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Melting snowpack won’t help drought; spring floods predicted

March 11, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Melting winter snowfall won’t do much to alleviate the extremely dry soil conditions across Minnesota, even if some areas experience spring flooding, said Greg Spoden, the state climatologist.

Roughly 70 percent of Minnesota is in extreme drought or severe drought.

“All of the snow that has fallen over the winter by and large remains on top of the landscape, a landscape that is largely frozen,” he said. “Now the dust remains beneath the concrete.”

Despite winter precipitation that’s a little above average for much of the state and well above historic levels for parts of west-central and north-central Minnesota, soil moisture remains near all-time lows in much of the state.

Even flooding at this point won’t alleviate a drought.

The National Weather Service, which produces flood outlooks, has called for a high risk of flooding in the southern reaches of the Red River Valley, including the communities of Fargo-Moorhead and Wahpeton-Breckenridge in the late winter and early spring.

As the spring melt comes, the sun’s energy will be used to melt the snow first, rather than thaw out the ground.

Water will flow over the land, leaving it drought-stricken once the waters subside. “First the snow has to leave before the soil unfreezes,” Spoden said. “So we can’t face a situation really where the soil will thaw and allow a significant infiltration of that snowpack.”

Abundant spring rain is needed to recharge the soil.

The average March through May rainfall in Minnesota ranges from six to eight inches.

“If we get at least that, we’ll be fine for the spring planting season,” Spoden said. “But to replenish those desperately dry subsoils, we’ll have to exceed that six- to eight-inch amount.”

The latest outlook from the Climate Prediction Center, a branch of the National Weather Service, calls for above average precipitation from March through May for the eastern half of Minnesota and for equal chances of above or below normal precipitation for the western half.

For more on the latest drought conditions: http://climate.umn.edu/doc/journal/drought_2013.htm.

Wright County PF chapter to host annual banquet March 25

The Wright County Pheasants Forever chapter will host its 28th annual banquet at the Buffalo Civic Center Monday, March 25 starting at 5:30 p.m.

The chapter has been active since 1984 and has contributed over $1 million to conservation and education projects within Wright County and Minnesota.

The banquet, this year, will include a silent auction, live auction, assorted raffles, and games for all ages.

According to Chapter President Brandon Murphy, “We have great prizes and auction items this year, including a three-day/four-night pheasant hunt in South Dakota.

“More importantly, all of the funds raised at the banquet will be put to good use promoting conservation and education within Wright County and across Minnesota.”

If you would like more information about attending the banquet or providing a sponsorship, contact Bruce Bartl at (76) 682-0653 or visit the website at www.wrightcountypf.org or via facebook at www.facebook.com/wright county pheasants forever chapter #95.

Youth wood duck building day is Saturday

The annual youth wood duck building day is scheduled for Saturday, March 16 and will take place at Burns Excavating Shop located in Hollywood Township in Mayer from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

A laser shoot and archery range will be available for children, along with refreshments for everyone.

This event is in need of help with the stations working with the youth. If interested in helping out, give Chip Hentges a call at (952) 200-3176.

Sponsors for the event are Waconia Lions, Carver County Pheasants Forever, Watertown Lions, New Germany Fire Department; Ducks Unlimited, Carver County Committee members; Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota River Valley Chapter; Mayer Baseball Club, Cologne Lions, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Watertown Rod and Gun Club, Hamburg Hunt and Fish Club, Lester Prairie’s Sportsman Club, and Bob Roepke Memorial Fund.

McLeod PF banquet March 23 at Hutchinson

The 27th annual McLeod County Pheasants Forever spring banquet is scheduled for Saturday, March 23 at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

It all begins at 4 p.m. with the cackling hour, followed by a prime rib dinner at 6 p.m., and then special events at 7 p.m.

There will be multiple gun raffles, along with many drawings for prizes, and special auction items.

For banquet registration or questions on the event, call (320) 587-0052. If no one answers, leave a message and your call will be returned.

Hunting and fishing expo in Hutchinson Saturday

The Christian Deer Hunters Association will host The Big Little Hunting & Fishing Expo & Auction Saturday, March 16 in the Agribition Center at the McLeod County Fairgrounds in Hutchinson.

The doors will open at 9 a.m. Admission is a free-will offering, and parking and seminars are free. Food will be served throughout the day.

About noon, the Christian Deer Hunters Association will unveil its newest devotional booklet, “Devotions for Deer Hunters Vol. XVII.” A big live and silent auction will follow.

This is an event for the entire family. Outdoor-related booths will fill the building. Youth will enjoy such things as a trout pond, marshmallow gun shooting gallery, fishing for prizes, minnow races, hands-on fly-tying, and more.

There will be free seminars throughout the day on turkey hunting, bamboo rod making, fly fishing, walleye fishing, outdoor photography, goose hunting, cooking wild game, treestand safety, black-powder hunting, and starting a hunting ministry to the physically handicapped.

The Minnesota Official Measurers will score your buck’s rack for free. There will also be a Favorite Buck Mount, Favorite Buck Rack, Favorite Fish Mount, and Favorite Other Mount contest voted on by the public, with first-, second-, and third-place prizes awarded.

For more information, seminar times, auction times, and the exhibitors list, visit www.christiandeerhunters.org, or call (320) 327-2266.

Walk-in Access program expands to 14 new counties
From the DNR

Landowners from 14 additional counties now can enroll land in the Walk-In Access program, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

Walk-In lands provide public access to private land. Landowners, in turn, are paid for the access.

The program now includes 35 counties in the western half of the state.

“We’ve had many requests to expand the area of our Walk-In pilot program,” said Marybeth Block, DNR walk-in access coordinator. “As we enter our third year for the program, the time seems right to add some additional counties.”

New walk-in counties include Becker, Blue Earth, Clay, Douglas, Faribault, Grant, Le Sueur, McLeod, Meeker, Nicollet, Otter Tail, Sibley, Traverse, and Wilkin.

Walk-in targets privately owned parcels of 40 acres or more, which are enrolled in a conservation program such as Conservation Reserve Program or Reinvest In Minnesota.

River bottoms, wetlands and other high quality habitat can also be considered for the program.

The program pays landowners by the acre to allow hunting access.

Bonuses are added if more than 140 contiguous acres are enrolled, if the land is within one-half mile of existing state or federal hunting land, or if a multi-year agreement is signed.

Landowners can contact their local Soil and Water Conservation District office for program details and enrollments.

Block said that 12,500 acres are already enrolled for 2013 through multi-year contracts and hopes to add another 12,500 acres in new enrollments.

“Walk-in access is an effective way for landowners to generate extra revenue from their habitat acres,” Block said. “It rewards landowners who own high quality habitat and are willing to let the public hunt on it.”

Walk-in lands are open for public hunting only, each year from Sept. 1 to May 31.

No target practice, trapping, dog training, camping, horseback riding or fires are allowed.

Enrolled acres are for walk-in traffic only; no vehicles are allowed on conservation land.

Once private land is enrolled in the program, bright yellow-green hexagon signs are placed at the property boundaries.

Locations of parcels enrolled for 2013 will be on the DNR website in August.

More information on the Walk-In program and a map of the walk-in access counties is available online at www.mndnr.gov/walkin.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: With the potential for a severe wildfire season this spring, is there anything people can do to protect their homes and cabins?

A: Late winter is the best time to prune trees.

Look at the trees and shrubs within 100 feet surrounding the cabin or house.

Eliminate ladder fuels by pruning 6 to 10 feet up from the ground.

Thin out evergreen trees so their branches are 10 feet apart.

Maintain a 10-foot space between the crowns of those trees.

Clean roof and gutters of any pine needles, leaves or debris.

Prune off any tree branches that may be touching the house.

Move any wood piles outside of the 30-foot zone surrounding the cabin or house.

Make sure that chimney has a spark arrestor.

Now, while the snowpack is still here, burn brush piles.

Remember, people need a burning permit if there have less than 3 inches of snow on the ground.

Check with local forestry office for more information or go to www.mndnr.gov/firewise.

CO weekley reports
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers.
CO Mies gave a law talk in Cokato for the firearms safety class.
CO Mies worked on tip calls and checked sleds.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) continued field training with COC Silgjord. 
Litter complaints were investigated and will be followed up on after the fish house removal deadline. 
One angler was located on an area lake trying his luck for a northern pike with tip ups. 
Only problem was it was after the season had closed. 
Enforcement action was taken. 
Other enforcement for the week included several underage consumption violations.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked anglers and documented fish houses for litter.
Snowmobile trails were patrolled and snowmobile trespass calls were responded to.
Several future speaking engagements were set up.
Several nuisance and injured animal calls were handled including owls in Maple Grove and coyotes in Chanhassen.

• CO Jackie Glaser (Metro Water Resource Enforcement Officer) attended a Lake Service Provider class at the Arboretum.
She served a Restoration Order to a landowner who excavated a creek bed without obtaining the proper permits.
A deed restriction compliance letter was sent.
She responded to several TIP calls regarding people fishing for Northerns out of season.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) spent time on snowmobile patrol in the Hutchinson area and along the Minnesota River.
Enforcement action was taken on registration issues.
Anglers were checked throughout the week.
Aeration systems inspections were also completed.
Follow up investigations continue on two trespassing cases.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports spending time patrolling the Minnesota River Valley by snowmobile.
Trail conditions were deteriorating but hopefully the forecasted snowfall will give them a boost.
Snowmobile enforcement action was again taken for speeding and safety certificate violations.
Officer Oberg also completed aeration inspections on area lakes.