George named Minnesota's Conservation Officer of Year

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Phil George has been named the 2018 DNR Conservation Officer of the Year, an annual award given to an officer who’s recognized as a leader among natural resource enforcement peers.
Enforcement Division Director Rodmen Smith presented the award to George in January at the division’s annual awards ceremony and training at Camp Ripley.
George, who has been a conservation officer since 2006, patrols the Rochester area and is one of the Enforcement Division’s acting regional training officers. He’s also a use of force instructor. The award is based upon overall career performance with an emphasis on the officer’s most recent job evaluation period.
“Officer George is heavily involved in educational efforts throughout his area, emphasizing it – along with enforcement and outreach – to gain voluntary compliance among users of the outdoors,” Smith said. “He’s a go-to officer in his district and has a no-quit attitude. His hard work and dedication are apparent when you talk with people who work with Officer George.”
Other members of the Enforcement Division who were honored were:
Boat & Water Safety Officer of the Year - Scott Fitzgerald, who patrols Crow Wing County, was recognized for his leadership and outstanding achievement in boating safety education, boating while intoxicated enforcement and service to other law enforcement agencies.
Education Achievement Award - Matthew Frericks, who patrols the Virginia area, received the award for his commitment to the Enforcement Division’s educational programs.
Waterfowl Enforcement Achievement Award - Thor Nelson, who patrols the New Ulm area, received the award for his dedication to protecting natural resources, specifically those vital to waterfowl. The award also recognizes his commitment to preserving Minnesota’s waterfowl heritage.
Willard Munger Water Resources Protection Award - Named after the longtime advocate for conservation and the environment Willard Munger, who served 43 years in the state House of Representatives, the award recognizes an officer who’s particularly devoted to the protection of water resources.
CO Keith Bertram, who patrols the Long Prairie area, is this year’s recipient.
Meritorious Service Award - Mike Scott, a water resources enforcement officer, is this year’s Meritorious Service Award winner for his leadership on a project to honor officers who have lost their lives in the line of duty. In the Enforcement Division’s 130-year history, 19 officers have been killed in the line of duty, and others have died as a result of accidents or drowning.
Appreciation and Recognition Award - Caralee Bjerkness has worked for the Division of Enforcement since 1975 and is an office and administrative specialist. She works closely with the Enforcement Division’s Aviation Unit as well as the division’s water resources protection officers.
“Caralee’s can-do attitude is infectious and she sets a great example for everyone else in the division,” Smith said.
Airborne Law Enforcement Association Safety Award – The Airborne Law Enforcement Association advances, promotes and supports safe and effective use of aircraft by governmental agencies. Natural Resources Pilot Brad Maas was honored for the significant number of accident- and violation-free mission flight hours he’s flown for the Enforcement Division.
Lifesaving Awards - Joel Heyn, Thephong Le and Rick Reller
Three officers were honored for their lifesaving roles. Officers Heyn and Le, who patrol the Plainview and metro areas, respectively, worked with other law enforcement agencies and thermal imaging equipment mounted to a drone to locate an 84-year-old hunter in Olmsted County on the opening day of the deer season. The hunter was stuck in the mud and unresponsive when the officers located him. They helped remove him from the mud and load him for transport to the hospital.
Officer Rick Reller, who patrols the Buffalo area, received the award for responding to a December incident in which a vehicle went off the road and into a holding pond. Reller helped the 17-year-old driver out of the vehicle, which soon went under the water, and then kept her warm in his truck until paramedics arrived.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund proposals due April 6

MADISON, WI - A new Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund will provide $1 million to improve wildlife habitat and increase the amount of land accessible to the public for hunting, trapping and wildlife viewing.
Eligible projects include habitat restoration, enhancement, or management activities that benefit priority wildlife habitat and enhance the public experience in the outdoors. Eligible applicants include local units of government, tribes and qualified 501(c)(3) conservation organizations.
Project proposals are due April 6. Projects will be selected for funding in late April and awards will be issued mid-June. For more information, including an application, search the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources website,, for keywords "Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund."
"The Wisconsin Habitat Partnership Fund is a great opportunity to partner with Wisconsin DNR to improve habitat for wildlife and provide for recreational opportunities," said Eddie Shea, DNR assistant wetland habitat specialist. "This program provides a mechanism to assist all of the great conservation partners who are working in innovative ways to address wildlife habitat needs across the state."
To receive funding, respondents must provide public access for hunting, trapping and wildlife viewing for a period based on the amount of funds awarded. The respondent or other project partners are responsible for 25 percent of the total project cost.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Minnesota's learn how to hunt turkeys set this spring

Youth and adults can learn to hunt turkeys this April with experienced volunteers who will cover safe hunting techniques, how to call-in turkeys, hunting tactics and field dressing a bird.
Participants can apply through Monday, Feb. 12. The hunts are Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22, and provide opportunities to access locations that may otherwise be closed to hunting.
“We teach the skills and techniques that allow new turkey hunters to become lifelong hunters,” said Mike Kurre, learn-to-hunt program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
This is the 16th year the DNR and the National Wild Turkey Federation have cooperated to offer these hunts. Details about how to apply and costs to participate are available at

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

2017 top year for State Natural Area habitat restoration

MADISON, WI - Prairies, oak barrens and oak savannas and other imperiled natural communities on Wisconsin State Natural Areas got a big boost in 2017 and stand to get more of the same in 2018.
Thanks to warm and dry fall weather in 2017, success in securing grant money, strong partnerships, donors and volunteers, State Natural Areas containing these rare natural communities received a record level of management.
SNA crews, field ecologists and partners enhanced 12,500 acres by cutting brush, pulling and spraying invasive plants, seeding areas with native plants, and conducting many other management activities. Their greatest gains came from applying prescribed fire to the land to control invasive plant species and jumpstart growth of native wildflowers and other desirable plants.
"We had another very productive year in 2017 and that's good news for all Wisconsin wildlife," said Jim Woodford, field operations supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources Natural Heritage Conservation program. "While this habitat management work may benefit non-game species like Karner blue butterflies or eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, it benefits game species as well. Our work controls invasive species, perpetuates oak on the landscape, a key resource for many game and nongame species, and maintains and restores some of Wisconsin's best remaining habitats."
State Natural Areas feature outstanding examples of Wisconsin's native natural communities, significant geological formations and archealogical sites and are often the last refuge of many rare plants and animals. Prairies and oak savanna are among the natural areas getting the most attention. They once covered each more than 5 million acres in Wisconsin and now less than one-tenth of 1 percent remain.
"These are our most imperiled natural communities and they simply take more work to sustain," said Matt Zine, a field supervisor for State Natural Area crews in southern Wisconsin, where most of these communities exist. "We are very pleased with our hard-working crews - through good partnerships with other DNR programs, we got a lot of work done in 2017."
The DNR's Natural Heritage Conservation Program employs 20 limited term staff stationed in seven geographically based work crews to manage State Natural Areas and work cooperatively with other DNR programs to manage natural areas within state parks, forests and wildlife areas.
In 2017, State Natural Areas also benefited from work done by 36 volunteer groups organized under the SNA Volunteer Program, and from work done under new and formalized partnerships.
For example, a new memorandum of agreement with four partners in the Chiwaukee Prairie Illinois Beach Lake Plain, a 4,000-acre complex of wetlands and prairies straddling the Wisconsin and Illinois border, now enables partners to coordinate and conduct restoration, management and outreach work across borders. This agreement allowed an Illinois partner to lead a 286-acre burn in fall 2017 on land including Chiwaukee Prairie State Natural Area in Wisconsin.
A new partnership, the Wisconsin Interagency Prescribed Fire Training Exchange, brought federal field staff to Wisconsin to get more experience conducting prescribed burns on conservation lands including State Natural Areas. The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin also helped to secure funds to manage several areas.
"We continue to expand our burning window and our work with partners to get as much work done as possible," Woodford said. "Our goal this year will be to do the same or even more restoration work to benefit these last remaining really, really good habitats."
Find state natural areas by county by searching the DNR website,, for "SNA." Donate to the Endangered Resources Fund online or through filling in an amount on your Wisconsin income tax form to help get more work done on State Natural Areas.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Holland named Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation interim CEO

MISSOULA, MT - The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation announced that the Board of Directors has asked Nancy Holland to serve as president and CEO on an interim basis.
“To join the team at this time is very exciting. RMEF has a special place in my heart,” said Holland. “Stepping into this new role, forefront in my thoughts and actions are our members, donors, sponsors and fellow staff members and the conservation mission they have entrusted us to carry forward.”
Holland is taking a leave from the RMEF Board of Directors, where she served since 2016, while the search continues for a long-term replacement. She and husband, Howard, are staunch supporters and life members, who also served together as co-chairs of RMEF’s Habitat Council.
“Throughout my time with RMEF I have been blessed to meet and befriend wonderful, passionate people," she added. "It is these people, individuals, families and corporations that are the essence of RMEF. We come together in our passion for the future of elk and other wildlife, wild places and our tradition of hunting. It’s what makes RMEF great.”  
A graduate of St. Louis University, Holland has 35 years’ experience in investment and finance including managing a team of global investment professionals working on behalf of their international clients. Since 2009, she served as managing partner of Sapphire Point Partners LLC, which specializes in business consulting and real estate investment.
“RMEF has a strong financial footing, solid membership growth and an environment that supports our mission. We have a 5-year plan that we have been executing," Holland said. "We are solidly on our way to accomplishing those goals and surpassing them. At the end of the day, it’s all about delivering mission. It’s why we are all here.”

SOURCE: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation

DNR, partners to host 9 Border to Border Touring Route listening sessions

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division, in conjunction with the National Off-Highway Vehicle Conservation Council and the Minnesota 4-Wheel Drive Association, will hold a series of listening sessions across the northern counties of Minnesota about the Border to Border (B2B) Touring Route.
The route will connect the eastern and western borders of Minnesota across the northern third of the state using minimum maintenance and rugged roadways. The end product will be a signed, mapped route for highway-licensed, four-wheel drive vehicles, following routes that are already open for driving. The project is funded by the off-road vehicle account in Minnesota’s Natural Resources Fund. Revenues for this fund come from registered off-road vehicle owners.
The purpose of the listening sessions is to gather feedback regarding a draft alignment for the B2B Touring Route. Last year at this time, similar meetings were held on this project to help determine the best location for this adventure route. That information was used to form the draft alignment that will be the topic of the listening sessions. The route is proposed to traverse the counties of Cook, Lake, St. Louis, Itasca, Beltrami, Clearwater, Polk, Red Lake, Pennington, Marshall and Kittson.
The nine meetings will be between mid-February and early March near the proposed draft alignment for the B2B Touring Route. All meetings will be from 6 to 8 p.m.
For more information about the project, and to verify dates, times and locations of the listening sessions (subject to change in the event of bad weather) visit the DNR website.

Listening Session Schedule
* Tuesday, Feb. 20: Cook County School, 101 W. Fifth St., Grand Marais, MN 55604.
* Wednesday, Feb. 21: Mountain Iron Community Center, Wacootah Room, 8586 Enterprise Drive S., Mountain Iron MN 55768.
* Thursday, Feb. 22: Beaver Bay Community Center, 711 MacDonald Ave., Beaver Bay, MN 55601.
* Monday, Feb. 26: Squaw Lake Community Center, 52201 MN-46, Squaw Lake, MN 56681.
* Tuesday, Feb. 27: Black Duck School Library, 156 First St. NW, Blackduck, MN 56630.
* Wednesday, Feb. 28: Clearbrook Gonvick School Library, 16770 Clearwater Lake Rd., Clearbrook, MN 56634.
* Monday, March 5: Newfolden City Office, 145 E. First St., Newfolden, MN 56738.
* Tuesday, March 6: Hallock City Hall, 163 3rd St SE, Hallock, MN 56728.
* Wednesday, March 7: Red Lake Falls Lafayette High School Cafeteria, 404 Champagne Ave., Red Lake Falls, MN 56750.
The DNR will also accept written comments on the touring route proposal from Feb. 21 through March 25. Written comments will be accepted by email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or should be sent by mail to Mary Straka, Minnesota DNR, Parks and Trails Division, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.
For more information, or to request a printed copy of the proposal, call Mary Straka, at 218-203-4445, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Mid-winter Wisconsin waterfowl survey results show increase

MADISON, WI - Results from Wisconsin's 2018 mid-winter waterfowl show an increase in waterfowl seen compared to 2017 totals.
Despite sub-zero degree weather during much of the survey, Wisconsin saw an increase in waterfowl in the state compared to 2017. Winter weather varies each year - so far, 2018 has seen milder weather compared to last winter. Species like mallard ducks and Canada geese that move with the snowline were both observed during the January 2018 survey.
"Department of Natural Resources biologists visited any open bodies of water they could find from Jan. 2 through Jan. 8 to count waterfowl and eagles," said Taylor Finger, DNR migratory bird ecologist. "Work done by our biologists is part of coordinated efforts nationwide to survey waterfowl in areas of major concentration on their wintering areas and provide winter distributions of species using aircraft, vehicles and boots on the ground."
DNR biologists counted 123,883 total waterfowl in the state during the January survey work - observed species totals are:
* 58,357 Canada geese (47 percent of total number of waterfowl observed).
* 26,778 mallard ducks (21 percent of total number of waterfowl observed).
* 20,170 common goldeneye (16 percent of total number of waterfowl observed).
Finger said this survey serves as a primary source of data for developing population trends for some species that breed in remote Arctic locations and are difficult to survey during the breeding season. This survey also lets us monitor where species of ducks, geese, and swans are concentrated and distributed during winter, while helping identify population trends and informing our management decisions.
For more information regarding Wisconsin's waterfowl species, visit and search keywords "waterfowl management." Additional survey information can also be found on the department website.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR