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Last Updated: July 31, 2011

DNR to campers: All but four Minnesota state parks are open, campsites and cabin reservations resume

Minnesota state parks now open; other DNR facilities and functions also open

Operation Waypoint Goes National

Kids’ Fishing Event Another Success

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Expanding Hunting on 10 National Wildlife Refuges, 4 in Minnesota

Shutdown alternatives for Camping and Recreation

Frequently Asked Questions about the State Government Shutdown for DNR Customers

Apply now for prairie chicken, fall turkey hunts

Top Pheasant States May Lose Conservation Reserve Acres

Ruffed grouse counts still high; sharp-tail count decreases slightly

Vermillion River project enhances trout habitat, water quality

Bear lottery results now available

New law aimed at slowing the spread of aquatic invasive species



DNR to campers: All but four Minnesota state parks are open, campsites and cabin reservations resume

Outdoors enthusiasts who want to camp this week or a year from now – including the 2012 Fourth of July weekend, can once again make reservations at Minnesota state parks, starting at 8 a.m. Tuesday, July 26, according to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Due to the high call volume the reservation system has been experiencing since the shutdown, the DNR recommends making reservations online at, if possible. For those who prefer to speak with an operator, reservations can be made at 866-857-2757.

All but four Minnesota state parks have reopened following the shutdown. Camden, Old Mill, St. Croix and Upper Sioux Agency state parks remain closed due to extensive storm damage.

Reservations can be made up to a year ahead, but because the reservation system was closed during the shutdown, Minnesota state parks have not yet taken any reservations for July 4, 2012, so all 3,323 reservable campsites and lodging at all parks will be up for grabs.

“This is an unprecedented situation, and it provides an opportunity for whoever calls or goes online first to get their pick of the most popular locations in Minnesota for their holiday getaway,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Division of Parks and Trails. “Tomorrow at 8 a.m., every room in Douglas Lodge at Itasca State Park, every reservable campsite on the North Shore, and every camper cabin throughout the state will be available. We expect our reservation system will be very busy.”

Parks within approximately an hour’s drive of the Twin Cities that have reservable campsites available for the upcoming weekend, July 29-31, include:

There are even a few reservable sites left this weekend on the North Shore at Cascade River, Gooseberry Falls, Temperance River and Tettegouche state parks.

During the last week in July in 2010, Minnesota state parks had 348,000 day visitors and 59,000 overnight visitors.

Standard campsites can be reserved for $12 to $20 a night (plus $5 for electric hook-ups), not including vehicle permits, which are required to enter Minnesota state parks. Vehicle permits are $5 for one night or $25 for a 12-month permit providing unlimited access to all 74 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas.

For those who would rather wait and see what the weather is like, up to thirty percent of campsites at Minnesota state parks are non-reservable and available to campers on a first-come, first-served basis.

For more information, including descriptions of each park’s scenery, wildlife and recreational opportunities, call 651-296-6157 (888-646-6367) or visit Some parks have online virtual tours, which provide park previews.

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Minnesota state parks now open; other DNR facilities and functions also open

Some Minnesota state parks will open for day and overnight use as soon as Friday, July 22, but other facilities will not be open until the weekend, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officials said July 20.

DNR employees returned to work Thursday, July 21, after the agency and state government was shut down July 1 due to a state budget impasse. For state parks and trails employees, the first day of work will be focused on making sure parks and trails are safe for public use.

For some parks, a best-case scenario means they will reopen for day and some overnight use within 24 hours of staff returning to work. For overnight use, it may take two days or longer for staff to make campgrounds and facilities suitable for customers, which includes clearing away storm debris, turning on utility systems and cleaning restrooms.

Up-to-date information on park operations and other DNR functions can be found on the agency’s website at A red, yellow or green symbol will indicate the closed, partially open or open status of individual parks, trails and forest recreation areas on the website. The availability of specific facilities within parks will be noted as well.

Customers will not be able to get reservation information by telephone from the ReserveMN system until July 26, but they can call individual parks starting Friday to check their specific reservations.

The biggest challenge for state parks and trails is making sure downed trees are cleared, trails and campsites are safe and water, electricity and restrooms are available. Numerous storms across Minnesota in July left debris and otherwise damaged parks, said Courtland Nelson, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division.

“We ask for the public’s patience as we reopen state parks after being closed for nearly three weeks,” Nelson said. “We want to make sure parks are not only safe for the public, but that they can provide the high-quality experience our customers have come to expect.”

Anglers and hunters are now able to purchase their licenses as well. The DNR’s Electronic Licensing System (ELS) is operational, which means boat and other licenses can also be renewed. Licenses can be purchased through one of the DNR’s ELS vendors, which include sporting goods stores and bait shops. Licenses can also be purchased by telephone and online at

“We wanted to make sure that was one of our first operations to start up,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

Information on the status of other DNR functions, such as managing hunting seasons; water, mining and other permits; state timber sales; state forest campgrounds; and environmental review projects will be available on the DNR website on Thursday.

State parks that may require more time to reopen are Afton, Lake Bronson, Camden, Upper Sioux Agency, Flandreau, Blue Mounds, Wild River and St. Croix. Those parks sustained facility and tree damage that will take longer to clean up.

St. Croix State Park will be closed indefinitely while staff assess building and other damage from a July 1 windstorm.

Current overnight reservations will be honored at individual parks as they reopen. New reservations will not be accepted until July 26 at 8 a.m. The DNR’s reservation system has a backlog of shutdown refunds that must be made to customers before new reservations can be accepted.

Landwehr said DNR employees are eager to return Thursday and restart the agency’s business. “We’ll be happy to be back in business and ready to serve the public,” he said.

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Operation Waypoint Goes National

Exclusive photos in the July issue - order back issues

St. Augusta, Minn. – Operation Waypoint, a Minnesota-based not for profit program administered by the St. Augusta American Legion Women’s Auxiliary, recently announced the broadening of its Operation Waypoint program from a state and regional focus to national in scope with its new website, Fully run by dedicated volunteers, the program is committed to increasing the safety of military men and women deploying to the Middle East with the guidance of highly-accurate, handheld GPS units and mapping cards for Iraq and Afghanistan. Since its inception, Operation Waypoint has relied heavily on its partnership with Lowrance, a leading GPS navigation systems brand, to provide GPS products and charts to soldiers preparing to serve, as well as the lifeblood of the program – generous donations from service and social organizations, and numerous individuals that fund the effort. The redesigned Operation Waypoint website will build awareness for the organization’s work, make it easy for visitors to donate and encourage other organizations to become partners in the project to provide GPS devices to soldiers in their own communities.

Operation Waypoint began in 2005 with retired educator Ed Meyer after a former student, preparing for deployment to Iraq, contacted him to ask what type of GPS unit would be best for his mission. As the military only provides one GPS device per unit, which is usually mounted in a vehicle, Meyer contacted a friend at Lowrance, requested three GPS handheld devices, and trained the company commander and two former students how to use them. Shortly after the soldiers arrived in Iraq, while traveling at night, their 24-vehicle convoy took a wrong turn into a very dangerous Baghdad neighborhood following the lead truck’s Army-issued GPS unit. Realizing the mistake, the convoy commander called for Sgt. Galen Heacock, one of the soldiers equipped with a Lowrance GPS supplied by Meyer. Heacock’s unit determined the correct route and was able to guide the convoy to safety. Upon hearing of how the Lowrance units aided in safety, Meyer worked through the American Legion Auxiliary and Post 621 to broaden this into a full not-for-profit program.

“Our goal is to spearhead an even larger movement where the communities nationwide can directly support our troops in a very meaningful way,” said Meyer. “I believe that every soldier that feels a GPS would aid them in their mission in the Middle East should have one with them.”

With the enhancement of GPS accuracy and advanced features, today’s GPS units are even better suited to the challenges often seen by the military than when the program began. Operation Waypoint provides soldiers with Lowrance Endura Safari handheld GPS units that contains a precision GPS+WAAS antenna with 42-channel receiver and 3-axis magnetic compass to ensure troops have pinpoint accuracy for proper guidance or calling in air support when needed. The combination of the touchscreen, simple menus, and the ability to control one-handed or with gloves, keep usability fast and seamless. However, the most important benefit is the ability to store up to 2000 waypoints for areas of safe passage, suspected insurgent buildings, and other items that are marked and identified with any of 193 different icons and then shared between GPS units over time or added to satellite maps.

“The [GPS] unit helped insure the safety of crews while running conveys through the worst part of Iraq,” said Sgt. Heacock. “It’s helpful in pinpointing causality evacuation points and points of hostile action.”

To date, Operation Waypoint is responsible for delivering over 200 handheld devices into the hands of deploying soldiers. The St. Augusta American Legion accepts donations for Operation Waypoint and purchases its Endura Safari handheld GPS units directly from Lowrance. Lowrance also provides permission for the organization to copy and encrypt its Middle East mapping onto locally sourced microSD cards. While more work, this avoids packaging and operational overhead costs that would normally be seen by a manufacturer. Once the GPS and mapping cards are prepared, each participating soldier is personally trained on the GPS and mapping prior to his or her taking it overseas.

“Each Lowrance GPS and chart card costs $115 after corporate discounts are factored in,” continued Meyer. “Unfortunately, there are still times when we can’t purchase enough units. I have even given my personal GPS away, because I can’t imagine turning down a brave solider. The challenge, as with most non-profits, is maintaining enough donations to support the program effectively.”

As the Operation Waypoint seeks to grow nationally by working with other American Legion posts and organizations with the goal to provide a GPS unit to every squad or deployed units.

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Kids’ Fishing Event Another Success

Exclusive photos in the July issue - order back issues

By Jerry Carlson
St. Joseph, Minn. - Fishing is one of those pastimes that can be appreciated and enjoyed at a variety of ages. Sometimes, the problem in getting people hooked on fishing isn’t that they aren’t interested in the sport; they just don’t have an opportunity to learn how to do it.

It would be great if every child that wanted to fish had a parent or neighbor that was willing to teach them, but we all know it isn’t that easy. Sometimes the best way to get kids into the sport is through group efforts such as the recent fishing event on Kraemer Lake near St. Cloud.

For the 13th year in a row, the Boys and Girls Club was able to take a large group of enthusiastic young anglers on a fishing adventure. For most of the 30 kids that participated, this was not only their first experience in a boat but also their first time fishing.

Organization is key to the success of an event of this nature. Coordination and cooperation between the St. Joe Rod and Gun Club and the St. Cloud Boys and Girls Club was essential.

Volunteers are also essential. In order to get 30 kids on the water, boats and adult helpers are critical. While the guides were busy on the water teaching the art of pan fishing, others were on shore cleaning fish and preparing the noon meal.

Most of the participants had never eaten fresh fish and were more than a little skeptical. However, when the last piece of fish had been consumed, they were still searching for more.

A big thank you goes to all of the volunteers that helped make this 13th annual fish fest a success.

The St. Cloud Scheels store also came through with a donation of hats to all of the guides and shirts to all of the young anglers.

And speaking of young anglers, they all went home with great stories to tell about the fish they caught as well as a tale about the ones that got away.

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U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Expanding Hunting on 10 National Wildlife Refuges, 4 in Minnesota

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has announced a proposal to provide additional hunting opportunities on 10 National Wildlife Refuges.  Included in the proposal are expanded hunting opportunities at the following Refuges:

Arapaho National Wildlife Refuge (CO) – would allow elk hunting

Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge (LA) – would allow migratory bird hunting of waterfowl and coot

Coldwater River National Wildlife Refuge (MS) – would allow migratory bird hunting of ducks and geese; upland game hunting of squirrel, rabbit, and raccoon; and big game hunting of deer and hogs

Crane Meadows National Wildlife Refuge (MN) – would allow deer and turkey hunting

Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge (MN) – would open new areas to migratory bird, upland game, and big game hunting

Northern Tallgrass Prairie National Wildlife Refuge (MN/IA) – would open new areas to migratory bird, upland game, and big game hunting and allow additional species of migratory birds and upland game to be hunted

Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge (MN) – would allow turkey and deer hunting and would open new areas to migratory bird hunting

Currituck National Wildlife Refuge (NC) – would allow deer and hog hunting

Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge (TX) – would open new areas to deer, feral hogs, rabbit, and squirrel hunting

Ouray National Wildlife Refuge (UT) – would allow turkey and elk hunting

In 1997, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance pushed for changes in law ensuring that hunting and fishing were priority public uses on compatible Refuge lands.  Through USSA’s leadership, the National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act was signed into law.  The language of the Refuge Improvement Act has been essential in opening new Refuge lands to sportsmen.

More than 300 National Wildlife Refuges allow hunting.

Recently, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, along with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and other defendants, won an important court victory protecting hunting on Refuge lands.  The case, filed by anti-hunting groups, sought to stop hunting on a number of Refuges.  Click here to read more about the recent Refuge lawsuit victory.

“The proposed expanded hunting opportunities on these Refuges are a testament to the long term work of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance and the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and shows how both organizations fill a vital need for sportsmen,” said Bud Pidgeon, USSA and USSAF’s President and CEO.  “USSA’s work before Congress on the Refuge Improvement Act in 1997 and USSAF’s hard fought win in the courts in the Refuge lawsuit have helped clear the way for allowing these new hunting opportunities on our public lands. “

Take Action!  Sportsmen can submit comments supporting these expanded hunting opportunities electronically by clicking here and then clicking on the “Submit a Comment” tab.  Comments must be submitted by August 4, 2011.

Comments can also be mailed to:

Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-NSR-2011-0038
Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM
Arlington, VA 22203

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Shutdown alternatives for Camping and Recreation

        Three Rivers Park District park and facility operations are not affected by the state government shutdown.  All Three Rivers parks and facilities are open.  All public programs will continue as planned.

Has the state government shut down your summer camping plans?  No problem, our campgrounds are open.  Baker Campground in Maple Plain features more than 200 campsites on the shores of Lake Independence.  Enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, hiking, and even golf nearby.  The campground has electric and non-electric sites and restrooms with sinks, flush toilets and showers.  Weekends are booked but there are plenty of openings during the week, so join us for a “Mid-Weekend.”

If rustic camping is more your style, you’ll love Lake Auburn Campground in Caver Park Reserve, Victoria.  Lake Auburn Campground features 57 tent-camping sites.  Nestled within Carver Park Reserve’s 3,700 acres, this campground gives you that “up north” feel close to open.  Enjoy swimming, fishing, boating, and hiking; watch osprey circle overhead and encounter other wildlife.

Need to scramble to find a place for your Scouts, church youth group, or other large group to go camping?  Again, there’s no problem.  Three Rivers has group camp hike-in, bike-in and horseback ride-in sites available at Crow-Hassan Park Reserve, Elm Creek Park Reserve, and Cleary Lake Regional Park. Sites are rented on a first come-first served basis.

Beyond camping, many of our parks offer reservation picnic sites, fishing piers, paved and unpaved trails, play areas and many more recreational activities.

For more information on prices and amenities, visit and call 763-559-6700 to make a reservation.

About Three Rivers Park District
Three Rivers Park District is a natural resources-based park system that manages park reserves, regional parks, regional trails and special-use facilities in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. The Park District offers facilities for every season, including picnicking, swimming, creative play, boating, fishing, downhill skiing,

Three Rivers Park District’s mission is to promote environmental stewardship through recreation and education in a natural resources-based park system. The Park District owns and operates 27,000 acres and serves 8 million visitors a year.

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Frequently Asked Questions about the State Government Shutdown for DNR Customers

As of midnight, June 30, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be shutdown due to a state budget impasse

The 2011 legislative session ended without a budget agreement and unless an agreement is reached on June 30, large portions of state government will shutdown.

This shutdown will include the majority of the Department of Natural Resources, including the DNR's primary website resources. Please read the FAQ below and visit for more shutdown-related information.

These questions and answers are intended to provide information for DNR employees and customers — citizens, regulated parties, grantees, local governments, and others — on DNR services affected by a state government shutdown.

1. What critical services will DNR continue during the shutdown?

We will continue to provide those services mandated by the Ramsey County court. The court has agreed with the Governor's recommendation to deem the following DNR Priority 1 and 2 services as critical to continue 'at a minimal level of staffing and operating expense' during shutdown:

The DNR estimates that these functions will require 220-230 staff. Of those, 186 are conservation officers. These officers will be ensuring the safety and welfare of Minnesota citizens and DNR staff and the security of DNR property and facilities, in addition to serving in their natural-resource protection role.

No other DNR services are operating, including our state parks system and licensing and registration activities. The balance of our approximately 2,500 staff is laid off.

2. Am I still able to purchase a fishing license?

No. The sale of all fishing, hunting and trapping licenses, including online and telephone sales, will be suspended as of midnight, June 30. Likewise, no boat, ATV or other licenses will be sold.

All natural resource and license laws will remain in effect during a shutdown and will be enforced.

3. What are the implications for a shutdown to anglers?

Licensed anglers can continue to fish. All existing rules and regulations will be in force. A mid-season walleye fishing regulation adjustment on Lake Mille Lacs will be delayed or cancelled depending upon the length of the shutdown.

4. What about State Parks reservations and access to park facilities and camping?

During shutdown, the State Parks reservation system is suspended and all state parks and camping facilities are closed. The grounds are posted closed and buildings, restrooms and other facilities are locked.

5. Will day-use be permitted at state parks during a shutdown?

During shutdown, all facilities are locked, roads and campgrounds are closed and gated where possible. Water is shut off, and no services are available. We strongly advise the public not to enter the grounds of any state park during the shutdown. We are concerned about serious health, safety and security issues if visitors enter parks when there are no restroom facilities, water, and staff available. For example, 911 calls might not be possible due to lack of cell phone coverage.

6. What about state trails and public water accesses?

These areas will be maintained and do not have restroom facilities or water service, but are available for day use. Please be especially mindful of all safety guidelines.

7. Can I camp in forest campgrounds?

If there is a shutdown, facilities would be locked, roads and campgrounds would be closed and gated where possible, water would be shut off, and no services would be available. It would be possible, but not recommended, for day-use to continue at state parks during regular day-use hours.

8. Can I have a campfire?

Campfires are permitted, but please check with your county for more information.

9. What are the implications of a shutdown to hunters?

Licensed hunters can continue to hunt. All existing rules and regulations are in force. Wildlife Management Areas are open for use, but will not be maintained. Special hunts (such as the Camp Ripley archery hunt, state park hunts and mentored youth hunts) may not occur, depending upon the length of the shutdown. Applications for those special hunts may not be accepted, depending upon the length of the shutdown. Similarly, the availability of hunting information (2011 hunting regulations booklets and special hunt application information) will be delayed. Information on hunt application deadlines, hunt dates, and cancelled hunts (if necessary) will be available shortly after DNR staff return to work.

10. Who should be contacted to report a wildfire?

Citizens should report wildfires via the 911 emergency notification system.

11. Is open burning allowed?

Open burning and the open burning permit systems are suspended during the shutdown. The exceptions are the following counties that have the authority to issue county open burning permits: Anoka, Brown, Blue Earth, Carver, Chippewa, Clay, Cottonwood, Dakota, Faribault, Freeborn, Grant, Hennepin, Jackson, Lac qui Parle, Lincoln, Lyon, Martin, McLeod, Mower, Murray, Nicollet, Nobles, Norman, Pipestone, Ramsey, Redwood, Renville, Rice, Rock, Scott, Sibley, Steele, Stevens, Swift, Traverse, Waseca, Watonwan, Washington, Wilkin, and Yellow Medicine.

12. Will state contractors be permitted to continue work?

No. Unless the goods or services are necessary for critical activities or have been themselves deemed critical by the court, those under contract with the state for provision of goods or services are suspended from work.

13. Will the website be up?

No. Online applications and submittal systems will not be operating. Our social media sites will not be updated.

14. Will I be able to communicate with the DNR or its staff?

No. By the end of the working day June 30, Information Center services will be suspended. Voicemail will have out-of-office automatic replies and email service will be unavailable. Mail will not be sorted or delivered. Only those employees deemed critical will have full access to communications.

15. If I am a member of the media, who can I call at the DNR?

All DNR communications staff members are laid off and unavailable to take your calls. The best source of state government information during the shutdown is

16. What happens with public notice periods that extend into the shutdown?

Public notice periods that extend into the shutdown will not prematurely expire, nor will they automatically be extended. Citizens may still submit comments on permits or other issues on public notice via regular mail, and those comments will be received and reviewed by staff upon their return.
Anyone wishing to submit comments should still observe the published deadline. We may, after the shutdown ends, decide to extend a public comment period. In those cases, we will provide a notice of extension.

17. Can DNR volunteers continue to work?

No. Volunteer activities are suspended during the shutdown. The only exception is for citizen science monitors, who do independent data collection such as loon counting and precipitation recording.

Because no volunteers will be working, classes taught by volunteers, such as firearms safety classes, will not take place.

18. Will permits be processed?

No, work currently underway on processing permit applications has stopped. This applies to all mining and environmental permits issued by DNR..

19. What will happen to existing mining and environmental permits?

Existing permits to mine will continue. All groundwater use permits will continue. Surface water use permits for domestic water supply and power production will continue, but other surface water use permits are suspended. All public water and aquatic plant management permits are suspended. See the additional Frequently Asked Questions for the Division of Ecological and Water Resources, below, for more information about environmental permits

20. What critical services continue within the Division of Ecological and Water Resources?

Very few of these services have been deemed critical. Per the court order, the exceptions are water quality services; pathology lab services; response to a hazardous substance spill or a fish and wildlife kill; and response to a dam safety issue.

21. What will happen to permits that have been issued for work in public waters and aquatic plant management?

All public water and aquatic plant management permits are suspended, including permits for commercial mechanical plant control. If work has started under one of these permits, it is suspended for the duration of the shutdown. If a permit has been issued but work has not started, work may not begin until after the shutdown.

22. What will happen to water use permits?

All groundwater use permits will continue (this includes mine dewatering permits). All surface water use permits for first priority water use will continue. (First priority water use is described in Minnesota Statutes, section 103G.26, and includes domestic water supply and power production that meets contingency planning requirements in Minnesota Statutes, section 103G.285, subd. 6.) All surface water use permits that are not for first priority water use are suspended.

23. What about general permits?

General permits allow the public and local units of government to quickly get DNR authorization for certain types of projects that would otherwise require an individual public water or water use permit. Some general permits require DNR notification before work can begin, while others do not. During the shutdown, work may be done under general permits that do not require DNR notification. Work may not be done under a general permit if DNR notification is required and has not been obtained prior to the shutdown. Common general permits that require DNR notification include temporary water appropriations (general permit number 1997-0005) and flood damage repair projects (general permit number 2001-1172).

24. What will happen with projects undergoing environmental review?

Environmental review, including development of Environmental Impact Statements (EISs) and Environmental Assessment Worksheets, is discontinued during shutdown. Projects may be delayed as a result. DNR contractors who are working on EISs may be able to continue some work during the shutdown, but it would be limited.

25. Can timber still be harvested?

Timber harvesting cutting, skidding, and hauling is curtailed on state permits. The only exception is if wood has previously been cut and piled at a DNR-approved landing immediately adjacent to a state, county, or township road or state or national forest system road.

26. Can firewood be cut from state lands?


27. Will state forests, roads, and trails remain open?

Generally yes. Forest roads and trails are open unless gated or posted closed. However, roads and trails are not being maintained during the shutdown. State forest lands are open for dispersed activities (e.g., bird watching, hiking). Please be especially mindful of all safety guidelines.

28. Who should be contacted to get professional forest management assistance?

DNR offices are closed and DNR foresters are not available to provide assistance to private landowners. Alternative contacts for professional forestry assistance are local Soil and Water Conservation districts, consulting foresters, and forest industry foresters.

29. Who do I call with questions about trees or forests?

Calls can be directed to Minnesota Extension offices, Soil and Water Conservation districts, and county forestry offices.

30. How long will it take to restart DNR services at the end of the shutdown?

That will vary according to the steps necessary to restart specific services. Some services will resume when employees are back on the job. Others could take several days after restart. It is also possible that some DNR services and facilities will be restored in phases.

Other questions?

If you have additional questions, please visit the state government website:

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Apply now for prairie chicken, fall turkey hunts

Hunters who wish to apply for one of 186 permits for the 2011 Minnesota prairie chicken season or for a fall turkey hunting permit must do so by Friday, July 30, wherever hunting and fishing licenses are sold, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Application materials and maps of permit areas for both hunts are available on the DNR
website at Winners will be notified though the mail by mid-September after applying at any DNR electronic licensing agent.

The application fee is $3. The license costs $23 for residents and $78 for nonresidents. The $5 stamp validation has been incorporated into the license fee. A separate stamp is no longer required.

This year there will be 10,450 fall turkey permits available for the season, which runs from Saturday, Oct. 1, through Sunday, Oct. 30. In 2010, hunters harvested a record 1,353 birds in the fall hunt, with hunter success typically about 20 percent.


The five-day prairie chicken season, which will begin on Saturday, Oct. 22, is open to Minnesota residents only. Hunters will be charged a $4 application fee and may apply individually or in groups up to four. Prairie chicken licenses cost $20.

The hunt will be conducted in 11 prairie chicken quota areas in west-central Minnesota between Warren in the north and Breckenridge in the south. Up to 20 percent of the permits in each area will be issued to landowners or tenants of 40 acres or more of prairie or grassland property within the permit area for which they applied. Resident hunters younger than 12 may apply for a prairie chicken license.

The odds of being drawn are about one in three, depending on the area chosen, said Bill Penning, DNR farmland wildlife program leader.

The season bag limit is two prairie chickens per hunter. Licensed prairie chicken hunters will be allowed to take sharp-tailed grouse while legally hunting prairie chickens.

Sharptails and prairie chickens are similar looking species. The general closure on taking sharp-tailed grouse by small game hunters in this area is to protect prairie chickens. Licensed prairie chicken hunters who wish to take sharptails must meet all regulations and licensing requirements for taking sharp-tailed grouse.

In 2010, an estimated 87 prairie chickens were harvested, with 37 percent of hunters taking at least one bird. Hunter success varies considerably from year-to-year, especially when poor weather prevents hunters from going out in the field.

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Top Pheasant States May Lose Conservation Reserve Acres

Last week, the USDA accepted 2.8 million acres nationwide offered by landowners during the recent Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) signup; acres Pheasants Forever says will be the most wildlife-friendly ever enrolled in the program. Although Pheasants Forever recognizes the importance of the newly enrolled 2.8 million CRP acres, the organization is concerned with a possible net loss of nearly 800,000 CRP acres in key pheasant states later in 2011. Consequently, Pheasants Forever is calling on the USDA to reallocate additional acres for two particular practices to avoid devastating loss of upland habitat in the Midwest.

During the 41st CRP general signup this spring, landowners offered more than 3.7 million acres for enrollment in the country's leading conservation program, with more than 2.8 million acres ultimately accepted - an acceptance rate of 75 percent. "The USDA selects offers based on a ratings system comprised of five environmental factors, the top of which is wildlife enhancement - that's the good news for pheasants," said Dave Nomsen, Pheasants Forever's Vice President of Government Affairs, "Unfortunately, acceptance rates in some top pheasant states were closer to 50 percent, meaning nearly 800,000 acres currently providing wildlife habitat in pheasant country are susceptible to conversion this fall unless we act swiftly with USDA to provide landowners with more CRP availability."

CRP 41st Signup Results
Offers Made
Offers Accepted
Acceptance Rate
2.8 M
Stearns County

Stearns County currently has 29,745 acres enrolled in CRP, which is dramatically lower than the high point in 1993 when the enrollment was 37,461 acres. Stearns County could lose an additional 741 acres this fall due to the expiring contracts as well as up to 2,754 acres in 2012 and nearly 3,100 acres in 2013.
Because the USDA budgeted to accept 4.1 million acres during the recent CRP general signup, Pheasants Forever sees room to shift acreage allotments from the general CRP to continuous CRP practices - available to landowners year-round - and has requested the USDA to focus on two popular practices, specifically the Duck Nesting Habitat Practice (CP37) and the State Acres for Wildlife Habitat Enhancement (CP38), to help maintain wildlife habitat at or near current levels.
"USDA and Secretary Tom Vilsack are open to considering ways to use continuous enrollments to ensure CRP is targeting the most vulnerable acres," Nomsen said, "CP37 and 38 target exactly those vulnerable acres while fitting well with agricultural production at this time of high commodity prices." The Duck Nesting Habitat initiative (CP37) currently has more than 136,000 acres enrolled in the Prairie Pothole Region states of Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. The current allocation is 150,000 acres. In addition to the obvious benefits to waterfowl, CP 37 provides valuable grassland habitat for a wide variety of other wildlife species, including pheasants and sharp-tailed grouse. The State Acres for Wildlife Enhancement program (CP38), focuses on environmentally sensitive land, as well as species that have suffered significant population declines and/or are considered to be socially or economically valuable. Many states have maxed out their CP38 acre allotment and have waiting lists for landowners eager to enroll, including pheasant states such as Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska and North Dakota.

To view complete 41st CRP signup statistics, click here.

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Ruffed grouse counts still high; sharp-tail count decreases slightly

Minnesota's ruffed grouse spring drumming counts were higher than last year across most of the bird's range, according to a report released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

“The grouse population is probably still near the high end of the 10-year cycle because  drumming counts this spring were between the values observed during 2009 and 2010,” said Mike Larson, DNR research scientist and grouse biologist. “Drum counts from the last three years haven’t followed the same smooth pattern as during the previous two peaks in the cycle, but relatively small changes in the index may be due to factors other than the density of grouse.”

Those factors could include weather, habitat conditions, observer ability and grouse behavior.

Ruffed grouse populations, which tend to rise and fall on a 10-year cycle, are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions.

This year observers recorded 1.7 drums per stop statewide. The averages during 2009 and 2010 were 2.0 and 1.5 drums per stop, respectively. Counts vary from about 0.8 drums per stop during years of low grouse abundance to about 1.9 during years of high abundance.

Changes in drumming counts compared to those during 2010 were not statistically significant.  The averages, however, increased 18 percent in the northeast survey region, the core and bulk of grouse range in Minnesota, to 1.9 drums per stop. They also increased 16 percent to 2.1 drums per stop in the northwest and 32 percent to 0.4 drums per stop in the southeast. Grouse counts decreased 17 percent to 0.8 drums per stop in the central hardwoods region.

Minnesota frequently is the nation’s top ruffed grouse producer. On average, 115,000 hunters harvest 545,000 ruffed grouse in Minnesota each year, making it the state's most popular game bird.

During the peak years of 1971 and 1989, hunters harvested more than 1 million ruffed grouse. Michigan and Wisconsin, which frequently field more hunters than Minnesota, round out the top three states in ruffed grouse harvest.

One reason for the Minnesota’s status as a top grouse producer is an abundance of aspen and other ruffed grouse habitat, much of it located on county, state and national forests, where public hunting is allowed. An estimated 11.5 million of the state's 16.3 million acres of forest are grouse habitat.

For the past 62 years, DNR biologists have monitored ruffed grouse populations. This year,

DNR staff and cooperators from 15 organizations surveyed 125 routes across the state.

Sharp-tailed grouse counts decrease slightly

Sharp-tailed grouse counts in the northwest survey region decreased approximately 16 percent between 2010 and 2011, Larson said. Counts in the east-central region declined approximately 18 percent.

Observers look for male sharp-tails displaying on traditional mating areas, called leks or dancing grounds.

This year’s statewide average of 10.2 grouse counted per dancing ground was similar to the long-term average since 1980. Last year’s average of 10.7 grouse per dancing ground was down from the 2009 average of 13.6, which was as high as during any year since 1980.

During the last 25 years, the sharp-tailed grouse index has been as low as seven birds counted per dancing ground.

Overall, sharp-tail populations appear to have declined over the long term as a result of habitat deterioration. In recent years, the DNR has increased prescribed burning and shearing that keep trees from overtaking the open brush lands that sharp-tailed grouse need to thrive.

The DNR’s 2011 grouse survey report, which contains information on ruffed grouse and sharp-tailed grouse, is available online at

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Vermillion River project enhances trout habitat, water quality

You might call it Extreme Makeover: Trout Stream Edition.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Trout Unlimited (TU) are wrapping up a major project to improve aquatic habitat on nearly a mile of the Vermillion River, a trophy brown trout stream near Farmington.

The project involves excavating a new meandering stream channel to replace an old straightened channel used for drainage. A stream channel that zig-zags provides better habitat for fish and for the aquatic insects they eat, and it lessens erosion that pollutes downstream stretches with sediment.

On Saturday, June 18, several dozen volunteers helped the DNR round up the fish in the old channel and move them to their new home before the old channel is filled in. DNR electrofishing surveys in nearby stretches of the Vermillion have turned up brown trout as big as 30 inches.

The effort highlights how new constitutionally dedicated funding is helping improve fish and wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities, said Josh Nelson, the Vermillion project coordinator for Trout Unlimited.

TU contributed $150,000 of Legacy Outdoor Heritage funding that was recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Another $150,000 came from Environmental Trust Fund dollars from state lottery proceeds. The Vermillion River Watershed Joint Powers Organization has agreed to pick up any remaining expenses for the project, which is expected to cost a total of around $310,000.

"This project probably wouldn't be happening without the Legacy money," Nelson said. "TU used to do about a mile or two of stream improvements a year statewide. With Outdoor Heritage Funds, we're doing five times that. It allowed the Twin Cities Chapter of TU to do more for its home waters.”

The home waters Nelson refers to were on the edge of not surviving as a trout stream as little as a dozen years ago. Trout need cold clean water, and changing land uses threatened to bring both warmer waters from runoff and more pollution. But joint efforts by DNR, Dakota County and other government units have allowed local communities to flourish while protecting the Vermillion’s unique features.

The city of Lakeville, for instance, near the headwaters of the Vermillion’s South Branch, has put in place proactive stormwater management rules to protect the stream. The Metropolitan Council diverted effluent from its Empire Wastewater Treatment Plant away from the Vermillion to avoid impacts. Dakota County voters approved a referendum to spend money protecting significant natural areas and farmlands, money that has been combined with DNR funds to purchase aquatic and wildlife management areas along the stream.

“This has been collaboration all the way,” said Joe Harris, the Dakota County commissioner who chairs the Vermillion River Joint Powers Organization board. “We’re happy to participate with DNR and other partners to bring this part of the Vermillion back to the state it was in many, many years ago, and to protect the river from further degradation.”

DNR fisheries section chief Dirk Peterson recalls attending a meeting 15 years ago where some local officials maintained that there were no trout in the Vermillion. Now communities throughout the river’s watershed have embraced the stream as a valuable local and regional amenity.

“These things take time,” Peterson said. “The Vermillion River has gone from being seen as an impediment to growth to being valued as an important community asset, something few major urban areas can claim: a trophy trout stream within half an hour of millions of people. When we all work together on both funding and policies, great things happen.”

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Bear lottery results now available

New lottery results now are available for hunters who applied for a 2011 Minnesota bear hunting permit.

Results are available online at People who checked results online prior to June 6 should re-check their status.

Successful lottery winners will be notified by mail later this month. Selected hunters who don't purchase a license by the deadline will forfeit their license.

As a result of a new rule implemented by DNR, bear lottery winners must purchase their license by July 29, however this may change to Aug. 1 depending on the passage of new legislation. Check the DNR website in July for more information.

A total of 7,050 licenses are available in 11 permit areas this year. In 2010, hunters purchased 7,086 of the 9,500 licenses available, harvesting 2,699 bears.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reran the lottery after a computer-related error resulted in incorrect preference information being used to determine winners.

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New law aimed at slowing the spread of aquatic invasive species

Legislation aimed at strengthening Minnesota’s ability to prevent the spread of aquatic invasive species was signed into law May 27 by Gov. Mark Dayton. Among the results will be more thorough watercraft inspections and stronger regulations to prohibit the transportation of invasive species.

The new law, which received bipartisan support in the Legislature, is the product of a year-long effort by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to gather input from stakeholders, including lake associations, angler groups, conservation organizations, businesses, counties and local units of government. That input was the key to developing legislative support, according to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr.

“Aquatic invasive species threaten the lakes and rivers that are so valued by Minnesotans,” Landwehr said. “With the support of Governor Dayton, legislators and water resource users, we are ramping up the battle to stop the spread of zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and other aquatic invasive species.”

As part of that effort, the DNR will add new authorized inspectors to ensure compliance with invasive species laws. And those laws now cover more than just watercraft and trailers. Docks, lifts, rafts, trailers, livewells, bait containers and other water-hauling equipment capable of transporting aquatic invasive species are addressed in the new regulations.

All such water-related equipment, including portable bait containers, must be drained before leaving any water access. Anglers who want to keep leftover bait alive should bring fresh water to replace existing water in bait containers.

To help ensure that watercraft owners are familiar with the new regulations, free DNR decals will be distributed later this summer at boat and bait dealers, DNR license sellers, stores, at DNR offices, and by DNR conservation officers and watercraft inspectors. Failure to display the decals on watercraft will be a petty misdemeanor after Aug. 1, 2014.

Accelerated inspections are a key element in the heightened efforts to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. Currently the DNR employs 100 seasonal watercraft inspectors who work at public accesses around the state. The DNR will hire new authorized inspectors, who along with conservation officers will visually and tactilely inspect water-related equipment. Those inspectors may require the removal, drainage, decontamination or treatment of water-related equipment to prevent the transportation of aquatic invasive species.

The new law puts some muscle behind the requirements. Authorized inspectors can prohibit the launching or operation of water-related equipment if a person refuses to allow an inspection, or doesn’t remove water or aquatic invasive species. A civil citation and a one-year watercraft license suspension can be the result.

Businesses that install or remove water-related equipment or structures will also be held to higher standards. They must complete invasive species training and pass an examination in order to qualify for a required permit, which will be valid for three years. People who work for the service providers must also complete DNR training.

“Through training and education, our goal is to make people aware of their responsibilities in limiting the spread of invasive species,” said Luke Skinner, DNR Invasive Species Unit supervisor. “Boat owners, recreationists and lake service providers must remove all aquatic plants and prohibited invasive species, drain all water from water-related equipment including portable bait containers, remove drain plugs and take other precautions or incur penalties.”

Boat drain plugs must be left our while transporting, and replaced before launching.

Zebra mussels, which are of particular concern, have been discovered in more than 20 Minnesota lakes and several major rivers. They can affect water quality and navigation, destroy fish habitat, drive out important native species, impede beach access, and ultimately damage the state’s water-based recreation and tourism economy.

The DNR will need increased funding for this work, which is included in Gov. Dayton’s budget.

More details and a video about the new regulations are available at

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