Comments open for EAW for Star of The North Walking Trail

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has released and is accepting comments on an environmental assessment worksheet for a proposed hunter walking trail in Roseau and Lake of the Woods counties.  
The DNR is proposing construction and designation of the Star of the North Walking Trail. The project would link about 29.5 miles of existing routes with 27.5 miles of new trail development to create a 57-mile loop system of signed and maintained natural surface walking trail corridor.
Hunter walking trails provide comparatively easy access to grouse and woodcock areas in Minnesota’s primary grouse range. These trails wind their way through wildlife management areas, connecting with some state forests and other public hunting lands.
The agency will take comments during a 30-day public review period from Jan. 1 to Jan. 31.A copy of the EAW is available online on the Star of the North Walking Trail page.
A hard copy may be requested by calling 651-259-5115.
The EAW is available for public review at:
* DNR Library, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155.
* DNR Northwest Region Headquarters, 2115 Birchmont Beach Rd. NE, Bemidji, MN 56601.
* Minneapolis Central Library, Government Documents, 2nd Floor, 300 Nicollet Mall.
* Roseau Public Library, 121 Center Street, Suite 100, Roseau, MN  56751.
* Warroad City Library, 202 North Main Ave., Warroad, MN 56763.
* Williams Public Library, 250 Main St., Williams, MN 56686.
* Bemidji Public Library, 509 America Ave. NW, Bemidji, MN  56601.
The EAW notice was published in the Jan. 1 EQB Monitor. Written comments must be submitted no later than 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Jan. 31, to the attention of Cynthia Novak-Krebs EAW project manager, Environmental Policy and Review Unit, Ecological and Water Resources Division, DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4025.  
Electronic or email comments may be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “Star of the North Trail EAW” in the subject line.  If submitting comments electronically, include name and mailing address. Written comments may also be sent by fax to 651-296-1811. Names and addresses will be published as part of the EAW record.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


2017 great year for Minnesota outdoors

The year 2017 saw an increase in the number of Minnesotans getting outdoors and enjoying the state’s abundant natural resources, according to the Department of Natural Resources.
The DNR opened two new state campgrounds, added new resources to combat aquatic invasive species, connected more Minnesotans to information about the state’s natural resources, and engaged Minnesotans in the decision-making process on how to best plan for the future of the state’s natural resources.
“Minnesotans had more occasions in 2017 to engage with us on conservation decisions,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “I want to thank the outdoors-loving residents of this state for taking the time to share their ideas and opinions with us.”
Outdoor highlights for the year include:

GETTING OUTDOORS

* New and returning visitors flocked to Minnesota state parks and trails. Year-to-date overnight stays at state parks in 2017 were up 4.1 percent compared to 2016 and sales of year-round state park vehicle permits were up 4.5 percent.
* The DNR opened two new state campgrounds, one at Whitewater State Park and partially opened a new campground at Lake Vermilion-Soudan Underground Mine State Park. The DNR also re-opened two state trails after extensive repairs. Following the completion of a five-mile segment severely damaged by flooding in 2012, the 70-mile Willard Munger State Trail is now completely open for the first time in more than five years. A six-mile segment of the Glacial Lakes State Trail is also open, after being widened and resurfaced between Willmar and Spicer.
* Active military personnel in any branch or unit of the United States Armed Forces and veterans with a service-related disability are now eligible to receive a free year-round state parks vehicle permit, providing unlimited access to all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas. These new benefits were proposed by the DNR and approved by state lawmakers during the 2017 Minnesota legislative session.
* Responding to public demand, the DNR expanded its Information Center hours into weekday evenings and Saturday mornings. The hotline is a great resource to get many outdoor questions answered from fish limits on lakes to trail conditions for snowmobile and skiing. The project started as a pilot project late in 2016, but public response was so overwhelmingly positive that operational hours were made permanent. The DNR’s Information Center received 85,146 calls in 2017; more than 12,000 of those calls were taken during the new weekend and evening hours. Anyone can call 888-MINNDNR (646-6367) and talk to an information consultant – 21.5 more hours a week – from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday.  

HUNTING

* Minnesota deer hunters had one of their better deer seasons in several years, with the fall harvest expected to total nearly 199,000 deer with some late-season hunting yet to come, compared to 173,213 in 2016. The state has about 500,000 deer hunters each year.
* The DNR is committed to ensuring sustainable and healthy wildlife populations across the state. In 2017, the DNR held a series of 12 public meetings statewide with people interested in deer to discuss goals and values that would define Minnesota’s first-ever statewide deer management plan. A diverse citizen advisory committee met monthly to discuss the plan and further input was gathered through public surveys. The draft plan will be finalized in 2018.
* Chronic wasting disease was not found in precautionary testing of nearly 11,500 samples from deer that hunters harvested in north-central, central and southeastern Minnesota outside deer permit area 603. Within permit area 603 the disease was identified in 2016, and this past season six new cases of CWD were confirmed. Overall, the results lent confidence that the disease has not spread across the landscape. Hunter cooperation and public support were both very strong during the monitoring effort.

FORESTRY

* Minnesota’s forest products industry has seen increased global competition, high raw material prices, and increased demand for state timber in recent years. These and other developments underscored the need to update the sustainable timber harvest level from DNR-administered forest lands.
The DNR is working closely with a stakeholder advisory group to evaluate the implications of various harvest levels for the forest ecosystem and economy. Specifically, the analysis will examine the sustainability of harvesting 1 million cords of timber per year from DNR-administered forest lands. If the analysis does not support that level of harvest, the DNR will use information from the analysis to determine what is the sustainable harvest level.
DNR-administered lands provide 30 percent of the wood fiber in the state. The state’s forest products industry is the fifth largest manufacturing sector in Minnesota by employment, with a $17.8 billion economic impact supporting 64,000 jobs.
* The DNR created seven new, state-of-the-art maps that make it easier and safer for people to explore, hunt and recreate in state forests. The maps were developed for Paul Bunyan State Forest, Badoura State Forest, St. Croix State Forest, Huntersville State Forest, Lyons State Forest, General C.C. Andrews State Forest and Chengwatana State Forest. In addition to paper maps, a geoPDF map allows users to download a map onto a mobile device using a variety of map apps and then track their location on the screen. The agency plans to produce 52 more new state forest maps in coming years.

FISHING

* State records were recorded for golden redhorse (4 pound 7 ounces), short-nose gar (5-pound 4-ounces), catch and release flathead catfish (53 inches), and two caught and released lake sturgeon that were 70 inches long. There are more than 1.4 million anglers in Minnesota.

CLEAN WATER

* After processing 4,200 public comments and making 2,800 changes to Minnesota’s buffer protection map, the DNR updated a map of public waters and ditch systems that require buffers under a state law. Minnesota’s buffer law, passed in 2015 with bipartisan support, requires landowners to establish perennial vegetation buffers, up to 50 feet wide, along rivers, streams and ditches to help protect clean water quality across the state. Over 97 percent of public waters are now in compliance with the state’s buffer law.

INVASIVE SPECIES

* Two new K9 dogs, Shelby and Storm, were added to the agency’s resources to quickly locate zebra mussels attached to all types of water related equipment such as boats, trailers and docks. Shelby and Storm join veteran mussel-sniffing dogs Brady and Reggie.
* The DNR also captured a 37-pound, 43-inch bighead carp in the St. Croix River, surgically implanted a thin, 4-inch long tracking tag, and returned the fish to the river. The fish will give scientists better data about the fish’s movements, precise range, feeding areas and other details about the types of conditions these invasive species prefer. The information will help the agency to develop future strategies to control invasive carp.
Find out more about the DNR at mndnr.gov.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR confirms cougar photos from Douglas County

MADISON, WI - Department of Natural Resources biologists confirmed four photos of a cougar wandering through Douglas County in mid-November.
Two of the photos were captured on the same day on two properties roughly 2.5 miles apart in the Foxboro area. Three days later, an additional two photos were captured on separate properties in the Bennett area, roughly 4.5 miles apart.
It is unknown whether this cougar is the same animal photographed on multiple trail cameras in central Wisconsin between early August and late October.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources staff confirmed two photos of a cougar near the Iowa border in early September, this confirmation coincided with confirmed trail camera photos of a cougar in Marathon County during a similar time period. Without biological material for genetic testing, there can be no confirmation whether the cougar photographed in Douglas County is one of these animals.
Confirmed cougar sighting trail camera photos and a map with the location of these sightings from 2017 and previous years can be found at dnr.wi.gov, keyword "cougar."
As a reminder, suspected cougar sightings can be reported using the large mammal observation form.
There is currently no evidence that cougars are breeding in Wisconsin. Biologists believe the cougars known to have entered Wisconsin are male cougars dispersing from a breeding population in the western United States.
Cougars are a protected species in Wisconsin and cannot be shot unless attacking a human or a domestic animal. Cougar attacks on humans are very rare, and there have been no confirmed conflicts between cougars and people or domestic animals in Wisconsin.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Candlelight Walk canceled at Fort Snelling State Park

Due to weekend forecasts for bitterly cold temperatures, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division will cancel this year’s Fort Snelling State Park New Year’s Eve Candlelight Walk.  
Although the candlelight walk is popular, park staff is concerned first for safety, and does not want to place visitors, volunteers and staff at risk due to severely cold conditions.
Additional candlelight walks are scheduled in the metro area this winter for those who wish to walk among luminaries and participate in other family-fun events.
On Friday, Jan. 26, the staff at Gateway State Trail offers a one-mile walk lit with candle luminaries, blazing campfires to warm visitors, and hot apple cider. In addition, three metro area candlelight walks will be held on Saturday, Feb. 3, at Afton State Park, Lake Maria State Park, and William O’Brien State Park. For times and locations of all DNR Parks and Trails candlelight events, see: mndnr.gov/candlelight.
Many additional fun winter activities and programs such as snowshoeing, ice fishing, geocaching and more can be accessed on the DNR parks and trails events calendar at mndnr.gov/ptcalendar.
Weather related updates are posted on state park and trail webpages under visitor alerts. During the week you can call the DNR Information Center for information about program changes or cancellations, 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

State's smallest bat flies 35 miles in 3.3 hours

HUDSON, WI - Somewhere in a Pierce County cave, one of the state's smallest bats is getting a well-earned rest from its 35-mile flight into conservation history.
The bat, an eastern pipistrelle weighing less than a nickel, led state conservation biologists on a historic chase last spring.
"Nobody had ever really done this before with this particular species in North America," said Heather Kaarakka, the Department of Natural Resources conservation biologist leading the eastern pipistrelle radio-tracking. "We had tried the same thing the previous year and it didn't work. So to be able to track a bat this year from its hibernation site to its presumed summer roost was super exciting."
The biologists radio-tracked the bat as part of research to better understand the connection between habitats of bats that hibernate in caves or mines in the winter and spend their summers in the forests. Such understanding is particularly important as eastern pipistrelles in Wisconsin and other states die from white-nose syndrome, a deadly bat disease that strikes while they hibernate. Study results will funnel into a habitat conservation plan for cave bats that roost in forests, including eastern pipistrelles and northern long-eared bats, Kaarakka said.
So in early May, she and other DNR biologists and volunteers placed fine-mesh nets over the entrances of a Pierce County cave and waited. They captured two female eastern pipistrelles, weighed them, and outfitted them with radio transmitters.
They released the bats around 11 p.m., and in a flash, the bats were gone. The bats headed due west and their human trackers did too. A few teams heard signals periodically as they headed west toward the Mississippi River following the bats, but by 12:15 a.m., all of the teams had lost the bat signals. "It was heartbreaking," Kaarakka says.
More than an hour later, conservation biologist Katie Luukkonen, who had been driving westward hoping to pick up the signal, heard a beep.
"I think I lucked out on that," she said. "Finding that signal again was one of the most exciting things I've done in conservation biology."
The other teams crossed the river to parallel her and they all spent the next two hours tracking the bat back and forth across the Mississippi River until it settled on a birch tree north of Hudson. It was 3:30 a.m. Kaarakka and Luukkonen stayed until dawn to make sure the bat didn't move. They returned the next few nights to watch its movements.
"Katie saved the day," Kaarakka said. "There was a lot of hugging. It was pretty incredible to finally see some results."
The bat had traveled roughly 35 miles in 3.3 hours, at a rate of about 10.6 miles per hour, in a straight line from the hibernation site to the river as the bat flies. The telemetry results for this bat also suggest this species may move its greatest distances from hibernation sites during the first night of emergence.
"This is just one bat, so you can't draw too many conclusions from its behavior, but it's 100 percent more than what we knew before," Kaarakka said. "There is still so much to learn about eastern pipistrelles, but this is one piece of the complex puzzle of how we conserve them in the future."
To learn more about Wisconsin bats and efforts to protect them, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for keyword "bats."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Candlelight events begin at Minnesota state parks, trails

Care to see winter soften before your very eyes? Candlelight has that effect.
Each year staff at Minnesota state parks and trails place lanterns, candles and other luminaries along short trails and invite the public in for a candle-lit walk.
In some cases, visitors can also snowshoe or cross-country ski over a trail glowing with soft light. The evening wraps up with a steaming cup of cocoa or cider near a crackling bonfire.
More than 30 candlelight events are scheduled at Minnesota state parks and trails this winter, starting on Saturday, Dec. 30, at Zippel Bay State Park on the Canadian border and continuing through the end of February. The three candlelight events taking place closest to the Twin Cities include:
* 4-8 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve) at Fort Snelling State Park in St. Paul.
* 5-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, at Afton State Park in Hastings.
* 4:30-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 3, at William O’Brien State Park near Stillwater.
Other candlelight events are scattered throughout the state, offering a variety of terrain and scenery. For the complete schedule—including dates, times and other details—visit www.mndnr.gov/candlelight.
“Candlelight brings out winter’s soft side,” said Erika Rivers, director of the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division. “The flickering light against snow creates an unforgettable experience. An evening walk becomes so much more on a candle-lit trail aided by light from stars and a full moon.”
Snowshoes and skis can be rented or checked out at some parks. Call in advance to confirm the availability of equipment and to reserve what you will need.
The candlelight events are free, but a vehicle permit is required to enter a state park ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit). Those who don’t already have a vehicle permit can purchase one at the park on the night of the event, but getting one online in advance will save time.
Skiers age 16 and older also need the Great Minnesota Ski Pass to participate in the candle-lit ski events. The ski pass ($6/one-day pass, $20/single-season pass, and $55/three-season pass) allows access to hundreds of miles of trails in state parks, state forests, city parks and other public lands throughout Minnesota (visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/skiing/skipass/list.html for a complete list and map).
Note that events may be changed or canceled due to weather. For information on cancellations, call the park office phone number listed on the park website or send an email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
For more ideas on what to do at state parks this winter, pick up a copy of the new winter programs and events brochure at the nearest state park or request one from the DNR Information Center.
Online resources include the “Winter Activities Guide” page at www.mndnr.gov/winterguide and the calendar of events at www.mndnr.gov/parks.
For more information, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Gains abound for endangered turtles, bats, monarchs

MADISON, WI - Wisconsin has experienced a record year for work to sustain rare prairies and oak savannas: an 85 percent reduction in rare turtles killed at one deadly roadway crossing; nearly 1,000 newly restored acres of habitat for Karner blue butterflies; and the first peregrine falcon nest in Door County since the 1950s.
These are just a few of the gains for Wisconsin's rare wildlife and State Natural Areas through work by state conservation biologists, partners, volunteers and donors. Their stories are told in the colorful, photo-packed 2017 Annual Report of the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.
The program, or NHC for short, is the Department of Natural Resources unit responsible for protecting, managing and restoring rare animals and hundreds of State Natural Areas that are the best remaining examples of prairies, oak savannas, wetlands, forests and unique geological and archaeological sites.
"Our annual report is one way we recognize and thank our partners, volunteers and donors for their contributions to Wisconsin's rare species and State Natural Areas," said Drew Feldkirchner, who directs the Natural Heritage Conservation Program.
"It's also a chance to highlight what we've accomplished together over the last year and encourage more folks to join in - and there's a lot of ways they can do that."

Inside the annual report
Volunteers can choose from dozens of citizen science projects to help collect valuable information about the location, number and trends of native species.
There are also many opportunities to lend a hand on State Natural Areas, including some of Wisconsin's most unique areas, by cutting brush, pulling invasive plants, and collecting seeds and other work. Look for opportunities in the coming weeks.
Thousands of donors provide critical financial support. Their donations to the Endangered Resources Fund are matched dollar for dollar and account for up to 25 percent of the funding needed for NHC's work with rare species and State Natural Areas. People can make tax-deductible donations online or by mail directly, or through their state income tax form. They also can buy an Endangered Resources licenses plate that includes a $25 annual donation to the Endangered Resources Fund.
To read the 2017 annual report and see videos sharing the inside stories of the work done and the gains made, in 2017, search the DNR website, dnr.wi.gov, for "NHC annual report."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR