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Grassroots allies work together to keep grass on the land

January 13, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

Protecting grassland and wetland habitat is one of the most critical environmental challenges facing Minnesota.

In response, local teams have formed to consider common sense solutions to keep grass on the land, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

These 10 new teams – working closely across western Minnesota with farmers, landowners, local officials and citizens – will promote grassland conservation and grass-based agriculture as outlined in the state’s prairie conservation plan.

“We are relying on our local resource managers and partners who know the lay of the land and what will work in their communities,” said the DNR’s Marybeth Block, who coordinates efforts to implement grassland elements of the prairie conservation plan. “These folks already have relationships with many landowners and producers, and they’re reaching out in a coordinated manner to those who may not be aware of the conservation and management options out there.”

The prairie conservation plan demonstrates unprecedented cooperation between federal agencies, state agencies and conservation organizations.

The plan addresses the millions of acres of grassland and wetland which have been lost in Minnesota over the past 150 years and creates a vision of connected grassland and wetland habitat from Canada to Iowa.

Partnerships– both among conservation and agricultural groups, as well as with key landowners and farm operators – are crucial to implementing successful conservation strategies, said Ryan Atwell, an independent researcher who studied the sociological connection between grassland conservation and agriculture in areas of western Minnesota.

Agricultural entities often voice confusion and frustration about the lack of coordination among conservation organizations.

“The formation of these local teams emphasizes coordination and partnering to achieve the best social, economic, and ecological outcomes for a particular area,” Atwell said. “Meeting farm operation goals and understanding the needs of rural communities is vital to conserving grassland landscapes.”

Mead Klavetter, assistant manager with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Morris Wetland Management District, has worked with grassland habitat in many locations across the nation.

“Being part of the Lac Qui Parle grassland team has been one of the most rewarding efforts I’ve been part of in my career,” Klavetter said. “Working together, we can speak with one voice to people who want to hear about options to protect, restore or manage native prairie, other grassland and wetlands.”

“Our teams concentrate on conservation efforts that get positive outcomes for the environment while adding value to the community and economy,” Block said. “When we accomplish that, everyone benefits.”

For more information on the Prairie Conservation Plan, visit www.mndnr.gov/prairieplan.

Carver County Pheasants Forever annual banquet Sat., Jan. 18

The Carver County Pheasants Forever 28th annual banquet will be Saturday, Jan. 18 at the Hamburg Community Hall starting at 5 p.m.

If you are interested in attending, contact Randy Wendland at (612) 270-8583 or at bwendland@bevcomm.net to purchase tickets.

Waverly Gun Club to host conceal and carry classes

The Waverly Gun Club will, once again, be hosting conceal and carry classes this winter, starting Monday, Jan. 20 through Tuesday, Jan. 21 from 6 to 10 p.m.

Classes will also be offered Monday, Feb. 17 through Tuesday, Feb. 18; along with Monday, March 17 through Tuesday, March 18.

For additional information, contact Harry Reynolds at (763) 682-1551 or go to the club’s web site at www.waverlygunclub.org.

Entries sought for duck stamp contest

The US Fish and Wildlife Service is accepting entries for the 2014 Federal Junior Duck Stamp Contest, which, in Minnesota, is administered by Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge.

Student artwork will be judged in four grade groups: kindergarten through third grade, fourth through sixth grade, seventh through ninth grade, and 10th through 12th grade.

Submitted artwork must feature a native North American waterfowl species. A full list of permitted species, as well as an entry form and information about the contest is available at www.fws.gov/juniorduck.

Entries must be postmarked by Saturday, March 15, 2014, and mailed to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, 3815 American Blvd East, Bloomington, MN 55425.

Three first-, three second-, and three third-place, along with 16 honorable mentions will be awarded in each age group.

In addition, the conservation message and special student honors will be awarded.

The artwork will be judged on original design, artistic composition, and suitability for reproduction on a 1-inch-by-11.5-inch stamp.

A Best of Show entry will be selected from the 12 first-place winners and entered in the national contest in April.

The national winner’s artwork is used to create a Junior Duck Stamp each year. The stamp is available for $5, with proceeds used to support conservation education and contest awards.

For more information, contact Mara Koenig at (952) 858-0710, or mara_koenig@fws.gov.

Minnesotans age 16 or older fish free with kids Jan. 18-20
From the DNR

Minnesotans age 16 or older can try ice fishing or spear fishing without purchasing an angling or spearing license if they take a child younger than 16 fishing during Take-A-Kid Ice Fishing Weekend Saturday, Jan. 18 through Monday, Jan. 20, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“Take-A-Kid Ice Fishing Weekend is a great opportunity for family and friends to get those special kids in their life outdoors enjoying the fun and beauty of a Minnesota winter,” said Roland Sigurdson, DNR aquatic education supervisor.

“What better way to celebrate our winter heritage than by passing on the tradition of ice fishing.”

Ice fishing presents some unique challenges, but with basic equipment, a few skills, and good planning, ice fishing can be easy, enjoyable and exciting.

Here are key ice fishing tips from DNR’s MinnAqua program, which provides resources to teach fishing skills, aquatic ecology and conservation stewardship of our lakes and rivers:

• Dressing in layers is the best way to deal with winter’s icy chill. Layers keep you warm in cold conditions by creating pockets of warm air and helping moisture evaporate.

• Portable ice shelters can increase the enjoyment of the experience by keeping kids warmer.

• Plan for a shorter, quality experience that will make a happier memory. Cold, bored kids don’t ask to go again.

• Bring snacks and warm beverages to make a comfortable experience.

• Bring a variety of baits to increase chances of success.

More tips are available online at www.mndnr.gov/minnaqua/icefishing.

Mike Kurre, DNR mentoring coordinator and Mike “Smitty” Smith from the “Ice Team” share insights and information about kids, mentoring and ice fishing in an online podcast audio program available on DNR website at http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/news/podcasts/KidsAndIceFishing.mp3.

Additional Resources:
• Ice fishing tips: www.mndnr.gov/minnaqua/icefishing.
• Ice fishing help: takemefishing.org/fishing/ice-fishing/what-is-ice-fishing.
• Ice fishing podcasts: www.mndnr.gov/news/podcasts/general.html#Ice.
• Let’s Go Ice Fishing: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/education_safety/education/minnaqua/icefishing/icefishingguide.pdf.

Nearly 900 acres of public land added in Rice County south of Twin Cities
From the DNR

Nearly 900 acres of new public land south of the Twin Cities will be available for hunting, bird watching and other recreation as a new wildlife management area emerges and another grows, according to The Trust for Public Land and Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

In Rice County near Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park, The Trust for Public Land purchased a 460-acre property in the Cannon River headwaters from the Koester family, who have farmed or leased-to-farm the land for generations.

The Koester prairie property at the new Prairie Creek Wildlife Management Area will preserve prairies, grasslands and oak savannah.

Craig Koester, a family member and academic dean at Luther Seminary said, “My siblings and I had the opportunity to grow up where the prairie met the woodland. Birds and wildlife flourished. We could enjoy these spaces of discovery and renewal because of the care taken by previous generations. When facing the decision of what to do with the land, it seemed clear it was our turn to make it available for the generations to come. It is a privilege to do so.”

Near Faribault in Rice County’s Shieldsville Township, 227 acres are being added to the Boyd Sartell Wildlife Management Area, including land along Shields Lake, a primary source of the Cannon River.

Wildlife management areas are part of Minnesota’s outdoor recreation system and are established to protect those lands and waters that have a high potential for wildlife production, public hunting, trapping, fishing, and other compatible recreational uses.

There are more than 1,440 wildlife management areas in the state and boundaries of each are marked with bright yellow signs. Signage on the two new parcels is pending.

The Trust for Public Land purchased the properties within the Cannon River headwaters in two transactions in December.

Together the properties offer new public outdoor destinations within a short drive of more than half of Minnesota’s population.

“Protecting these properties in a growing region accomplishes important recreation and habitat restoration objectives for Minnesota, and gives new outdoor opportunities to the people nearby that call these areas home,” said Susan Schmidt, The Trust for Public Land’s Minnesota state director. “The waterfowl, wildlife, and native species in each landscape will be well cared for and the public has great new places to visit and treasure.”

The properties were both priorities for the DNR. Population growth, new development and agricultural operations in Rice County intensified the importance of protecting and restoring prairies, grasslands, and wetlands within the Cannon River headwaters.

The properties were both protected with funding from the Outdoor Heritage Fund and the Reinvest in Minnesota critical habitat account.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund was created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008, which increased sales tax by three-eighths of 1 percent.

The fund receives one-third of the sales tax dollars and may only be spent to restore, protect and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for game fish and wildlife.

“These are the kind of strong partnerships that not only bring additional dollars to Legacy projects, but will help us make significant gains in prairie and grassland habitat in Minnesota over the next 20 years through the Legacy amendment,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people.

Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation.

Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at www.tpl.org.

DNR Parks and Trails Division solicitspark and trail grant applications for 2014
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division is accepting applications for the following grant programs: outdoor recreation, local trail connections, federal recreational trails and regional trails.

These grant programs help local governments throughout the state create partnerships with the DNR to fund recreation opportunities.

The application due dates are Feb. 28 for the federal recreational trail grant program and March 31 for the other programs.
It is anticipated that both federal and state funding will be available during 2014 for these programs.

Program and application information is available on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/grants/recreation/index.html.

For more information, contact the grants staff listed online, call the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday or send questions via email to info.dnr@state.mn.us.

New wetland map data available
From the DNR

The Department of Natural Resources has released updated wetland map data for 13 counties in east-central Minnesota, encompassing the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

The wetlands were originally mapped by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the late 1970s and early 1980s as part of the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI).

Although still widely used for land use planning, wetland permit screening and natural resource management, the original maps have grown increasingly out-of-date due to landscape alterations over the years.

The newly-released map data is the first time the NWI has been updated in Minnesota.

The data are available through an interactive mapping application on the DNR’s website at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/wetlands/map.html.

The data can also be downloaded, free of charge, for use in geographic information system applications through the DNR’s data deli at: http://deli.dnr.state.mn.us/.

The new maps reflect the latest technology in remote sensing and mapping including high-resolution aerial imagery and Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR) data.

“The original NWI maps were quite good considering the imagery and mapping methods of the time, but the new maps are much more accurate, capture more detail and provide more information than the original maps,” said Steve Kloiber, the DNR manager of the NWI update project.

Besides showing the location, size and type of each wetland, the updated map data include information on the wetland’s landscape position and hydrologic characteristics, which can be useful in assessing the benefits provided, such as water quality improvement, flood storage, and fish and wildlife habitat.

The release of the wetland map data for east-central Minnesota marks completion of the first phase of a statewide update of the NWI.

New, high resolution aerial imagery has been acquired for the entire state and wetland mapping is currently underway for the southern third of the state and a portion of northeast Minnesota.

The DNR is planning to complete the entire state by 2020.

The NWI update project is being funded by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources.

The trust fund is a permanent fund constitutionally established by Minnesotans to assist in the protection, conservation, preservation, and enhancement of the state’s air, water, land, fish, wildlife, and other natural resources.

CO weekly report
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers this past week.
CO Mies worked on a dogs chasing deer complaint.
CO Mies also checked sleds and ATVs in the area.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen and snowmobilers on area lakes and trails.
CO Sladek followed up on a big game cases and a trespassing complaint.
He also assisted with a vintage snowmobile permit and issued a number of car/deer permits.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) gave a snowmobile safety presentation at Hasty-Silver Creek sportsman club.
The weather kept the fishing pressure low and snowmobiling is still slow in the area due to lack of snow.
Enforcement action was taken for angling with extra line, no snowmobile safety certification, and snowmobile registration violations.

• CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked anglers on experimental lakes and rivers in Carver County.
Anglers were having good success and ice conditions are the best they have been in several years.
Snowmobile trails were patrolled but the cold weather kept it very quiet.
Enforcement action was taken for unmarked fish shelters and no reflectors on fish shelters left on the lake overnight, litter on ice around fish shelters, no angling license in possession, taking trout in designated trout lake during closed season and fail to display snowmobile registration.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) checked ice anglers and snowmobilers throughout the week.
Cold weather shut down much of the fishing activity around the area.
License issues are still the main violation encountered with anglers.
A snowmobile complaint of driving in a WPA and possibly hunting from the sled in a neighboring station was investigated. Assistance to local departments was given with poor road conditions.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) reports most anglers are struggling to find and catch fish.
Oberg also spent time working snowmobile enforcement in the area.
A surprising amount of sleds were out riding in the not so ideal conditions.
Oberg would like to remind snowmobilers to stop at all road crossings when out riding.