Registration for Aquatic Invasive Species Detectors program now open

ST. PAUL-Registration is now open for AIS Detectors, a volunteer network and science-based training program created by the Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center in partnership with University of Minnesota Extension.

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Participants will learn how to properly identify and report new findings of aquatic invasive species such as starry stonewort, zebra mussels, round goby, and others. After being trained, AIS Detectors will serve a critical role by searching for new AIS infestations, providing outreach in their communities, and helping AIS researchers in the field.

The program is ideal for motivated adults over the age of 18, including AIS managers and inspectors, lake association members, master naturalists, and anyone else who has a desire to learn more about AIS. Detectors will learn how to identify eleven aquatic invasive species that are threatening Minnesota, as well as their common lookalike species.

"The AIS Detectors program is a terrific opportunity for anyone in the area who wants to help protect our lakes," said Megan Weber, extension educator, in a news release. "Preventing AIS is an all-hands-on-deck situation, and having more people who are educated about what to look for will be really helpful."

The program consists of a self-paced online course and one in-person workshop. A workshop will be held in Brainerd on May 18. The online course must be completed beforehand.

The course fee is $195, which includes unlimited access to the online course, a printed training manual, the full-day in-person workshop (including refreshments and lunch), an AIS identification field guide, and networking opportunities with other AIS Detectors and experts. To learn more and to register, please visit www.aisdetectors.org.

The Minnesota Aquatic Invasive Species Research Center works across the state to develop research-based solutions that can reduce the impacts of aquatic invasive species by preventing spread, controlling populations, and managing ecosystems. A portion of the funding for AIS Detectors program is provided by the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund. Learn more at www.maisrc.umn.edu.

University of Minnesota Extension works in communities statewide to create a stronger Minnesota through education and research.

DNR encourages homeowners to compost, not burn

In an effort to prevent wildfires, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources urges woodland property owners to compost their yard waste rather than burn it.

"Burning should be a last resort for yard waste-especially in April and May, when wildfire risk is especially high," said Casey McCoy, fire prevention supervisor, in a news release. "Composting prevents wildfires and reduces air pollution, so it's the safest possible way to manage yard debris."

The University of Minnesota Extension offers a step-by-step guide to composting yard waste on its website.

For landowners who feel they must burn yard debris, now is the time to do it. That's because annual burning restrictions will take effect immediately after snowmelt occurs, which will happen soon in parts of Minnesota. Three inches of snow significantly reduces the chances that a fire will escape and burn unintended areas or endanger lives, homes, and neighboring properties. If a yard waste fire does escape, the homeowner is responsible for any damage it does to nearby property.

Although a DNR burning permit is not required in many locations where there is sufficient snow, be sure to check local regulations prior to burning. Once burning restrictions are issued, debris burning will be banned, and no permits issued, until further notice.

For information and daily updates on open burning restrictions and current fire danger, visit mndnr.gov/burnrestrictions.

Don't wait to sign up for a Firearms Safety Hunter Education Class

Minnesota's volunteer firearms safety instructors have scheduled classes throughout the state, and now's the time for people who want to attend to make plans to do so, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

Anyone born after Dec. 31, 1979 must take a DNR safety training course and receive a certificate of completion before purchasing a license to hunt.

"Now is a great time to get your son or daughter registered for a hunter safety class," said Jon Paurus, DNR education programs coordinator, in a news release. "People who wait until closer to the hunting season risk missing out on the opportunity to enroll in a class, which could result in their kids being unable to hunt this fall."

People who enroll early have more options, including taking the class in a classroom or online. Whether students take the classroom or online course, they must complete a field day during which they practice handling firearms and learn about hunter responsibility. Field day availability is limited and classes fill up fast (some already are full), so it's important to plan ahead. If hunters plan on hunting in another state, they should check other states' regulations to determine if a firearms safety certificate is required before participating in any hunts.

Visit the hunter education and safety classes webpage for a list of scheduled classes and education requirements for other states. For more information, call 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

More than 32,000 license buyers opt in for organ donation

LifeSource, the nonprofit organization dedicated to saving lives through organ, eye and tissue donation in Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources have completed the first year of successfully integrating organ, eye and tissue donor registration with the online hunting and fishing license purchase system. The new registration system is a collaborative effort between LifeSource and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and went live on March 1, 2017. In that time, 32,350 Minnesotans embraced this new way to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor. The Minnesota Legislature passed the law during the 2016 session on a bipartisan vote, making Minnesota the first state in the country to offer its residents the opportunity to register as an organ, eye and tissue donor when purchasing their hunting and fishing licenses online.

"Minnesota continues to be a leader when it comes to donation, with 63% of adults registered as donors," shared LifeSource CEO Susan Gunderson. "We are the first state in the country to allow anglers and hunters to register their decision to be a donor when purchasing their licenses online, illustrating the dedication of our leaders in embracing the mission of donation."

The 32,350 people who registered as a donor is equal to 34 percent of Minnesotans who purchased their hunting and fishing licenses online in the last year. More than 2.5 million Minnesotans are registered as donors, most of whom did so when purchasing or renewing their driver's license, which typically happens once every four years. However, people must purchase their hunting and fishing licenses annually, providing more opportunities for people to register as a donor. This new, annual, opportunity may thus lead to more lives being saved through the gifts of organ, eye and tissue donation.

"Seeing our community embrace this new way to register is incredibly moving," continued Gunderson. "This wouldn't have been possible without the dedicated team at the DNR and our legislative champions who are always looking for new ways to encourage Minnesotans to register to be a donor. We all hope that more people continue to check the box each year when purchasing their hunting and fishing licenses online."