5 years later: a promise of cleaner water, healthier environment

December 2, 2013

by Chris Schultz

From Tom Landwehr of the DNR

Five years ago this month, Minnesotans went to the polls and took a bold action and approved a landmark conservation initiative known as the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, I’d like to reflect on this important constitutional amendment.

During the past five years, the amendment has been fulfilling its promise of creating lasting investments in clean water, healthier habitat, better parks and trails and a robust arts and cultural heritage. It is something we can all be thankful for.

In approving the Legacy Amendment, Minnesota voters imposed a three-eighths of 1 percent tax on themselves for 25 years until 2034.

Just five years later, that tax has generated more than a billion dollars for Legacy projects, of which the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has been allocated about one-fifth of Legacy dollars – or roughly $215 million.

The DNR has invested your Legacy Amendment dollars wisely to protect, maintain, and enhance natural landscapes, healthy watersheds and the public places that make it possible to experience them to the fullest.

Legacy funds are also providing opportunities like never before to “open doors” to outdoor recreation, particularly for young people.

You can learn about these investments on the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/legacy, but I’d like to highlight a few of them here:

The DNR oversees 689 wildlife management areas in the agency’s 32-county “southern” region of the state.

While these public lands comprise only 1.19 percent of the total land in these counties, they represent some of the most ecologically diverse and important lands in the region.

The DNR is working hard to improve and expand on these lands using Legacy dollars from the Outdoor Heritage Fund.

During the last three years, three roving “habitat crews” have enhanced 23,000 acres of grasslands through controlled burns, plantings and restoration – nearly doubling the DNR’s capacity to make this habitat better.

Additionally, Legacy dollars have been used to enhance large blocks of grassland by removing woody invasive species and seeding new prairie.

In the southern part of the state alone, 6,500 acres of grassland habitat have been enhanced and 820 acres of new grassland have been seeded.

In our Parks and Trails Division, more people than ever are having positive experiences in nature as a result of Legacy funding for expanded programming, such as the “I Can Camp” and “I Can Climb” events, which teach skills to newcomers to the outdoors.

Participation in these and other interpretive programs totaled 285,620 in 2012, a 37 percent increase since 2008, the year before Legacy funding became available to the Parks and Trails Division.

In another example of a long-term investment, the DNR used Legacy money from the Parks and Trails Fund to update and enhance the River Inn, a state building at Jay Cooke State Park that is listed on the National Register and hadn’t been significantly remodeled since the 1970s.

Originally constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1939 and 1942, the structure was built with local rock and white pine trees.

Among other things, the building has been updated with new ADA-accessible restrooms with hot water, energy-efficient lighting and power-assisted exterior doors and new interpretive exhibits.

Minnesota’s forests and your access to them have been bolstered with Legacy funds.

Legacy dollars were used to protect 190,000 acres of working forest land in Itasca, Aitkin, St. Louis, Cass, Beltrami, Koochiching and Clearwater counties called the Upper Mississippi Forest Legacy Project.

They were also used to protect another 20,000 acres through several smaller projects.

By using Legacy funds to secure easements and acquisitions, existing public forests are connected to create several thousand square miles of contiguous, protected habitat for wolves, black bear, white-tailed deer, ruffed grouse, woodcock and countless numbers of other animals and plants.

This investment keeps the lands open forever for outdoor recreation, including hunting, fishing, hiking and snowmobiling.

The DNR is also making investments in clean water using the Legacy funding from the Clean Water Fund.

During the next 10 years, restoration and protection strategies will be identified and implemented for 81 major watersheds through state and local partnerships.

Along the Buffalo River, one of 10 major watersheds in the Red River Basin, the DNR helped find the most effective places to use Legacy money for managing water quality issues and flooding.

Closer to the Twin Cities, the DNR is using Legacy money to develop a computer model that can be used to track water flow through the 70-square mile area of the Shakopee Creek headwaters watershed, which will help local implementers reduce the flow of pollutants that threaten the lakes, streams and wetlands in the region.

The agency is also using Legacy funds to map groundwater resources and monitor groundwater levels to ensure long-term sustainable groundwater use.

Legacy funds are being used to create “county geologic atlases,” collections of maps and other information that describe an area’s aquifers, including where and how water moves through them underground.

The atlases, which identify pollution-sensitive areas, are critical information for communities as they plot their future water supplies.

These are just a small number of the important accomplishments that have been made with Legacy funds in just a few years.

This is just the beginning of the lasting Legacy investments that we will be able to cherish, celebrate and be thankful for in the years to come.

Spring turkey hunting applications accepted through Jan. 10
From the DNR

Applications for the 2014 spring season will be accepted wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold and online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense from Wednesday, Nov. 27 through Friday, Jan. 10, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The 2014 spring hunt will consist of six five-day and two seven-day seasons.

A regulation change in 2014 means hunters need to apply for only the first three time periods, seasons A through C.

All licenses for the last five time periods, seasons D through H, are unlimited and available over-the-counter.

A second regulation change closes the portion of Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area (permit area 511) surrounding the wildlife office headquarters to hunting.

The remainder of Carlos Avery will remain open to wild turkey hunting.

Wild turkey hunters interested in hunting this spring must apply at a DNR license agent, online at www.mndnr.gov/buyalicense or toll-free, 888-665-4236.

A nonrefundable $4 application fee must be paid at the time of application.

There will be an additional fee for Internet or telephone transactions.

Hunters who are successful in the drawing and choose not to buy a tag will lose the current year’s preference point for future drawings but not accumulated preference points from past years.

Hunters who are not successful in the drawing will be eligible to purchase surplus turkey permits, which are sold on a first-come, first-served basis in mid-March.

Archery spring turkey licenses are good for the last five time periods in their entirety.

Hunters younger than 18 must purchase their licenses over-the-counter and need not apply for any season.

All youth licenses are valid for all eight time periods of the spring hunt.

Prospective hunters may obtain an application information sheet at DNR license agents or view online at www.mndnr.gov/hunting/turkey beginning Wednesday, Nov. 27.

Hunt information materials include a map of wild turkey permit areas, permit quotas, dates and information on changes.

For more information, contact the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157, toll-free, 888-646-6367 or info.dnr@state.mn.us.

For questions about the changes to the Carlos Avery (permit area 511) call the Carlos Avery office at (651) 296- 5290.

DNR reminds parents of ice danger for children
From the DNR

With Thanksgiving last week, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is warning parents to keep an eye on their children as they visit friends and family who live near a pond or other body of water where only a thin coating of ice may have formed.

Last winter season (November to April), six people died after falling through the ice.

“Kids are adventurous and want to go out and play while mom and dad are cooking or visiting with friends,” said Kara Owens, DNR boating and water safety specialist. “Right now, a thin coating of ice has formed on many lakes and ponds. An inch or two of ice is not safe.”

Children should not go out on the ice without adult supervision, even when conditions improve, she added.

“Parents should also tell their children to stay away from any frozen water bodies around the home and that no ice is ever 100 percent safe,” Owens said.

The DNR recommends anyone heading out on the ice should: carry a set of ice picks, check with a local bait shop or resort – ask about ice conditions – and measure the ice.

DNR clear ice thickness recommendations are:

• 4 inches for walking.
• 5 inches for a snowmobile or ATV.
• 8-12 inches for a car.
• 12-15 inches for a medium-sized truck.

For more information, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/thickness.html.

CO weekly reportrs
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) handled follow-up calls from the firearms deer season.
He conducted investigations and responded to complaints.
Officer Mies also worked on illegal trapping cases.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) followed up on several cases from the deer season.
Reller also checked the last of the duck hunters for the season, most finding it slow in the area due to most of the lakes were icing up along the shore making accessing difficult.
Numerous complaints were taken about swans hitting power lines and deer carcasses thrown in ditches this week.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked the 3B deer season with CO Boyum.
They issued summons and written warnings for untagged big game, failure to validate licenses, transportation of untagged deer, Expired ATV registrations, transport loaded firearms on a motor vehicle and operating an ATV on a county road.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) worked the 3B deer opener finding no deer taken in Carver County.
Waterfowl hunters were checked all week having good luck on golden eyes but by the end of the week everything was frozen and most ducks were gone.
Several calls were returned on deer hunting questions trying to figure out what was legal in different areas.
Trappers were out in large numbers due to high fur prices.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked duck hunters during the week before the temperature iced over most lakes in the area.
Hunters were having good luck with mallards still in the area.
She followed up on TIP calls throughout the week mostly dealing with deer hunting violations from the firearms season.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports following up on a few deer cases left over from the firearms deer season.
Oberg also spent time completing reports and answering more deer related calls.
Trapping enforcement was also worked.

Question of the week
From the DNR

Q: I am planning on going deer hunting in South Dakota.
Are there any regulations about transporting my deer back into Minnesota?

A: Restrictions for importing carcasses into Minnesota are in place for counties in eight states where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has been identified in wild deer and/or elk.

These states include Colorado, Illinois, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Hunters bringing animals back from those areas must comply with import regulations.

They include meat that is cut and wrapped, quartered animals with no part of the spinal column or head attached, properly cleaned skull plates that are attached to antlers, and finished taxidermy mounts.

As the restrictions only apply to certain areas of the affected states, hunters are urged to contact officials in the state they’re hunting prior to making the trip.

For a map and list of counties in each state affected by CWD regulations, go to: http://mn.gov/bah/board/rules/import-regulations.html#cervidae.