids at Buffalo Lake

You’ll find fun, fishing, food, games, entertainment, speakers, display booths, and over 1,000 prizes at the 14th annual Fishing Klinic For Kids Saturday, June 18 at Sturges Park on Buffalo Lake.

It is Minnesota’s largest youth fishing program, and it’s free.

This year’s participating organizations and vendors include, the Buffalo Police and Fire Departments, Wright County Sheriff’s Department, Let’s Go Fishing, Minnesota DNR, Pheasants Forever, Happy Hookers Bass Master’s Club, Master Gardeners, military units, the Raptor Center, and Dominos Pizza.

Fishing Pros will be on hand to share their expertise.

Singer John Kurkowsky and the Neon Mile Band will entertain with fishing songs.

Kurkowsky will invite kids from the audience to join him on stage and will have gifts to give away.

To listen to his songs and learn more about him, check out the link on the Fishing Klinic website.

Activities include games, pontoon rides, a casting competition, fish pond, minnow races, fishing, and more.

Bring your own pole, or use one of ours as long as they are available.

The Klinic began as a community education class in 1995 and was added as a Buffalo Days event in 1998.

Quality programming and the hands-on experience and education the kids receive by gaining knowledge and appreciation for fisheries, wetlands, grasslands, and natural resources has led to substantial growth of the Klinic over the years.

For detailed information on this family-friendly event, and the list of sponsors, go to: www.fishingklinicforkids.com.

In addition, FKFK is offering community education classes in Delano Monday, June 20 and in Buffalo Wednesday, June 22.

Check with the departments for more information.

Volunteers can help protect the future of MN’s loon population
From the DNR

A statewide study is being conducted by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to help ensure the continued health of Minnesota’s state bird, the common loon.

Boaters, anglers and lakeshore owners are being asked to pick up dead loons for testing to help biologists discover the major causes of death.

Minnesota’s loon population is about 12,000 birds, and the numbers appear stable, according to Pam Perry, DNR nongame wildlife specialist and the loon watcher coordinator.

“Past studies on the common loon were limited to looking for mercury contamination,” said Perry. “This effort will help answer questions about why loons die. Is it trauma, mercury, lead, disease or effects from the Gulf oil spill?”
If some of these causes are preventable, the DNR can develop strategies to reduce loon mortality.

The DNR is asking for help in collecting recently dead loons without signs of decomposition.

Obviously, rotten loons should not be collected.

To collect a specimen for testing, people should use disposable gloves to put the dead loon in a plastic bag.

Try to avoid barehanded contact when handling dead animals.

If gloves are not available, turn a plastic shopping bag inside out and scoop up the specimen with the bag.

Place the specimen in a freezer as soon as possible.

If a freezer is not available, place the specimen in a cooler, surrounded by ice.

It is important to deliver the specimen as soon as possible to a local DNR office, because it is otherwise unlawful to possess loons.

All loons need to be labeled with the date, name of the county, lake and nearest town where it was found, along with name, address and telephone number of the person who found the loons.

More information about general guidelines for safe handling of wild birds is available at www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/waterfowl/avian_flu.html.

For more information or to locate the DNR office, call the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free at 888-646-6367.

$630,000 awarded for state conservation projects
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) awarded $630,400 in 13 grants through the Conservation Partners Legacy (CPL) grant program to help restore, enhance or protect fish, game and wildlife habitat in the state.

“CPL grants provide funding to local groups that are ready to put that money to work for conservation,” said Ed Boggess, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “These projects provide long-term habitat benefits for the state.”

This second round of grants was limited to applications for $125,000 or less as part of an effort balance larger grants with smaller grants.

Among recent grant recipients are the Hamburg Hunting and Fishing Club, which received $125,000 to acquire 51 acres to add to Severance Lake Wildlife Management Area (WMA); the Balaton Sportsman’s Club, which received $18,000 to restore native grasses to 112 acres of current cropland at the new Peterson/Woodbury Waterfowl Production Area; and the Nicollet Conservation Club, which received $16,200 to enhance and restore 139 acres of Swan Lake WMA by burning, tree removal and native cover plantings.

A complete list of the successful grant applications can be found at http://mndnr.gov/grants/habitat/cpl/index.html.

During its third funding cycle, the DNR received 21 applications totaling $1.3 million in requests.

Local, state and federal nonprofit organizations and governmental entities are eligible to apply for grants ranging from $5,000 to $400,000.

To date, more than 80 grants have been awarded for a total of $7.8 million.

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council recommended the CPL program, which was developed by the 2009 Minnesota Legislature.

Funding has been provided annually from the Outdoor Heritage fund, which is part of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and funded by a voter-approved statewide sales tax of three-eighths of 1 percent.

Graduation time brings water accidents
From the DNR

This time of year, there are tragic stories of young people who either drown or become seriously injured in water accidents while attending graduation party festivities.

Unfortunately, most accidents could have been prevented with adult guidance and supervision, according to Tim Smalley, water safety specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Parents should ensure their grads are adequately supervised, and the adult responsible for the gathering should see that teens do not consume alcohol,” Smalley said. “No one should be allowed near any boat, canoe or personal watercraft without wearing a life jacket, and no one should dive head first from a dock.”

Smalley noted some common scenarios when a group of young people go to one of their parents’ cabins up north.

The stage could be set for a tragedy if:

• An alcohol-impaired person dives off the end of a dock without checking the depth; the water is only three feet deep and his or her head hits the bottom, fracturing the cervical spine and causing drowning.

• A few young people grab a canoe out of a shed and head out on a moonlit cruise without life vests; several hundred yards from shore the alcohol-impaired paddlers capsize the canoe and only one of the three makes it back to shore.

For more boating and water safety information, visit the DNR’s website at www.mndnr.gov.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: A number of bird species call Minnesota home or pass through every fall and spring. Where can a person go to watch these birds in action?

A: More than 437 species of birds have been documented in Minnesota.

Of those, more than 300 are either resident or migrant birds that are expected to be seen annually in appropriate habitat.

Based on the 2006 National Survey of Fishing, Hunting and Wildlife Associated Recreation, Minnesota is ranked 13 out of 50 states in the total number of people participating in bird and wildlife watching.

Based on population, the state is ranked fourth – tied with Iowa and Wyoming.

Bird watching can be done nearly anywhere, but some great places include Blue Mounds State Park in the southwest, Agassiz National Wildlife Refuge in the northwest, Sax-Zim Bog (St. Louis County) in the northeast and Frontenac State Park in the southeast.

With the help of famed ornithologist Bob Janssen, Jerry Bonkoski and others, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources conducted inventories of birds in most state parks and state recreation areas in the early 2,000s.

These bird checklists, currently available for 70 Minnesota state parks and state recreation areas, can be picked up at park offices or downloaded from the DNR’s website at www.mndnr.gov/state_parks/birdchecklists.html.

Bear lottery results now available
From the DNR

New lottery results now are available for hunters who applied for a 2011 Minnesota bear hunting permit.

Results are available online at mndnr.gov/hunting/bear. People who checked results online prior to June 6 should re-check their status.

Successful lottery winners will be notified by mail later this month.

Selected hunters who don’t purchase a license by the deadline will forfeit their license.

As a result of a new rule implemented by DNR, bear lottery winners must purchase their license by July 29, however this may change to Aug. 1 depending on the passage of new legislation.

Check the DNR website in July for more information.

A total of 7,050 licenses are available in 11 permit areas this year.

In 2010, hunters purchased 7,086 of the 9,500 licenses available, harvesting 2,699 bears.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reran the lottery after a computer-related error resulted in incorrect preference information being used to determine winners.