McLeod Co. Pheasants Forever to host meeting

Feb. 9, 2015

by Chris Schultz

McLeod County Pheasants Forever will host an informational meeting Thursday, Feb. 26 to discuss new and old bills in the Minnesota State Legislature’s upcoming session.

In attendance will be Sportsmen for Change representative Garry Leaf and other informed individuals who have conservation and habitat concerns in mind. Invitation letters and e-mails have been sent to McLeod County Commissioners, area State Representatives, the McLeod ASCS office, and all local conservation organizations.

The meeting will be held Feb. 26 at 7:30 p.m. at Neisens Bar and Grill (formerly Biscay Liquors) in Biscay. The meeting will be held in the back meeting room and hors d’oeuvres will be provided by McLeod County Pheasants Forever.

Agenda items include:

• Proposals given to the legislature by the MCPF Legacy Council and local legislators’ response to where legacy funds will be spent.

• Other bills concerning conservationists before the House and Senate and anticipated legislative action, if any.

• Conservation habitat issues such as ditch buffers, roadside ditch habitat and other concerns.

With the loss of CRP, bonding for WMAs and farm bill changes in Washington favoring farm policies at the cost of wildlife habitat programs, McLeod County Pheasants Forever encourages all interested parties to attend the meeting and take the information learned back to legislative organizations and respond accordingly with elected representatives.

Howard Lake Fishing Derby Saturday

The 69th annual Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club Fishing Derby will be held Saturday, Feb. 14 from 1-3 p.m. on Howard Lake.

Pre-drilled holes are available and a lunch wagon will be on site. An Ice Chiseling and Power Auger Contest will be held at approximately 3 p.m., and there will be a $20 prize for the biggest fish in each species category.

Raffle prizes include a grand prize of an Ice Castle Fish House on wheels. First prize is a power ice auger, and 2nd and 3rd prizes are framed prints. Other prizes will be available as well.

Raffle tickets are available at Joe’s Sports Shop, The Country Store in Howard Lake, and from Howard Lake Sportsmen’s Club members. They will also be available on-site the day of the event.

Conceal and carry class at Waverly Gun Club

Waverly Gun Club will sponsor a conceal and carry gun class Saturday, Feb. 21 from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To register, call Harry Reynolds at (763) 682-1576.

DNR announces $1.7m availble for trap-shooting grants

From the DNR

Trap-shooting facilities open to the public have until Monday, March 2, to apply for matching grants that the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will make available to develop and enhance trap shooting ranges.

“This statewide grant program will provide more opportunities for youth trap shooters, youth trap teams and adult shooters,” said Chuck Niska, DNR shooting range program coordinator. “We’d like to see as many applications submitted as possible.”

A total of $1.7 million is available and will be divided between two grant categories: $700,000 is available for small grants from $2,500 to $25,000; and $1 million is available for grants above $25,000. There is no limit on the request amount for grants larger than $25,000. The grants require a match of 50 percent non-state funds to be considered.

“We look forward to helping trap clubs and other organizations put these dollars to good use,” Niska said. “Ideally, range work would be completed this spring, leading to more shooting opportunities around the state by next summer.”

Grant application packets for both small and large grants are available online. Those selected for funding will be notified in March.

Grant background

The Minnesota Legislature last year authorized funding for matching grants to recreational shooting clubs for developing or rehabilitating trap shooting sports facilities for public use, with an emphasis on enhancing youth participation opportunities.

Nearly $400,000 was awarded to 41 trap shooting facilities last year as part of the small trap range grants program that provided matching grants of up to $25,000.

Development of the grants program follows a significant rise in youth trap shooting, especially by high school students who are part of a statewide league. Existing trap ranges sometimes struggle to meet demand.

“We funded a lot of worthy projects from the first round of grants,” Niska said. “We look forward to high interest in this next round of funding.”

Sign up now for firearms safety hunter education classes

From the DNR

Now is a great time for people to sign up for a hunter education firearms safety class offered by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“Volunteer Instructors from throughout the state are calling in right now to set up spring classes, so this is the time to get your son or daughter registered before the fall hunting seasons begin,” said Acting Capt. Jon Paurus, DNR hunter education coordinator.

Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979 must take a DNR safety training course and receive a certificate of completion before purchasing a license for big or small game.

“Every year we have hopeful hunters who wait until the last minute to take a hunter safety class only to find out they have missed their opportunity to do so,” Paurus said. “The fall is when many of our volunteer instructors would like to be enjoying the outdoors as well, which means it can be more difficult to find a class.”

Also, hunters frequently encounter problems when they hunt states where more stringent hunter education requirements are required. For example, Colorado requires a hunter education certificate for anyone born after Jan. 1, 1949, and neighboring states such as North Dakota and Iowa have requirements for those born after 1961 and 1967.

For a list of classes or to check requirements from other states please visit the Safety/Education webpage at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/index.html.

Classes generally fill up quickly but check the listing often as more classes are being added daily. For more information, call 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

DNR to take closer look at pine forest conversion

From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is undertaking a closer examination of a trend in northwestern Minnesota where pine forests are being cut, cleared and converted to potatoes and other rotational croplands.

Because the pine-to-potatoes land conversion could potentially pose a threat to water supplies and impact fish and wildlife for years to come, the DNR will prepare a document known as a discretionary environmental assessment worksheet (EAW).

A North Dakota-based potato processor, R.D. Offutt, has been purchasing and clearing the forest land in four counties: Becker, Cass, Hubbard and Wadena. The DNR estimates that the processor has already purchased about 12,000 acres of pine forests. Some of this land has already been cleared, and the remainder is slated for clearing and conversion to irrigated croplands. The DNR estimates that another 15,000 acres of pine forests have the potential to be sold and converted to crops.

Altogether, the forest lands that have been cleared, or are at risk of being cleared, cover a total area of about 42 square miles – an area approximately covered by the cities of Bemidji, Brainerd and Detroit Lakes combined. Experts say the current rate of forest loss in this region has not been seen in recent memory.

The region’s sandy, permeable soil contributes to the potential impacts from this land conversion. These potential impacts include the risk of crop fertilizers contaminating local water supplies, groundwater overuse, and impacts to fish and wildlife. R.D. Offutt is asking the DNR for permits to construct groundwater wells to irrigate new and future croplands.

Before deciding whether to grant those well permit requests, the DNR will prepare the discretionary EAW in order to fully understand the potential environmental effects of any appropriation decisions and associated land clearing activities.

“It’s important that the DNR carefully consider the implications that this rapid forest land clearing and conversion will have on water quality, water supply, and related resources in this region and beyond,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “People rely on these water sources, and we want to take a hard look at any potential impacts.”

The EAW could take up to a year to complete. The potato processor has been informed of the environmental review process, which puts on hold any further land clearing and decisions regarding well permit applications.

CO Report

From the DNR

CO Todd VanderWeyst (Paynesville) worked angling activity finding numerous people out. The officer assisted an owner of a vehicle that went through the ice on Lake Koronis.

Enforcement action was taken for extra lines, no license in possession, no spearing license, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers this past week. CO Mies also worked on a tip call and information. CO Mies also gave a law talk at the sled class in Eden Valley.

CO Paul Kuske (Pierz) received a number of TIP complaints regarding the use of extra lines for fishing. The reports were investigated and enforcement action taken. Several ATVs and snowmobiles being operated on the lakes were found with expired registration. A couple of fish house owners were warned about the litter accumulating outside of their house which they agreed to clean up. CO Kuske assisted D11 officers with a big game case from the past deer season.

CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen on area lakes taking enforcement on a number of violations. He picked up a dead trumpeter swan and bald eagle. He followed up on a number of Big Game license violations. He did an interview for a reporter from the area on ice fishing. He took a number of nuisance animal calls.

CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) checked anglers on area lakes and found that most anglers are not finding a very good panfish bite. Reller also followed up on several investigation related to the past deer season this week. Several complaints taken about coyotes in some Wright County cities.

CO Steve Walter (Waconia) checked anglers all week having good success. Off-highway motorcycle complaints were handled on area lakes. A presentation was given to a firearms safety class in Norwood Young America.

CO Vang Lee (ELCOP) patrolled the Mound station for fishing and snowmobiling activity. He investigated couple of dead deer complaints in Chanhassen and returned calls on nuisance animal complaints. He also talked to firearms instructors in the Hmong community regarding upcoming classes in the summer and talked to Asian Outdoors Heritage on Hmong youth ice fishing coming in March.

CO Thephong Le (ELCOP) patrolled two temporary assigned stations of Bloomington and Fort Snelling State Park for angling and trail usage. He attended background investigation training at Camp Ripley. He responded to calls regarding injured animals and handled law questions in the West Metro area.

CO Jeff Denz (Willmar) checked ice anglers and ATV operators. He worked a snowmobileradar run. Denz also followed up on trespass complaints.

CO Nicholas Klehr (Litchfield) spent part of the week at training. Calls and questions were taken regarding raccoon and coyote hunting. Time was also spent checking aeration systems. The fishing activity in the area is still slow and anglers were found using extra lines and not having the required licenses.

CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) investigated a TIP call of illegal fishing activity from Red Lake. Daily and possession over limits, illegal transportation of fish, and illegal length fish complaints were investigated. She followed up on a previous complaint of damage to a WMA parking lot. Mueller also took a complaint of an opossum in a window well and attended background investigator training at Camp Ripley.