Minnesota’s state forests offer beautiful fall scenic drives

A drive through Minnesota’s state forests is an easy way to soak up fall color.
“Driving through our state forests in fall is like driving through a kaleidoscope - the range of color really is amazing,” said Val Cervenka, the Department of Natural Resources forest health program consultant and fall color predictor. “This is a great outing for families, and also a great time to take pictures for holiday cards.”
For a list of fall color forest drives, log onto the Scenic Fall Color Routes webpage. Or, for weekly email or text updates on where to find peak fall color, visit either mndnr.gov/fallcolor, 888-646-6367 or exploreminnesota.com/fallcolor (888-VISITMN).

Here are a few suggested drives:
Late September
* Finland State Forest: Head northwest along state Highway 1 from Finland.
Early October
* Hill River State Forest: This loop begins and ends in Hill City. Head east on state Highway 200. You can take a side trip to hike around Taylor Lake by turning south on Taylor Lake Road. Return to 200 and take another side trip to Washburn Lake by turning south on Washburn Lake Road. Return to 200 and head back to Hill City or head east to County Road 10 (Great River Road). Head south on 10 to state Highway 169. Head north on 169 to County Road 68 (540th St). Head west on 68 to County Road 29. Head north on 29 to 200. Head east on 200 to return to Hill City.
* Fond du Lac State Forest: This loop begins and ends in Cromwell. Take State Highway 73 north to County Road 122. Head east on 122 to County Road 120/Ditchlake Road. Head north on 120 to County Road 223. Here you have two options: you can drive east on 223 to the dead end, then park on the east side of the road and hike through the forest; or, you can turn right on 223 to County Road 421, then head east on 421 to County Road 1023. Go south on 1023 to state Highway 210, then west on 210 to return to Cromwell.
* Solona State Forest: This loop begins and ends in McGarth. Go north on state Highway 65 to County Road 2/220th Street Head east on County Road 2 to County Road 34/Kestrel Avenue Head north on 34, which turns into County Road 75. Continue on County Road 75 to state Highway 27, then go west on state Highway 27 to State Highway 65. Head south on state Highway 65 to return to McGarth. Before returning to McGrarth, perhaps take a detour to Porcupine Lake by heading west on West White Pine Forest Road.
* Wealthwood State Forest: This loop begins and ends in Malmo. Head west on state Highway 18, driving along the north shore of Mille Lacs Lake, to state Highway 169. Head north on 169 toward Aitkin to state Highway 47. Drive east on state Highway 47 to return to Malmo.
* Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood State Forest: This loop begins and ends in Red Wing. From downtown Red Wing, head south on Highway 61 for 10.5 miles. At Frontenac take a right onto County 2 Boulevard and go east for 9 miles. Take a right onto County 3 Boulevard to head east for 4 miles. Take a right onto state Highway 58 to head north for 1.5 miles. Take a left onto Hay Creek Trail to head north for about 4.5 miles. Hay Creek Trail turns into Twin Bluff Road at Pioneer Road. Continue on Twin Bluff Road until it turns into West Avenue. Follow West Avenue to West 7th Street and turn right.  Go one block and turn left onto East Avenue to return to downtown Red Wing.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Fall color show underway in Wisconsin

MADISON - Wisconsin's annual colorama is underway with some Northwoods locations reporting 5 to 15 percent color change but a few areas at nearly 25 to 50 percent peak color.
"The intensity of the fall color season is dependent on the weather that Wisconsin receives during September and October," said Colleen Matula, Forest Silviculturist/Ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources-Division of Forestry. "To have the most brilliant and vibrant fall color display, a series of fall days filled with bright sunshine and cool, but frost free, evenings are required."
Peak fall color usually occurs in far northern Wisconsin during the last week of September and first week of October. Central Wisconsin peak color generally occurs during mid-October and in southern Wisconsin during the latter half of October.
"The heavy rainfall in southern Wisconsin could have some impact," Matula said. "Hardwood trees showing early color in lowland areas could be stressed from being in water too long. Additionally, the excess moisture may also increase fungal diseases and lead to early leaf drop."
Leaf pigments determine the range of the color palette. Chlorophyll, which begins to fade in the fall, gives leaves the basic green color and is necessary for photosynthesis. Carotenoids, which produce yellow, orange and brown colors, are always present so trees like aspen and birch have more predictable colors each year. Anthocyanin, which produces red and purple tints, varies with the conditions and makes each autumn unique for other species. Visit the DNR website for more information about fall colors.
"While the fall color show draws many visitors to our state, the 17.1 million forested acres in Wisconsin are also a year-round economic contributor with forest products adding $24.1 billion annually to state's economy," Matula said.
As the showy fall colors move through the state from north to south, Wisconsin's state forests and parks offer a front row seat for the fall color show, Wisconsin DNR forestry experts say. Visit the DNR website at, dnr.wi.gov, and search "find a park" to find a place near you.
For current information on Wisconsin's current color status, contact the Department of Tourism's Fall Color Hotline at 1-800-432-TRIP or online at the Fall Color Report on the Travel Wisconsin website.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

DNR seeks designs for Minnesota’s 2019 walleye stamp

Artists can submit entries for the 2019 Minnesota Walleye Stamp from Monday, Oct. 8, through Friday, Oct. 19.
The voluntary walleye stamp validation costs $5 but is not required to fish for or keep walleye. For an extra 75 cents, purchasers will be mailed the pictorial stamp. A pictorial collectible stamp without the validation is available for $5.75. Walleye stamps are available year-round and are not required to be purchased at the same time as fishing licenses.
“Walleye stamp proceeds help fund an account for purchasing walleye fingerlings from private producers,” said Shannon Fisher, populations and regulations manager for the Department of Natural Resources. “These fingerlings are stocked in lakes across the state.”
The stamp contest offers no prizes and is open to Minnesota residents only. The walleye must be the primary focus of the design, though other fish species may be included in the design if they are used to depict common interaction between species or are common inhabitants of Minnesota lakes and rivers.
Artists are not allowed to use any photographic, digital or electronic imagery product as part of their finished entries. Winning artists usually issue limited edition prints of the artwork and retain proceeds. Judging will take place 2 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25, at DNR Headquarters, 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul.
Artists who want to submit entries should closely read contest criteria and guidelines for submitting work, available from the DNR Information Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155, by calling the Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, and online at mndnr.gov/stamps.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

DNR invites public input on proposed forest trails in St. Louis County

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources invites anyone with an interest in recreational trail systems and motorized recreation in the Kabetogama and Sturgeon River state forests in St. Louis County to attend a public meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 26.
The meeting will provide an opportunity to review a set of proposals that include changes to trail systems in the state forests. The meeting will be from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Cook Community Center, 799 Third Ave. SE, Cook.
Draft recommendations include new all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and off-highway motorcycle (OHM) trails, permitting ATV and off-highway motorcycle (OHM) use on portions of snowmobile trails, designating portions of the Taconite State Trail to allow ATV/OHM use and designating existing hunter-walking trails.
The DNR invites the public to visit the meeting to review maps of existing and proposed trails, discuss the DNR proposals, submit comments and suggest changes to the recommendations. The DNR will also accept written comments through 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11.  
Comments received at the meeting and during the public comment period will be used to develop a final recommendation that will be submitted to the DNR commissioner for approval. Changes to state forest trail designations must be made by commissioner's order and published in the State Register.  
Written comments may be submitted by:
Email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Fax to 651-297-1157.
Mail to Joe Unger, Parks and Trails Division, DNR, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN  55155-4039.
For more information, please call:
The DNR’s Parks and Trails Division central office in St. Paul, 651-259-5279.
The DNR’s Parks and Trails Tower area office, 218-300-7842.
Information is also available online at mndnr.gov.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Tiny transmitters help track survival of rare turtle hatchlings

RHINELANDER - It's wood turtle hatching time and up to 20 of these state-threatened species are being outfitted with tiny transmitters to allow state conservation biologists to track their survival and learn if the state's successful nest protection efforts pay off over the long-term.
Protecting nests from predators is one major part of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources' statewide conservation strategy for wood turtles. Since a DNR study of wood turtles in 2014 and 2015 found placing cages over turtle nests increased the survival of eggs and hatchling production significantly, DNR conservation biologists have continued and expanded those protection efforts as well as relocated some nests to larger sites protected by electric fencing.
"We are tracking hatchlings for a full year to see what happens to them. We suspect there's a lot of mortality but we don't know because no one has tracked them for a full year," says Tiffany Bougie, a University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student leading the joint project between the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation Program and the UW-Madison Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology.
"We also want to learn if the nest protection is worth the effort in terms of increasing turtle populations or at least preventing population declines."
If it's not, the DNR can focus time and resources on investigating other potential strategies. Right now, nest restoration, nest protection and efforts aimed at reducing the number of adult turtles killed on roadways are major conservation strategies that the DNR has been investigating and improving upon since 2014.
That was the first year of funding for a multi-state partnership with Michigan, Minnesota, and Iowa to improve riverine turtle conservation strategies and overall population numbers. Multiple facets of this larger project have been funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin, American Transmission Company, and the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program, according to Carly Lapin, a DNR district ecologist stationed in Rhinelander.
Wood turtles are currently listed as a threatened species in Wisconsin and USFWS is assessing their status in the Midwest. Females do not lay eggs until they are 14- to 18-years old; their late maturity makes it harder for declining populations to come back because the loss of even one adult female can have a large effect on future population numbers, Lapin says.
Bougie and DNR conservation biologists glue the transmitters on hatchlings emerging from nests DNR has protected along the Wisconsin and Tomahawk rivers. The transmitter and glue together weigh about 0.7 to 0.8 gram, about one-tenth as much as the weight of the hatchlings, so biologists are careful to place the transmitters only on the larger hatchlings.
The batteries in the transmitters will be replaced after 90 days and in the winter, the turtles will be placed in overwinter enclosures in the rivers. Wood turtles hibernate in the winter; the turtles with the transmitters will be tracked again in the spring, Bougie says.
Help turtles by reporting turtle crossings this fall
Wisconsin residents can help add to that information base and wood turtle survival this fall by reporting roadways where turtles cross, whether hatchlings or adult turtles crossing roads to reach upland nests. Turtles getting run over by cars is considered a leading cause of decline in turtle numbers in Wisconsin, especially in highly fragmented areas and areas with high traffic volumes. Report turtle crossings to the Wisconsin Turtle Conservation Program.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Cannon Falls artist wins duck stamp contest

A painting of a gadwall by Cannon Falls artist Jim Caturia will be featured on the 2019 Minnesota Migratory Waterfowl Stamp, after he won the annual stamp contest sponsored by the Department of Natural Resources.
This was Caturia’s first time winning the duck stamp contest.
The winning painting was selected by judges from among 19 entries. Five entries advanced as finalists that were selected during the Sept. 6 contest. The other finalists were Bradley Hadrava, second place; Thomas Miller, third place; Jake Levisen, fourth place; and Stephen Hamrick, fifth place. The duck stamp contest began in 1977.
The waterfowl stamp validation for hunting is $7.50 and for an extra 75 cents purchasers can receive the pictorial stamp. It also is sold as a collectible. Revenue from stamp sales is dedicated to waterfowl management and habitat work. Stamp sales generate about $700,000 per year for waterfowl habitat enhancement projects on state wildlife management areas and shallow lakes.
The DNR offers no prizes for the stamp contest winner, but the winning artist retains the right to reproduce the work. Each year the entries are limited to a predetermined species that breeds or migrates through Minnesota. The eligible species for the 2020 stamp design will be the snow goose. For more on the stamp contests, visit mndnr.gov/stamps.

SOURCE: Minnsota DNR

'Wear it, Wisconsin!'

MADISON - With more crashes involving all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles this late summer, state conservation wardens are urging all operators and riders to remember safety steps.
Wisconsin has seen 16 fatal crashes involving all-terrain and utility-terrain vehicles this year.
Gary Eddy, off-highway administrative warden with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, says wardens statewide are encouraging all operators and riders to "Wear it Wisconsin!"
"That means wearing helmets for ATVs and UTVs, and your seat belts on an UTV," Eddy said.
Anyone under the age of 18 must wear a helmet, and that helmet must meet U.S. Department of Transportation standards.
Eddy says a common factor in fatalities is the lack of wearing helmets and not wearing the UTV seatbelt.
"These machines are popular for work and for play, and their use continues to grow in Wisconsin," Eddy said. "Since you can't predict when an incident will occur, it is best to protect yourself and your passengers for that possibility. Simply put on the helmet, fasten the safety straps and click the seatbelt.
"It is always important to remember safety while operating these vehicles for work or recreational purposes," Eddy said. "These machines are often operated on paved surfaces and across rough terrain. These conditions bring their own set of hazards. That's why the use of safety equipment is so important. Many of these tragedies may have been prevented had seat belts and helmets been used."
Eddy urges all ATV and UTV owners to spread the "Wear it Wisconsin" message by setting a personal rule that helmets and seat belts are always used on their machines. Also, educate others you know on the importance of using helmets and seat belts.
"A little positive peer pressure on your family and friends can help," Eddy said. "We want everyone to stay safe and have fun while using these versatile vehicles.
Here are more of Warden Eddy's safety tips for all ATV-UTV riders:
* Never drink and ride. ATVs and UTVs are challenging enough to operate sober; adding alcohol endangers everyone around you. * Practice "Zero Alcohol" and wait until you're done operating all vehicles before consuming alcohol.
* "Seize the keys:" Control who and when your machine is being operated.
* Complete an ATV safety course. All ATV riders at least age 12 (and UTV operators at least age 16) and born after January 1, 1988 must complete a course prior to operating an ATV or UTV. This course may be completed either in a classroom or over the internet. Search the Wisconsin DNR website for ATV Safety" to learn more.
* Use extreme caution while operating on paved surfaces. ATVs and UTVs highly unstable on paved surfaces and cannot be operated in the same manner as a car. All maneuvers must be made in a slow, controlled manner. Corners cannot be taken at the same speed as other motor vehicles.
* Never ride alone. If a mishap happens, you may need immediate help.
* Slow down, be responsible and expect to meet other people while on trails.
* Stay on the right side of the trail. Rough terrain and puddles are part of the experience; don't endanger others by riding on the wrong side of the trail. Cross obstacles in a controlled and safe manner.
* Don't operate your machine outside the limits or capabilities of you, the machine or the environment (trail condition, terrain, hours of darkness, etc.)
* Headlights and tail lights are required at all times while on public roads. All turns must be indicated by use of turn signals or hand signals.
* ATV/UTV is among our state's favorite recreational activities in the summer months. Stay safe and stay responsible.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR