EIS not required for Willow River Dam Restoration Project

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has concluded that the Willow River Dam Restoration Project in Pine County does not require an environmental impact statement (EIS).
The justification for the decision is detailed in a record of decision document. The DNR previously completed an environmental assessment worksheet (EAW) on the project, and the results of that worksheet informed the DNR’s determination that an EIS is not required.
The DNR proposes to replace the damaged Willow River Dam with a rock rapids dam. The existing dam, built in the 1940s, breached in July 2016 after a large flood overtopped the dam. In its damaged state the dam no longer holds lake levels at their former elevation. To restore lake levels, while also facilitating fish passage, the DNR is proposing to fill in the eroded channel and construct a series of rock arch weirs downstream of the existing dam. In addition to allowing fish passage, the rock arch rapids design will reduce safety issues associated with the previous dam structure.
As provided under the Minnesota Environmental Protection Act, the DNR prepared the EAW to assess whether the project presented the potential for significant environmental effects. The analysis considered:
* The type, extent and reversibility of environmental effects.
* The potential for cumulative environmental effects.
* Whether any environmental effects were subject to ongoing regulatory authority.
* The extent to which environmental effects can be anticipated and controlled as a result of other available environmental studies.
The DNR has determined that all potential environmental effects from the proposed project are minimal or can be managed through ongoing regulatory authority. Given this determination, the DNR is not ordering an EIS.
Under Minnesota Environmental Quality Board rules, the DNR’s decision ends the state environmental review process and the project can now proceed to decisions on required permits and other approvals.
The record of decision includes the responses to all substantive written comments received on the EAW during the 30-day public review and comment period.
Additional information, including decision details about the proposed project and the DNR’s review process are available on the project page.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Minnesota artists can find stamp contest rules online

Artists can go onto the Minnesota DNR website to find rules and deadlines for contests that decide what artwork will be on 2021 fish and wildlife stamps featuring trout and salmon, waterfowl, pheasant, walleye and turkey.
Sale of these stamps supports fish and wildlife habitat work. The stamps can be purchased in combination with a hunting or fishing license, or as collectibles.
Artwork entry dates are as follows:
* Trout and salmon stamp: Monday, July 20, to 4 p.m. Friday, July 31.
* Walleye stamp: Monday, July 20, to 4 p.m. Friday, July 31.
* Waterfowl stamp: Monday, Aug. 24, to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4.
* Pheasant and turkey stamp: Monday, Sept. 21, to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2.
For more information and contest guidelines, visit mndnr.gov/stamps or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Rock Island State Park closes for season

MADISON, Wis. – Due to high water levels on Lake Michigan, accessibility limitations, and COVID-19 and social distancing concerns, Rock Island State Park will be closed for the remainder of the year.
The Washington Island Ferry Line had suspended trips to and from Rock Island State Park earlier this year and have extended that suspension through the end of the 2020 season. High water has also submerged piers, limiting accessibility to the island.
All camping reservations will be canceled and reservation holders will be provided a full refund. The Friends of Rock Island State Park have also canceled all tours of the lighthouse and boathouse.
The public will not be permitted to dock on or use the island for personal use. Property staff and conservation wardens will be monitoring the park for the remainder of the season. Anyone who attempts to access the island may be subject to citations.
The DNR urges state park and forest visitors to do their part when visiting DNR properties. Most Wisconsin state parks, forests and other day-use areas do not have garbage or recycling bins. When visiting, please take your garbage and recyclables home with you. We all play a vital role in taking care of our natural resources. Following Leave No Trace principles helps protect the land for generations to come.
Fight the Bite! Ticks are out, and visitors should take precautions to prevent Lyme Disease.
Visitors are reminded to practice social distancing of 6 feet, refrain from congregating in large groups, travel only within your home communities and follow all existing state park rules and guidelines. Visitors are also encouraged to wear face coverings in situations where social distancing is difficult.
The DNR continues to receive the most up-to-date information and will adjust operations as conditions change. We will also continue to monitor on-the-ground circumstances each day to determine additional conditions that may become necessary. Before visiting DNR properties, please check with individual properties regarding changes to property operations.
For specific information regarding COVID-19 we encourage the public to frequently monitor the DHS website for updates, and to follow @DHSWI on Facebook and Twitter, or dhs.wi on Instagram. Additional information can be found on the CDC website.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Harvesting hay on state lands helps manage grassland habitat

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture have joined forces to help connect the state’s cattle farmers in need of additional forage to DNR area wildlife managers needing to manage grassland habitat.
Research over the last two decades shows that grassland wildlife and pollinators respond positively to well-managed haying and grazing.
For many years, the DNR has used its conservation grazing and haying program to manage grasslands for the benefit of wildlife. This also produces forage from DNR managed lands, such as wildlife management areas, for cattle farmers.
COVID-19-related disruptions at meat packing facilities have caused farmers to hold on to cattle longer than normal. As a result, some farmers have larger herds and are running out of feed. These changes put additional pressure on an already low statewide forage stockpile. Recognizing the opportunity to help address this need while also advancing management objectives on DNR grasslands, this summer DNR staff are working to publicize haying and grazing opportunities and streamline the process for farmers.
“The DNR is eager to partner with Minnesota cattle farmers and demonstrate the value grasslands bring to local communities,” said Dave Olfelt, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “We know we can help local farmers while using haying and grazing to help us manage grassland habitat for wildlife and pollinators.”
Haying and grazing activity on Wild Management Areas is timed to avoid nesting and fall hunting seasons. Haying and grazing are done in such a way that substantial areas are left undisturbed and each WMA has good fall and winter cover. Typical hay leases are about 30 acres in size, a small portion of most WMAs.
The two state agencies worked together to update and improve information about haying and grazing opportunities on DNR lands. Cattle farmers needing additional forage are encouraged to email their DNR area wildlife manager to discuss options in their area. Area wildlife managers’ contact information can be found on the Conservation Grazing Map on the MDA website.
“Grazing and haying can be a valuable tool in grassland wildlife conservation,” Olfelt said. “This is a win-win for both conservation and agriculture.”      

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Rest In Peace Eagle 1

We regret to inform you that E1 passed away Friday, July 3. Unfortunately, she flew into a power line and was found dead.   One of our photographers, who monitors the nest, reported a chick was dead and hanging from a nearby power structure. He reported it to Nongame staff and we contacted Xcel Energy, who immediately responded and had a crew on site to retrieve the chick, which was identified as E1.
No one witnessed the event. Her wing caught a loop and she was found hanging. Once Xcel retrieved the remains, Nongame took possession of E1. It was determined that she was not electrocuted.  It appears she hit the line and likely died on impact. It happened some time between 8:30 a.m. and 6 p.m.  
Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for eagles to perish by hitting power lines, but it is always sad to witness and report.
The first year of an eagle's life, particularly after fledging, is the most dangerous. The mortality rate of eagle chicks during the first year of life is greater than 50%. Survival after the first year is much higher.
We've witnessed dangers and mortality at our nest, yet never really knowing for sure how many chicks survive past their first year.  Power lines, vehicles and predators are all hazards for eagles and many will encounter dangerous situations, especially when they are nesting so close to urban areas.
Because Minnesota's eagle population is healthy, there is a higher percentage of eagle mortality. It is difficult to see mortality as a positive thing, but it does mean that our population as a whole is healthy.
Of course, we hope that E2 will continue to thrive and survive until adulthood. There is no way to protect birds from all of the environmental hazards, but escaping them will result in a stronger individual. E2 has, and will continue to visit the nest and we will keep the camera on until at least the end of August.
As we remember, E1 and celebrate our nation's birthday, we wish a happy July 4th to everyone.
We also need to thank you for your continued support of the Nongame Wildlife Program. We rely on your contributions - they make it possible for our team to be on call to respond to these emergencies 24/7. We couldn't do it without your support. Thank you!

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Invasive butterfly dock found in Oconto County

MADISON, Wis. – A prohibited invasive plant that has the potential to invade shorelines, wetlands, forests and other shaded, moist areas has been found for the first time in Oconto County.
Butterfly dock originally inhabited Europe and northern Asia where it is known for its attractive appearance. It is prohibited in Wisconsin under the state’s invasive species rule, NR 40 Wis. Admin. Code. Prohibited species are illegal to transfer, sell, possess, transport or introduce into the state. The only other finding of this species in Wisconsin was in 2015 at a nursery in northern Wisconsin.
In June 2020 two Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources botanists responded to a report of suspected butterfly dock in a right-of-way just north of Gillett. The botanists verified the species as prohibited and pursued control efforts with the help of a local contractor and the Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area (CISMA) called Timberland Invasives Partnership that serves Langlade, Forest, Menominee and Oconto counties.
“It is unclear how the plant was introduced, but it was possibly planted for horticultural aesthetics or for medicinal uses,” said Amanda Smith, a DNR invasive species specialist. “Initial monitoring of the area does not suggest that the population has spread locally. However, other forms of spread are possible.”
Smith said an adjacent stream could have transported seeds or roots downstream, or garden enthusiasts might have shared clippings of this unusual and striking plant, not knowing of its invasiveness and ecological impacts. Additional monitoring of the site and nearby waterbodies will continue, and DNR staff and partners will also begin outreach to local garden clubs and retailers.
The public can report invasive species by following the instructions on the DNR website or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Butterfly dock is known by numerous common names including butterbur, bog rhubarb, devil’s hat, winter heliotrope, purple butter-bur, pestilence wort and colt's foot. It has reportedly grown as tall as 7 feet with leaves that can span over one yard in diameter, shading out native species. This species readily reproduces by root fragmentation, creeping rhizomes and seeds.
As with all aquatic invasive species, citizens can help reduce the spread of this species by following these steps:
* Use native plant species whenever possible.
* Bag and dispose of unwanted seeds or invasive plants in the trash, labeled “Approved for landfilling by DNR.”
* Be on the lookout for invasive species.
* Respond aggressively to rid your land of new invasive species.
* Leave native trees and plants alone; natural landscapes offer the best defense.
* When traveling on foot in natural areas, always brush boots and waders clean of seeds, mud and other debris.

Paddlers and boaters remember the Aquatic Invasive Species Prevention Steps:
* Inspect boats, trailers and equipment for attached aquatic plants or animals.
* Remove all attached plants or animals.
* Drain all water from boats, motors, livewells and other equipment.
* Never move live fish away from a waterbody.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

Fire danger high in northeastern Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources cautions residents and visitors in northeastern Minnesota to be aware of elevated fire conditions this hot and dry holiday weekend.
Recent heavy rains in other parts of the state unfortunately bypassed the abnormally dry Arrowhead Region, leaving fire danger high. An unintentional spark in these dry conditions could ignite a wildfire.
“Expanding drought conditions have dried grasses, shrubs and trees in the area, resulting in increased fire danger,” said Aaron Mielke, Forestry Division assistant area supervisor in Grand Marais. “Please, be extra cautious with personal fireworks and campfires as you celebrate this holiday.”
Mielke notes the current drought conditions are similar to conditions of the high fire years of 2006 and 2011, the latter of which was the year of the 93,000-acre Pagami Creek wildfire.
With the increased potential for wildfires, restrictions on open burning are in effect in Cook and Lake counties and the northern portion of St. Louis County. Campfires are allowed, and should be limited to no more than 3 feet in diameter by 3 feet high. The ground should be cleared of all combustible material at least 5 feet from the base of the campfire. However, there is a campfire ban in the Superior National Forest, except for at a limited number of developed campgrounds. Attend to campfires at all times.
Already this year, escaped campfires and fireworks have caused more than 40 wildfires in Minnesota. With interest in these activities heightening on the Fourth of July weekend, the DNR offers these reminders:
* When enjoying a campfire or lighting personal fireworks, keep a hose or water nearby.
* Remember, fireworks are not allowed in state forests, state parks, or any other state lands.
* After a campfire, drown-stir-repeat until it is out cold.
* If a campfire is too hot to touch, it is too hot to leave.
* Check current fire danger conditions at the DNR statewide fire danger and burning restrictions map. If you do see a wildfire, call 911.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR