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Last updated: Mar 21, 2011

St. Stephen Sportsmen's Club members assemble bird houses

NSSF Reports Big Jump in Hunting License Sales

Moose population decline continues

Four west-central Minnesota residents face stiff fines, loss of hunting privileges

DNR promotes three conservation officers

Important “No-Net-Loss” Hunting Bill Needs Your Help in Minnesota

2011 spring light goose hunting begins March 1

DNR commissioner outlines 25-year legacy plan for parks and trails in Minnesota

Deer feeding ban effective in four southeastern Minnesota counties

DNR closes part of Willard Munger State Trail for construction

Duncan named 2010 TIP Officer of the Year

Itasca State Park adds skijoring to its menu of winter activities

Strategic efforts to connect people to the outdoors yield big gains at Minnesota state parks in 2010

DNR Commissioner Landwehr announces leadership team

DNR reports very good or excellent conditions at more than 100 ski and snowmobile trails statewide



St. Stephen Sportsmen's Club members assemble bird houses

The St. Stephen Sportsmen's Club members recently assembled 40 wood duck houses, 55 blue bird houses, 55 wren houses and 15 squirrel feeders. The bird houses were built with solid 1 inch ash lumber. About 20 members young and old helped in the assembly. The club has been building bird houses since 1985 with over 1000 wood duck houses built and put out in the St. Stephen area. The club has bird houses for sale with the money going to fund club projects. Wood duck---$20.00, blue bird---$6.00, wren---$6.00 and squirrel feeders---$6.00. Interested parties can call 320-469-1766.

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NSSF Reports Big Jump in Hunting License Sales

3.6 Percent Increase Largest Since 1974

The National Shooting Sports Foundation, trade association for the firearms and ammunition industry, calls the 3.6 percent rise in paid hunting license holders for 2009 one of the most encouraging signs for hunting in recent years.

"This is great news for our industry and everyone associated with hunting," said Steve Sanetti, president and CEO of the National Shooting Sports Foundation. "Many efforts are at work to build hunting participation, and they are paying off. More people are enjoying the outdoors and sharing the tradition of hunting with family and friends. Also, more hunting license sales translate into more funds for wildlife conservation."

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last week reported a total of 14,974,534 paid license holders for 2009, the largest figure since 2002 and an increase of 526,494 over 2008. The 3.6 percent rise in paid license holders represents the largest year-over-year increase since 1974. (A "paid license holder" is one individual regardless of the number of licenses purchased.)

NSSF cites several reasons for the increase, ranging from programs launched by many state wildlife agencies over the last decade to increase hunting participation to a difficult economy that motivated hunters to fill their freezers with game rather than store-bought meat. Also, hunters who were among the unemployed or had their work hours reduced used some of their free time to go hunting.

Coordinated efforts of state wildlife agencies, conservation organizations and the firearms industry appear to have halted a decades-long decline in hunting license sales, which since 2005 have held at the 14.5-million level until the jump in 2009. NSSF has played a key role promoting hunting participation with its programs and websites. Through its Hunting Heritage Partnership program, NSSF has provided state agencies with $3.8 million to fund initiatives designed to encourage hunting among all age groups. Also, through Families Afield, a partnership effort of NSSF, the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and National Wild Turkey Federation started in 2004, thirty states have made it easier for youth to begin hunting at a younger age with licensed adults. NSSF websites such as make it easy for hunters to locate gamebird preserves, where youth can easily get started in hunting and where inactive adult hunters can revive their interest.

Another positive sign for hunting is that contrary to claims of a wholesale decline in hunting participation, paid license holders have increased in 24 states in the five-year period from 2005 to 2009.

"Due to continued urbanization and changes in our culture, hunting will face significant challenges for the foreseeable future, but at the same time hunting remains an extremely important activity in the lives of millions of Americans, as the latest hunting licenses sales figures confirm," said Sanetti.

NSSF points out that the actual number of hunters who go afield in any given year is greater than the total of paid hunting license holders in that year. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service figures do not account for certain state exemptions for purchasing a hunting license. Many states allow landowners and active military to hunt without purchasing a license; also, lifetime license holders and youth hunters who do not fall within the required license purchasing age are not included in the figures.

According to an NSSF-funded study carried out by Southwick Associates, the pool of hunters in America is much larger than previously thought. The study, released last fall, estimated that 21.8 million people purchased a hunting license at least once in the last five years.

Hunters are the backbone of conservation funding in America, contributing more than $1 billion each year through the purchase of licenses, tags, permits and stamps and through excise taxes paid on firearms and ammunition. For example, proceeds from the sale of Federal Duck Stamps, a required purchase for migratory waterfowl hunting, have purchased more than 5 million acres of habitat for the National Wildlife Refuge System.

NSSF, using its new 12-state hunting license sales index, anticipated the national increase in paid hunting license holders by reporting a 3.5 percent increase in license sales last spring. "It's gratifying to see how accurate our state index was, which gives us confidence in future index-based hunting license sales figures," said Jim Curcuruto, NSSF's director of industry research and analysis.

NSSF will announce its state index hunting license sales report for 2010 this spring.

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Moose population decline continues

Minnesota’s moose population in northeastern Minnesota continues to decline, according to results of an aerial survey released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Survey results revealed lower moose numbers and the proportion of cows accompanied by calves continued a 14-year decline, dropping to a record low of 24 calves per 100 cows. The proportion of cows accompanied by twin calves was at the lowest level since 1999, which contributed to the record-low calf-to-cow ratio.

“These indices along with results from research using radio-collared moose all indicate that the population has been declining in recent years,” said Dr. Mark Lenarz, DNR forest wildlife group leader.

Moose numbers are estimated using an aerial survey of the northeastern Minnesota moose range. Based on the survey, wildlife researchers estimate that there were 4,900 moose in northeastern Minnesota. Last year’s estimate was 5,500.

Since 2005, the downward trend in moose numbers has been statistically significant. In addition to the decline in the calf-to-cow ratio, the bull-to-cow ratio also continued to decline, with an estimated 64 bulls per 100 cows.

Aerial surveys, conducted each year since 1960 in the northeast, are based on flying transects in 40 randomly selected plots spread across the Arrowhead region of Minnesota. 

A study of radio-collared moose in northeastern Minnesota between 2002 and 2008 determined that nonhunting mortality was substantially higher than in moose populations outside of Minnesota. Combined with the reduced number of calves, the high mortality has resulted in a population with a downward trend.

The causes of moose mortality are not well understood. Of 150 adult moose radio-collared since 2002 in Minnesota, 114 have subsequently died, most from unknown causes thought to be diseases or parasites. Ten moose died as a result of highway vehicle accidents. Two were killed by trains. Nine deaths were clearly the result of wolf predation.

The Legislative-Citizen Commission on Natural Resources has recommended funding a study beginning in 2012 that would concentrate on identifying factors responsible for high mortality.

In August 2009, a Moose Advisory Committee convened by the DNR released its findings, which were used in the development of a legislatively mandated moose research and management plan. This plan is undergoing final internal review and should be available for public comment soon.

The Fond du Lac band of Lake Superior Chippewa and 1854 Treaty Authority contributed funding and provided personnel for the annual survey.

A copy of the aerial survey report is available online at

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Four west-central Minnesota residents face stiff fines, loss of hunting privileges

Three adults and a juvenile, all from Beardsley, Minn., face fines and restitution totaling nearly $13,000 for a variety of charges from a November deer poaching case reports the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Jason James Murphy, 22, is charged with gross misdemeanor shining, transporting a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, discharge of a firearm at a deer from the road right of way, and open bottle of alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle.

Tanner Aric Zych, 20, is charged with gross misdemeanor shining, transporting a loaded firearm in a motor vehicle, open bottle of an alcoholic beverage in a motor vehicle, and under age 21 possession and consumption of an alcoholic beverage.

Ryan Jay Murphy, 18, is charged with gross misdemeanor shining, shooting at deer from the road right of way, untagged big game, and failure to validate a site tag.

A 16-year-old juvenile is charged with gross misdemeanor shining, gross misdemeanor transport of an illegally taken deer, shooting a deer from the road right of way, and taking deer without a firearms deer license.

Baumbarger said if the four are convicted each faces a maximum penalty of $2,000 for gross misdemeanor shining, as well as a total of $2,700 in fines on a variety of other charges. Restitution is $500 for each deer. Their hunting privileges could also be revoked for three years.

Unknown to the accused the incident occurred literally at the front door of State Conservation Officer Daniel Baumbarger of Wheaton.

“I was off-duty, standing outside of my house when I noticed a vehicle moving on a nearby roadway at a speed that didn’t seem normal,” said CO Baumbarger. “The vehicle repeatedly moved to a field approach, paused and then backed out, using its headlights to spot deer.”

Baumbarger went back inside his house, put on his uniform, got in his patrol vehicle, and followed the suspect vehicle, observing it sweeping farm fields with its headlights, before meeting up with a second vehicle parked along a township road.

Assistance was requested from the Traverse County Sheriff’s Department, and while a deputy followed one of the vehicles to a residence, Baumbarger tailed the second vehicle, containing Jason Murphy and Tanner Zych, to an establishment in Beardsley.

“As they exited the vehicle I stopped them, identified myself, and took their cell phones to prevent them from contacting the driver of the other vehicle. I could smell the strong odor of alcohol and noticed several empty beer cans in the truck, as well as two uncased shotguns on the passenger side of the front seat. Both shotguns were loaded,” Baumbarger said. Several slugs and two spotlights were also found in the truck cab.

The two men later admitted to the CO that they had been out looking for deer, that the juvenile had shot a deer earlier, and that they were there to help harvest and load the animal.

A call from the deputy revealed two bucks were in the back of the other vehicle driven by the juvenile while Ryan Murphy was a passenger.

During the course of the investigation Ryan Murphy and the juvenile admitted to shooting the two bucks.

“They both said they knew what they were doing was illegal, but they were tired of everyone else doing it (shining deer), and they decided to do the same thing. Two wrongs don’t make it right,” Baumbarger said.

Investigators seized the two deer, as well as a 2009 and a 2004 pickup truck, four shot guns, and two spot lights, which are now property of the state of Minnesota.

A trial date in Traverse County District Court has not been set.

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DNR promotes three conservation officers

Three conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently were promoted to first lieutenant and district supervisor.

State conservation officer Lt. Jeff Koehn, a former police officer, will serve as DNR District 6 enforcement supervisor, which includes Cook, Lake, and St. Louis counties in northeast Minnesota. He replaces Lt. Elaine Loeffler, who retired in 2009.

A lifelong hunting, fishing, and camping enthusiast, Koehn has been with the DNR for nearly five years, most recently as the Northeast Regional ATV officer based in Grand Rapids. He is also the DNR Enforcement Division’s representative for the Forest Certification Audit process.

State conservation officer Lt. Chad Sherack, a former deputy sheriff, will serve as DNR District 10 enforcement supervisor, which includes Aitkin, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, and Pine counties in central Minnesota. Sherack’s most recent assignment was the Pequot Lakes Field Station. He replaces Lt. Rita Frenzel, who retired last year.

Sherack is an avid outdoorsman who joined the DNR in 1998. He has served in a variety of positions including firearms/use of force instructor, equipment committee member, waterfowl task force member, snowmobile task force member, field training officer, and conservation officer academy instructor/evaluator.

State conservation officer Lt. Todd Kanieski, a former police officer, will serve as the DNR District 13 enforcement supervisor, which includes Carver, Hennepin, and Scott counties in the metro area. Kanieski’s most recent assignment was the Osseo Field Station. He replaces Lt. Scott Carlson, who retired last year.

Kanieski, with a strong background in hunting, fishing, and camping, was instrumental in revitalizing the DNR K-9 Unit. Since joining DNR in 2001, Kanieski has also served as a field training officer, background investigator, and firearms/use of force instructor.

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Important “No-Net-Loss” Hunting Bill Needs Your Help in Minnesota

Please Contact the Members of the House Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Committee Immediately!

Tomorrow, February 17, at 8:15 a.m., the House Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Committee will hear House File 498, sponsored by state Representative Tony Cornish (R-24B). HF 498 would assure hunters in the state of Minnesota that their public hunting acreage will never decrease. 

HF 498, also known as “No-Net-Loss,” would require that the state maintain at least the level of available public hunting land that currently exists. It requires that additional lands be opened to hunting if land that is currently open to hunting is closed. The end result is to ensure public hunting opportunities now will not diminish.

This important pro-hunting legislation needs your support.  Please contact the members of the House Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Committee TODAY (Feb 16) and respectfully urge them to support this NRA-backed bill.

House Environment, Energy, and Natural Resources Committee

Representative Denny McNamara (R-57B), Chairman

Representative Paul Torkelson (R-21B)

Representative Jean Wagenius (D-62B)

Representative Bill Hilty (D-08A)

Representative Paul Anderson (R-13A)

Representative Michael Beard (R-35A)

Representative David Dill (D-06A)

Representative Steve Drazkowski (R-28B)

Representative Dan Fabian (R-01A)

Representative Andrew Falk (D-20A)

Representative Tom Hackbarth (R-48A)

Representative David Hancock (R-02B)

Representative Rick Hansen (D-39A)

Representative Kate Knuth (D-50B)

Representative John Persell (D-04A)

Representative Duane Quam (R-29A)

Representative Peggy Scott (R-49A)

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2011 spring light goose hunting begins March 1

Interested participants are reminded that harvest of snow geese, including blue-phased snow geese and the smaller Ross’ geese, will be allowed from Tuesday, March 1, to Sunday, April 30.

The harvest will occur under a federal conservation order that permits 24 states, including Minnesota, to allow harvest of light geese after the close of hunting seasons.

A spring light goose permit is required and may be obtained through any DNR license agent, online at and by telephone at 888-665-4236. Customers using the telephone will receive a temporary authorization number in lieu of the permit until it can be mailed to the applicant. Customers using the Internet will be able to print their own permit when completing the transaction, and will not receive a permit by mail.

Although the permits are free, there is a $3.50 application fee to cover the cost of issuing the permit. No other license, stamp or permit is required to participate. Permits will be available after Friday, Feb. 18.

Most regulations that apply to fall goose hunting seasons also will apply during the spring light goose season, including nontoxic shot requirements and federal baiting regulations. In addition, all refuges closed to either duck or goose hunting during fall seasons are also closed during the spring conservation action. Shooting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise to one-half hour after sunset each day. No daily or possession limits apply. Use of electronic calls and unplugged shotguns is allowed.

The conservation order is part of an international effort to reduce by 50 percent the populations of lesser snow geese and Ross’ geese that breed in Arctic coastal areas and the Hudson Bay area. The goal is to reduce habitat damage on the breeding grounds caused by high populations of the birds. Minnesota has participated in the conservation order since 2000. Minnesota’s harvest of light geese during this effort has varied dramatically from a few hundred to 6,000, depending on weather conditions.

“Minnesota is at the extreme eastern edge of the spring migration through the Midwest,” said Ray Norrgard, DNR wetland wildlife program leader. “March weather, particularly snow and ice conditions, can have a tremendous effect on the migration routes of light geese.”

A summary of regulations will be available from license vendors, online at, at DNR wildlife offices, or by calling the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

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DNR commissioner outlines 25-year legacy plan for parks and trails in Minnesota

With the goal of providing the next generation of Minnesotans with world-class parks and trails that connect everyone to the outdoors, a mandated 25-year strategic legacy plan was presented to the State Legislature today (Feb 14) by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

The long-range plan outlines how funds generated from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Act (the “Legacy Amendment”) as well as other traditional funding sources should be spent for parks and trails of state and regional significance.

The vision for the plan states that in 2035, Minnesota parks and trails will create experiences that inspire a legacy of stewardship for the natural world and provide fun outdoor recreational opportunities that strengthen friendships, families, health and spirit, now and into the future. Minnesotans will also experience the full range of benefits that outdoor recreation provides, reinforcing our state’s identity as an outdoor culture.

The DNR, working with the Citizens League, used extensive public outreach efforts over an 18-month period to develop the plan. The efforts included a kick-off summit with recreation and conservation leaders, 17 listening workshops throughout Minnesota, outreach to more than 1,000 youth and young adults, extensive web-based input, targeted meetings with diverse racial and ethnic groups, and four final public review workshops, along with additional web-based review of the draft plan.

Seven DNR-led teams of recreation and conservation professionals used this public input and developed 10-year strategies.

Four areas, which are grounded in what DNR officials heard from the public, serve as the heart of the plan. They are:

The plan also establishes guidelines for making future parks and trails legacy plan funding decisions, which include:

The DNR worked with the University of Minnesota’s Center for Changing Landscapes, which developed a parks and trails inventory and framework to support and inform this plan. The inventory and framework are posted at

The 25-year Parks and Trails Legacy Plan is available at

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Deer feeding ban effective in four southeastern Minnesota counties

A ban that prohibits the feeding of wild deer in Dodge, Goodhue, Olmsted and Wabasha counties will go into effect on Monday, Feb. 14. This is part of a comprehensive, long-term strategy to contain or eliminate Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in southeastern Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The purpose of the ban is to reduce the potential for the disease to spread from deer-to-deer by reducing the number of deer concentration sites,” said Dr. Lou Cornicelli, DNR big game coordinator and CWD incident commander. “The disease can spread from one deer to another following nose-to-nose contact, contact with saliva, or other body fluids. By eliminating deer feeding sites we are reducing the potential for the disease to spread.” 

The emergency rule makes it illegal to place or have out food capable of attracting wild deer. Those who feed birds or small mammals must do so in a manner that precludes deer access or place the food at least six feet above ground level.

Food placed as a result of normal agricultural practices is generally exempted from this rule; however, cattle operators are advised to take steps that minimize contact between deer and cattle.

The rule can be viewed online at

CWD is a fatal brain disease that affects deer, elk and moose, but not cattle or humans. The disease was confirmed in Minnesota’s first wild deer Jan. 25.

That discovery has led to implementation of the DNR’s disease response plan, which includes cooperative efforts with landowners to sample 900 deer within a roughly 10-mile radius of Pine Island. This is where the infected deer was harvested by an archer last hunting season.

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DNR closes part of Willard Munger State Trail for construction

A 1.5-mile segment of the Willard Munger State Trail will be closed until approximately April 1 while culvert replacement is underway, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The closure, which is scheduled to start Monday, Feb. 14, affects the trail between the Buffalo House restaurant west of Duluth and Mission Creek Trail. 

There are no alternate routes around the construction areas, so the DNR is unable to designate a detour route.

“The DNR apologizes for the disruption to this popular snowmobile route,” said Joe Alberio, area supervisor for the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails, “but we encourage snowmobilers to check out the many other trails statewide. Fortunately, we have great snow conditions all across Minnesota this year.”

For construction updates and other information about the Willard Munger State Trail, visit ( or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Duncan named 2010 TIP Officer of the Year

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Kipp Duncan of Duluth was named the 2010 Turn in Poachers (TIP) “Joe Alexander” Conservation Officer of the Year during the annual TIP banquet held Feb. 7 in Grand Rapids.

TIP is a private nonprofit organization operating on private donations. TIP accomplishes its mission of protecting and preserving Minnesota’s natural resources by providing educational materials and by funding rewards paid directly to citizens who call in tips that lead to arrests of game law violators.

The award is presented to one conservation officer annually who best represents the mission of TIP during the course of their duties. The award is named in honor of past conservation officer and DNR Commissioner Joe Alexander, who was admired by his peers for his dedication and focused concern for natural resources.

A state conservation officer since 2001, Duncan is known as the face of TIP in the North Shore area as a result of the number of high-profile cases he has made through TIP calls and the six-figure amount he has helped raise in donations through TIP banquets. TIP calls referred to the officer are known as “A TIP for Kipp” by North Shore residents.

“Each candidate is nominated and brought before the TIP board for a vote,” said Doug Bermel, Minnesota TIP president. “Officer Duncan, a part of TIP for many years and a big part of the annual Lake Shore TIP Banquet, well earned the honor of being named the 2010 TIP Conservation Officer of the Year.”

Duncan’s selection was also praised by Col. Jim Konrad, DNR Enforcement Division director.

“Officer Duncan is a prime example of excellence within the ranks of Minnesota conservation officers,” Konrad said. “He is highly regarded by citizens and officers alike for his dedication and for his concern in protecting our natural resources.”

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Itasca State Park adds skijoring to its menu of winter activities

To its already wide variety of winter recreation opportunities, Itasca State Park in Park Rapids recently added 11.2 kilometers (seven miles) of packed skijoring trails for cross-country skiers who enjoy being pulled across the snow by their dogs.

The following trails are designated for skijoring:

A vehicle permit is required for each vehicle entering the park. Vehicle permits can be purchased at the park at a cost of $5 for the day or $25 for a permit that provides unlimited access to all 74 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas for 12 months.    

For more information, including a map of the skijoring trails and parking areas, visit ( or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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Strategic efforts to connect people to the outdoors yield big gains at Minnesota state parks in 2010

Total visits have increased significantly due to initiatives funded by the Legacy Amendment

Efforts to increase participation in outdoor recreation by responding to issues identified by research in 2007 appear to be paying off, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Overnight stays and permit sales, the most reliable measures the DNR has for tracking visits to state parks, have increased significantly for two consecutive years.

“The year-end data is very encouraging,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails. “It shows that our efforts to connect more people to the outdoors are succeeding.”

The data confirms several positive trends, according to Nelson. For example:

The estimated number of overall visits to Minnesota state parks, based on car counts, was 9.5 million in 2010, up from 9.1 million in 2009, and 8.3 million in 2008.

“There’s concern across the country about the decline in outdoor recreation participation among the next generation,” said Nelson. “Here in Minnesota, we were seeing fewer young families at state parks and trails than in the past, so we did some research several years ago to find out why.”

In a 2007 survey and a series of focus groups, people cited the lack of time, equipment, basic outdoor skills, and information about outdoor recreation opportunities among the barriers keeping them from visiting Minnesota state parks. In response to this research, the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division put an unprecedented priority on strategic marketing, product innovation and outreach.

Recent efforts to connect new people to the outdoors, many of which were funded by the Legacy Amendment, have included:

“Not only is getting outdoors good for Minnesotans’ physical, emotional and spiritual health, but it’s good for the economy,” Nelson said. “The return to the economy is $26.23 per person per day for every day-visitor to a Minnesota state park, and overnight stays alone contributed $24 million in visitor spending in 2010.”

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DNR Commissioner Landwehr announces leadership team

Three new assistant commissioners, a legendary conservationist and a veteran journalist feature in Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Commissioner Tom Landwehr’s leadership team. The team will usher in a new era of openness and customer responsiveness at the DNR.

“We went out and found the very best people we could to lead us into the future,” said Landwehr. “I’m very excited about leveraging their skill and experience to better reach out to the people of Minnesota and represent their needs and concerns.”

DNR assistant commissioners include: Assistant Commissioner for Legal and Government Affairs Mary McConnell. She formerly served as vice president and general counsel of Polaris Industries Inc. and previously held a similar role at Genmar; Assistant Commissioner for Customer Relations and Outreach Erika Rivers, a seven-year DNR employee who was most recently project manager for the Lake Vermilion State Park development; and Assistant Commissioner for Field Operations and Community Outreach Mike Carroll, previously director of the Northwest Region and former director of the Division of Forestry.

Regional directors include: Southern Region Director Dennis Fredrickson, a 30-year state senator with extensive experience in natural resource legislation; Central Region Director Keith Parker, a media and community relations professional formerly with Twin Cities Public Television as director of Minnesota Partnerships; and Northeast Region Director Craig Engwall, who has held that position since 2006. The Northwest Region directorship is currently vacant.

DNR’s new communications director is Chris Niskanen, who served as outdoors editor for the St. Paul Pioneer Press for the past 17 years. Niskanen is an award-winning journalist, the author of a new book on state parks, and an advocate of social media who previously wrote a popular blog on the Pioneer Press website.

In Commissioner’s Office appointments, Bob Meier is named special assistant to the commissioner for legislative affairs. Bob Lessard, a 26-year veteran of the Capitol and a long-time champion of the outdoors, also will become a special assistant to the commissioner for community outreach. The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council takes part of its name from Lessard, who was among the first legislators to suggest using the state’s sales tax to fund to fish and wildlife conservation. He will work with conservation organizations and other groups around the state to ensure that the agency is listening and responding to their ideas and concerns.

Divisional leadership includes: Laurie Martinson, director of the new Division of Operations Services; Larry Kramka, director of the Division of Lands and Minerals; Ed Boggess, formerly acting director and now director of the Division of Fish and Wildlife. Courtland Nelson remains director of the Parks and Trails Division; Jim Konrad remains director of the Enforcement Division; Steve Hirsch remains director of the division of Ecological and Water Resources; and Dave Epperly continues as director of the Division of Forestry.

“We’ll see a few new faces and a few new positions, but ultimately these changes will enable us to become a leaner, more efficient, more responsive agency,” said Landwehr

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DNR reports very good or excellent conditions at more than 100 ski and snowmobile trails statewide

The latest Minnesota snow condition reports should please winter sports enthusiasts, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), which compiles the information.

Very good to excellent conditions were reported at 104 cross-country ski and snowmobile trails in state parks and recreation areas, state trails, and state forests across Minnesota. Of those trails, six are in the metro area, 44 are in northeastern Minnesota, 29 are in the northwest, 15 are in southeast, and 10 are in the southwest.

Of the 59 trails reporting excellent trail conditions, here are some excerpts from the latest reports posted at (

With about three feet of snow on the ground in many parts of the state, excellent snowshoeing opportunities are available as well. Snowshoeing is allowed anywhere except on groomed trails. Many state parks and recreation areas rent snowshoes for $6/day. For those locations and more information, check the winter activities guide at (

Statewide trail condition reports are updated by noon every Thursday at ( Also online to help with trip-planning, the DNR has new interactive maps and downloadable GPS files for snowmobiles.

For more information, call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 (Twin Cities) or toll-free at 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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