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Last updated: January 2013

Conservation Officers bust angler with nearly 250 fish more than the legal limit

Update: DNR releases details of employee discharged for wrongful access of driver's license data

Elk hunt extended to meet management goals, control depredation

State wolf hunting and trapping season closed

Fish shelter identification required

DNR urges anglers who use frozen bait to review new regulations

DNR designates first scientific and natural area in Crow Wing County

 

 

Conservation Officers bust angler with nearly 250 fish more than the legal limit

2013

A conservation officer (CO) with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently netted an angler with nearly 250 fish more than the legal limit.

CO Shane Osborne of Evansville met up with Ronald Wayne Johnson, 69, of Carlos, as he was about to pull his portable fish house off West Spitzer Lake in Otter Tail County.

“I asked how the fishing was and he said he caught some fish, but it wasn’t that great,” Osborne said. When asked if he had any fish at home, Johnson said he wasn’t sure.

“He then asked if I thought he had too many fish,” Osborne said. “I said I wouldn’t know that until I counted all of the fish he had. He said I could follow him home and check.”

When Osborne visited Johnson’s home, along with CO Mitch Lawler of Alexandria, they found 22 frozen half-gallon cardboard containers, six plastic bags and several loose fish and fish filets. The cache totaled 228 sunfish, seven bass and six northern pike more than the legal limit. The fish restitution value is $1,560.

Thanks to an overlimit law that took effect in March 2003, the suspect, if convicted, forfeits his or her fishing license for three years. The person also faces up to $3,000 in fines and one year in jail.

Johnson is scheduled to appear in Douglas County Court in February.

Anyone witnessing a fishing or wildlife violation is encouraged to contact the nearest conservation officer, law enforcement agency or the toll-free Turn In Poacher (TIP) hotline at 800-652-9093. Also, #TIP is available to most cell phone users in Minnesota.

People should contact the Minnesota State Patrol or a DNR area or regional office for the name and phone number of a conservation officer in their area.

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Update: DNR releases details of employee discharged for wrongful access of driver's license data

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) employee that was discharged for wrongful access to driver's license and motor vehicle records was viewing the data during off-duty hours without a job-related reason to do so.

John A. Hunt was discharged Jan. 11, 2013 from the DNR. He worked as the Enforcement Division's administrative manager and, like other law enforcement officers across Minnesota, he had access to the driver's license and motor vehicle records for law enforcement purposes only.

The data is maintained by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS).

Investigations by the DNR and Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) indicated that Hunt viewed the data of about 5,000 people while off duty and without any job-related purpose. Those individuals also include more than 200 DNR employees and some of their family members.
Hunt was discharged because unauthorized access of the database is a violation of state and federal law, as well as DNR policy and the agency's standards of behavior.

"This employee not only violated the law, but betrayed the trust of the agency, his supervisors, and fellow employees," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. "His behavior does not meet the high standards of integrity that we expect from our law enforcement officers or from all employees."
Landwehr said the agency is conducting a top-to-bottom review of DNR employee access to the DVS data and redoubling the employee training that is required to access the data.

The DNR also wants to be part of the broader public discussion of inappropriate use of the DVS data, including discussions at the Minnesota Legislature. "We want to share our experience with public policy makers and other agencies so that we can lend our voice to any solutions," Landwehr said.

The agency is releasing information about the employment action after determining much of the data is public under the Minnesota Data Practices Act. Because of the complexity of the case, and the fact it involved criminal and personnel investigations, the agency needed to do its due diligence before releasing public information about the employee.

The investigations showed Hunt queried about 11,800 driver's license and motor vehicle records during off-duty hours from January 2008 to October 2012. Since some individuals were queried more than once, the investigation showed about 5,000 individuals had their DVS data viewed without a job-related reason during off-duty hours.

The DNR recently sent letters to those individuals making them aware their records had been inappropriately accessed.

There is no indication the viewed data was sold, disclosed to others, or used for criminal purposes. No social security numbers or other DNR-related license or registration data was involved.

The investigation indicated that about 90 percent of those individuals whose data was viewed were female. Records of celebrities, professional athletes, criminal justice professionals, television personalities, politicians, and others whose names appeared in news stories were viewed without a job-related reason to do so.

A DNR enforcement officer, Hunt was the Enforcement Division's data practices "designee." He was responsible for managing the division's responsibilities for complying with the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act, which included staff training and assisting staff with data practices issues and requests.

Records indicate Hunt attended data practices training over a period of years, including training related directly to law enforcement data. Hunt's duties were also to ensure that new conservation officers were familiar with laws and rules concerning access to driver's license and motor vehicle records. The DNR has no knowledge of Hunt's motives for the actions that resulted in his dismissal."Everyone at DNR is upset, embarrassed and disappointed by his actions," Landwehr said, "and we sincerely apologize to everyone affected by his wrongful behavior."

DNR takes actions on unauthorized access of driver’s license data

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is taking corrective actions after the agency discovered that a DNR employee inappropriately accessed driving license and motor vehicle records without authorization to do so.

The DNR immediately asked the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) to conduct an investigation into the unauthorized access of the data. At this time, no criminal charges have been filed.

The database is maintained by Minnesota Department of Public Safety Driver and Vehicle Services (DVS). The DVS records that were viewed include information such as full name, date of birth, driver’s license number, address, driver’s license status and driver’s license photo.

The investigation did not indicate that the viewed data was sold, disclosed to others, or used for criminal purposes. However, the DNR is sending notification letters to approximately 5,000 affected individuals to make them aware of the unauthorized access. The agency is also recommending that those individuals monitor their credit reports.

The agency has also reported the unauthorized data access to the three main credit reporting agencies, as required by state law.

The employee involved in the unauthorized data access is no longer employed by the DNR.

“The DNR takes seriously its responsibility to protect private data,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “The DNR will not tolerate unauthorized access of private data. The agency is implementing additional employee training and looking into ways to monitor access to the data to ensure it doesn’t happen again.”

Additionally, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the DNR are working to ensure that unauthorized access of DVS data doesn’t occur in the future. DPS is encouraging government agencies to review the terms and obligations of DVS data use to ensure private data is protected.

The DNR has set up an email and phone to address questions and concerns for those who receive the letters. The email is infosecurity.dnr@state.mn.us. The phone number is 651-259-5309.

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Elk hunt extended to meet management goals, control depredation

The need to manage the size of northwestern Minnesota’s elk population and control depredation has prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to extend the elk hunt beginning Saturday, Jan. 12.
“Our rules for the 2012-2013 elk hunt authorized an extended season if harvest goals were not met during the regular seasons,” said Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader. “We are committed to managing these populations at levels identified within the management plan. We need to take additional animals to keep us moving in that direction.”
Only six elk were harvested in the September and December hunts, well below a quota of 23 animals DNR established to meet population management goals and address depredation concerns.
Elk hunters who were selected to participate in either the Grygla zone or Kittson Central zone  but did not harvest an elk may hunt their zones during the extended season. In the Kittson Central zone, hunters will be restricted by time period. Hunters in the Kittson Central zone will be scheduled to hunt one four-day period, either Jan. 12-15 or Jan. 17-20. They cannot hunt during both time periods. Hunters in the Grygla zone will be allowed to hunt the full nine-day period from Jan. 12-20.
Elk are native to Minnesota but were extirpated from the state in the early 20th century. They were reintroduced into the state in the 1930s, and in recent times elk from Manitoba have naturally immigrated to Minnesota.
Two small herds exist in northwestern Minnesota, one near Grygla in Marshall County and another in Kittson County. Minnesota’s elk population is 80 to 120 animals, depending on the location of a herd that moves back and forth between Minnesota and Manitoba, Canada.
By law, elk hunts in Minnesota can be authorized whenever the pre-calving population exceeds 20 animals.

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State wolf hunting and trapping season closed

Minnesota’s first-ever wolf season will close at the end of shooting and trapping hours on Thursday, Jan. 3.
As of Jan. 2, 181 wolves had been registered in the late season northwest wolf zone out of a target harvest of 187. The northwest zone was the last of three management zones where wolves could be taken by permit since Nov. 3.
This amount of harvest, when combined with harvest totals from the early season and the other late season zones, brings the season harvest to 395.
“Our plan was to close the season when the harvest was at or projected to reach 400,” said Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “It is important that hunters and trappers know that they have until 5 p.m. Friday to submit their wolves for inspection.”
For the late season, the east-central zone was closed to hunting Dec. 13. The northeast zone was closed Dec. 14. Nine wolves were harvested in the east-central zone and 58 in the northeast zone.
  
Complete wolf hunting information, including a map of the wolf zones, is available at
 www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/wolf/index.html

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Fish shelter identification required

Ice conditions on Minnesota waterways may vary, but all fish shelters must have proper identification, according to conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
DNR reminds ice anglers and others that shelters placed on the ice of Minnesota waters must have either the owner’s complete name and address, a driver’s license number, or the nine-digit DNR number on the license of the owner plainly and legibly displayed on the outside of the shelter, in letters and figures at least two inches high.
Other shelter regulations include:

Shelter owners are also reminded to take appropriate steps to keep their houses from freezing onto ice surfaces. With seasonal thawing and cooling, it is not uncommon for shelter contact points to become frozen to the ice, providing challenges when it comes to moving or removing the shelters.

A common method used to prevent freezing is to place blocks under the shelter contact points. Ice anglers are reminded that blocks placed under shelters must be removed and cannot be left on frozen waters. An easy way to remove a frozen ice block is with a long handled maul or a splitting maul. A couple of clean strikes will easily free frozen blocks.

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DNR urges anglers who use frozen bait to review new regulations

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges anglers who fish with frozen
or imported dead bait to review regulations that govern the use of emerald shiners, spottail shiners, bluntnose minnows and other popular baitfish that are susceptible to the fish-killing disease Viral Hemmorhagic Septicemia (VHS).
“In an effort to prevent the spread of VHS in Minnesota waters, additional regulations went into effect in the spring of 2012 that address the harvest and use of VHS susceptible species as frozen bait,” said Paula Phelps, DNR aquaculture and fish health consultant. “VHS is a highly contagious and pathogenic fish virus emerging in the Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada.”
Anglers purchasing dead or frozen VHS susceptible or imported bait from a vendor should only purchase packages affixed with a label stating that the bait will not pose a threat of VHS to Minnesota waters. Anglers are required to keep the label with the bait until it is used up or discarded.
It is illegal for anyone to bring live bait into the state at any time. Nonresident anglers need to be aware of these rules and either buy their bait when they get to their fishing destination or ensure that their imported dead bait is affixed with the required label.
“Minnesota offers some of the best fishing in the nation,” said Phelps. “Anglers can help keep it that way by complying with the rules that prevent the spread of fish disease. With VHS present in the Great Lakes, especially Lake Superior, preventing inland spread is a high priority.”
DNR also reminds anglers that when ice fishing, portable bait containers (except on waters designated infested with VHS) are no longer required to be drained before leaving the waterbody as is required during the open water seasons.
The most current list of designated infested waters can be viewed online at www.mndnr.gov/ais. Information about VHS is available at www.focusonfishhealth.org. More information on bait rules and regulations can be found in the 2012 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet or by visiting www.mndnr.gov/regulations.

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DNR designates first scientific and natural area in Crow Wing County

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), with help from The Nature Conservancy, recently acquired and designated 318 acres in Crow Wing County as the new Mille Lacs Moraine Scientific and Natural Area (SNA), the first in the county.

Located near Garrison and Lake Mille Lacs, the SNA is comprised of picturesque steep hills dotted with small lakes and wetlands.

The SNA supports a variety of native plant communities from red oak-basswood forest to northern poor fen - a type of wetland. Red-shouldered hawk and cerulean warbler, two species of special concern in Minnesota, nest in the vicinity.

A large area around the SNA was evaluated as having outstanding biodiversity, the highest rank given by the Minnesota Biological Survey. It was considered such high-quality due to the overall size and lack of fragmentation of its native plant communities.

The new SNA was a top priority for acquisition and protection by the SNA program and The Nature Conservancy due to the property’s quality habitat as well as the presence of rare species and native plant communities.

The DNR purchased this SNA with unanimous approval from the county’s board of commissioners. “I heard a great deal of support for the SNA after a very informative public meeting,” said Phil Trusty, Crow Wing County commissioner. “There was a great turnout with a lot of good, open-minded questions asked.”

Peggy Booth, SNA program supervisor, said the new SNA is exceptional. “We don’t have anything like it protected in this area. The SNA is at the heart of a much larger area of significant habitat worthy of stewardship.”  

The DNR established the SNA in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy. Funds for the purchase came from the Reinvest in Minnesota Critical Habitat Match Program through credits provided by The Nature Conservancy, which also worked with the land’s owners, the Hormel family, to ensure the land would be protected. Funding was also provided by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

Jamie Hormel of Paradise Valley, Ariz., said her late husband Geordie Hormel, who grew up in Austin, Minn., would certainly have been pleased. “Geordie always had a special place in his heart for his home state and took our family there many times. He would be proud to know that the land he loved will be preserved.”  

Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, said “this land includes rare forests and wetlands and more than 1.2 miles of shoreline along four wild lakes that we identified as top priorities for conservation.”

She added that the SNA not only is in the watershed of Lake Mille Lacs, but that it also drains into the Rum River, a tributary of the Mississippi River, which provides drinking water to the Twin Cities and local communities.

“Strategically protecting our forests, lakes and rivers is key to the good life in Minnesota,” Ladner said.

SNAs are lands open to the public, like state parks or wildlife management areas, but with a different emphasis. SNAs protect the best of Minnesota’s remaining rare species, native prairies, old-growth forests, geologic features and other exceptional features of our natural heritage. Recreational activities consistent with the protection of natural conditions are allowed. SNAs are open for photography, nature observation, education, and scientific research.

Visitors are encouraged to hike-in to this site, or snowshoe-in during winter months. Mille Lacs Moraine SNA is also open to fishing, hunting, and dogs under control. Activities not allowed include camping, campfires, trapping and motorized recreation.

For more information, including a map, directions and a listing of known plants visit, www.dnr.state.mn.us/snas/detail.html?id=sna02060 or send an email to sna.dnr@state.mn.us.

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© 2013 Outdoors Weekly