Partnership between Central Lakes College and DNR supports Camp Ripley deer hunts

Variable weather greeted archers at this year’s Camp Ripley bow hunts near Little Falls, with hunters taking 278 deer during the event that took place Oct. 17-Oct. 18 and Oct. 26-27, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

In all, 2,137 hunters participated, and 12.6 percent were successful in harvesting a deer, well above the long-term average success of 8.9 percent.

“We have a strong partnership with Central Lakes College and they did a great job managing traffic and registering deer. The event is a valuable opportunity to train students pursuing a career in wildlife management,” said Beau Liddell, DNR wildlife manager at Little Falls.

The Central Lakes College natural resources program coordinated morning check-in and provided deer registration services at the hunts.

“Successful hunters said they were seeing lots of deer in camp this year, and many large bucks were registered at the check station,” said Dr. Bill Faber, head of Central Lakes College natural resources program.

The archery hunt at Camp Ripley is an annual event. The DNR coordinates the hunts in collaboration with Central Lakes College natural resources program, and the Department of Military Affairs, which manages the 53,000-acre military reservation.

Land and Waters awards grants

Land and Waters, a preservation trust, is a component fund of the Initiative Foundation and serves as a philanthropic vehicle for accumulating and distributing financial resources to benefit those in the area of the Pine River Watershed. It was established through a partnership between Whitefish Area Property Owners Association, the Pine River Watershed Alliance and Initiative Foundation. The purpose is to provide a consistent stream of resources to protect and preserve the Whitefish Chain of Lakes and Pine River Watershed, so that future generations can enjoy the rivers, lakes and woods experience. Grants are made to 501c3 non-profits such as the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association, other lake associations in the watershed, the Pine River Watershed Alliance, and local units of government that serve the Pine River Watershed.

Two grants were awarded in 2019. One grant will support a storm water project on Island-Loon Lake in Crosslake, and the other was for a Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District project to improve pasture management and soil health in the Whitefish Subwatershed and the South Fork Subwatershed which feed into the Pine River Watershed.

The Island-Loon Lake run-off project involves installation of a run-off treatment system to intercept and treat road run-off. This is a joint project of the Crosslakers with the city of Crosslake, Crow Wing County and the Crow Wing County Soil and Water Conservation District. A portion of County Road 66 run-off is currently collected and funneled, untreated, into Island-Loon Lake through curbs and gutters. Road run-off pollutants can adversely affect fish habitat, enhance algae and plant growth, and increase phosphorus and chloride levels above acceptable levels. A water quality study conducted in 2017 determined that Island-Loon Lake has a declining trend in water clarity (over 48-inch decline since 1992), indicative of an increase in sediments, nutrients and other pollutants. A system of three hydrodynamic filters and a holding pond to intercept and treat runoff from almost 43 acres along County Road 66 and Manhattan Point Boulevard was designed by Widseth Smith Nolting Engineering for the City of Crosslake, in a three-part effort including an initial evaluation of the run-off sites along County Road 66; an estimate and evaluation of the potential reduction of the pollutant load; and to determine the best location for an intercept system. The new treatment system will reduce 6 pounds of phosphorus which supports about 3,000 pounds of algae and 1.2 tons of sediment per year from entering Island-Loon Lake. Construction will begin next spring or summer. Land and Waters has awarded a $5900 grant, and WAPOA and the Pine River Watershed Alliance have jointly awarded another $4,100 to support this project, bringing their total joint award to $10,000. These grants will cover a portion of the matching costs associated with this runoff project, which was also funded by the Clean Water Fund through a $475,000 grant to the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

Land and Waters also awarded a grant of $5900 to Crow Wing County Soil and Water Conservation District for a grazing management project to improve pasture management and soil health in the Whitefish Subwatershed and South Fork Subwatershed. This funding will support a project on impaired streams, including Willow, South Fork, Wilson, and Arvig creeks. Intensive grazing practices in these areas have compacted the soil, decreased vegetative cover, and enabled erosion into these streams during storm events. The funding will be used to hire a contractor to complete outreach and engagement to farmers in these communities. The goals are to obtain estimates of the number of cattle in this area; identify landowners utilizing continuous grazing; build relationships with the farming community; provide information to farmers on programs and benefits of adaptive grazing management; and to work with farmers one-on-one and assist them with a grazing management plan, and to obtain potential cost-share dollars for fencing. After gathering this information, and through working with farmers, a plan for grazing management and improved soil health practices could then be developed to address these issues. The overall goal is to reduce the phosphorus level entering the Whitefish Chain of Lakes by 792 pounds per year -- which could support about 396,000 pounds of algae. WAPOA and the Pine River Watershed Alliance have jointly awarded another $4,100 to support this project, bringing the total award for improved grazing management to $10,000.

Proposal to allow off-highway vehicle access to Huntersville Forest Landing Campground up for public comment

The Department of Natural Resources is seeking comments on a proposal to allow off-highway vehicle access to certain areas of the Huntersville Forest Landing Campground in Huntersville State Forest in Cass, Hubbard and Wadena counties.

Currently, OHVs must be trailered in and out of the campground. The proposal would allow campers with OHVs to unload their OHVs at their campsites and access the recreational trails within the state forest from there. Huntersville State Forest contains over 60 miles of single track off-highway motorcycle trail, as well as many miles of forest roads open to all OHVs. Within the campground, OHV access would be limited to existing roadways and campsites.

The DNR will accept written comments until 4:30 p.m. Dec. 9. Comments may be submitted:

  • Via email to david.schotzko@state.mn.us.

  • Via mail to Dave Schotzko, area supervisor, Parks and Trails Division, Minnesota DNR, 3296 State Park Road NE, Bemidji, MN 56601.

The DNR will also hold a public meeting from 6 to 8 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 20 at the Menahga Public High School, 216 Aspen Ave. SE, Menahga, MN 56464.

Participants will be able to discuss the proposal with DNR representatives and submit comments.

For more information, visit the OHV trail plans and proposals webpage or call Dave Schotzko, 218-308-2367.

Minnesota DNR statement regarding action on petition to ban lead ammunition and tackle

On Sept. 3, 2019, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources received a petition from a number of environmental and conservation groups requesting that the DNR initiate rulemaking to:

  1. Ban the possession and use of lead or other toxic fishing tackle on Minnesota waters located within the common loon range;

  2. Prohibit the taking of wild animals within Minnesota while possessing or using bullets containing lead or other toxic materials; and

  3. Prohibit the taking of wild animals within Minnesota with shotshells other than those loaded with steel shot, copper-plated shot, nickel-plated shot, zinc-plated steel shot, or shot made of other nontoxic materials approved by the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

After careful consideration of the petition and review of more than 20 years of data and stakeholder input related to this subject, the DNR issued a decision today denying the petition.

The DNR based its decision on multiple factors, which are detailed in a Decision and Findings of Fact document available at mndnr.gov/hunting/ammo/nts.html. These factors included limitations in the DNR’s rulemaking authority, the petition’s lack of data concerning the impact of the proposed rule, the lack of demonstrated broad stakeholder support, and the DNR’s conclusion that potential restrictions on the use of lead ammunition and tackle should be considered by the Minnesota Legislature.

Consistent with the approach taken in most other states that have imposed restrictions on lead ammunition and tackle, the DNR believes the use of lead ammunition and tackle is best addressed by the Minnesota legislature. A decision of this magnitude must involve engagement with the full range of stakeholders that could be affected by the decision.

While the DNR has denied the petition for rulemaking, the agency believes the human health and environmental impacts of lead ammunition and tackle do warrant further study and discussion. The DNR is committed to working with the petitioners, legislators, tribal governments, hunters and anglers to facilitate a more inclusive conversation on the possibility of future restrictions on the use of lead and other toxic ammunition and tackle.