Elk management in Kittson and Marshall counties and the upcoming elk management plan revision will be discussed from 6:30-9 p.m. on Thursday, March 13, at the Greenbush High School, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
“Our goal is to inform people about the northwestern Minnesota elk herds and let them know how they can participate in the elk plan revision,” said John Williams, DNR northwest region wildlife manager.
DNR staff will present information on topics such as elk history, habitat management, damage the animals can cause and the process for revising the elk plan for 2016-2020.
Three small elk herds roam far northwestern Minnesota: the Kittson Central herd located near Lancaster; the Grygla herd located in Marshall County near Grygla; and the Caribou-Vita herd in northern Kittson County and southern Manitoba. A recently completed aerial elk population survey shows that those three distinct herds contain 108 animals.
As part of the planning process, the DNR also is seeking nominations for individuals to serve on elk consensus work groups, one for the two Kittson County herds and one for the Grygla elk herd. DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr will select and appoint members to each group.
The DNR’s goal is to maintain a free-ranging, wild elk population in northwestern Minnesota. The department envisions a healthy yet limited population that offers recreational and economic opportunities while actively addressing conflicts between elk and people. Habitat and herd structure would be maintained. Hunting seasons would be used to help manage problem animals and herd size.
Information on Minnesota’s elk and the current management plan is available on the DNR website.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is hosting an open house on Thursday, March 13, to provide information and answer questions about a proposal to allow rock climbing at Banning State Park. The open house will be from 6 to 8 p.m. in the secondary cafeteria at East Central High School, 61085 State Highway 23, Finlayson.
The open house will be informal and anyone can attend. DNR staff will be available to answer questions and invite feedback on a draft amendment to the park’s 1980 management plan that would make Banning the fifth Minnesota state park to allow rock climbing. Climbing is currently allowed in Blue Mounds, Interstate, Tettegouche and Temperance River state parks. Most climbing activity at Banning State Park would be bouldering on the sandstone outcrops along the Kettle River, but several portions of the park have potential for roped climbing.
A popular destination for campers and paddlers, Banning State Park includes 6,237 acres that straddle the wild and scenic Kettle River near Sandstone, about 90 miles north of the Twin Cities. Several rapids on the river offer some of the state’s most challenging canoeing and kayaking opportunities. Park trails circle the remains of the historic Banning townsite and sandstone quarry and lead to a scenic waterfall, Wolf Creek Falls.
A copy of the draft management plan amendment is available online.
Those unable to review and comment on the draft amendment at the open house can submit comments via phone or email to:
Comments will be accepted through Friday, April 11.
Current director set to retire in April
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Tom Landwehr will appoint Assistant Commissioner Erika Rivers to serve as director of the Parks and Trails Division when its current director, Courtland Nelson, retires in April.
Rivers, 41, was appointed assistant commissioner by Landwehr in 2011 and currently oversees three divisions for the commissioner’s office: Parks and Trails, Fish and Wildlife, and Enforcement. Prior to her work in the commissioner’s office, she served the agency for seven years in northern Minnesota in various planning and outreach roles. She began working closely with the Parks and Trails Division in 2010, when she managed the development of the master plan for Minnesota’s newest state park on Lake Vermilion.
“I asked Erika to make this move because I believe she is uniquely positioned to continue moving the Parks and Trails Division toward realizing its vision of ‘creating unforgettable experiences that inspire people to pass along the love for the outdoors to current and future generations,’” Landwehr said. “Erika has proven herself a strong leader during her three years in the commissioner’s office.”
According to Landwehr, Rivers, will bring great energy and enthusiasm to the Parks and Trails Division with her deep passion for connecting people of all backgrounds to the outdoors, a focus on continuous improvement and Better Government for a Better Minnesota, and a strong emphasis on collaboration between DNR divisions and with external partners.
“The parks and trails system is our most comprehensive and accessible way to connect all Minnesotans to the outdoors, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to learn that Erika Rivers will lead it,” said Greg Lais, founder of Wilderness Inquiry. “Erika is very committed to providing opportunities for people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. She is innovative, partner minded, and she gets things done. People like working with her.”
Lais and Wilderness Inquiry work extensively with the DNR to connect youth and families to the outdoors through a collaborative program called Urban Wilderness Canoe Adventures that reaches thousands of underserved youth throughout the state.
While in the commissioner’s office, Rivers oversaw the development of strategic plans, development planning for the Fort Snelling Upper Post, Lake Vermilion State Park and La Salle Lake State Recreation Area, and the initiation of Phase II of off-highway vehicle system planning. She also has helped facilitate collaboration between the Met Council, DNR and Greater Minnesota on planning and allocation of the Parks and Trails Legacy funding that was approved by Minnesota voters in 2008.
Rivers will oversee a $103 million annual budget and a staff of 1,200 full- and part-time employees. State parks and trails host more than 9 million visitors each year and help support Minnesota’s $11.9 billion tourism industry. The division manages:
“It has been my privilege to serve in the commissioner’s office under Commissioner Landwehr for the past three years,” Rivers said. “I am honored and excited to be returning to the Parks and Trails Division to lead the talented staff and important work that’s being done there to connect people to the outdoors and Minnesota’s natural and cultural resources.”
Rivers holds a Ph.D. in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota. She shares her love of the outdoors with her young family through a variety of outdoors interests, including archery, hunting, fishing, hiking, biking, canoeing and camping.
A decade after he was hired by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Courtland Nelson, 63, will retire April 21 from his position as director of the Parks and Trails Division.
“Over the past 10 years, we’ve significantly expanded the number of outdoor recreation opportunities available in Minnesota; we’ve protected, preserved and restored lands and waters across the state; and we’ve dramatically increased the number of people who are getting outdoors,” Nelson said.
Nelson began his career as a seasonal ranger at Wasatch Mountain State Park in Utah in 1976, and served in various parks jobs in Utah and Arizona until becoming director of the Utah State Division of Parks and Recreation in 1993. He served in that role until February 2004, when he joined the Minnesota DNR.
Under Nelson’s leadership the Parks and Trails Division:
In 2008, Nelson oversaw the integration of the Parks and Recreation Division with the Trails and Waterways Division, where outdoor recreation opportunities have also been expanding. In the last 10 years, for example, six state water trails, 200 paved state trail miles, and a multitude of public water accesses and fishing piers have been added statewide.
“Minnesota already had one of the best parks and trails systems in the country when I arrived, but the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008 has allowed us to make it even better,” Nelson said. “Although funding challenges remain, the future looks bright for state parks and trails.”
According to DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, “Courtland has brought national recognition to Minnesota state parks. His experience in leading state park organizations in Arizona and Utah prior to joining us in Minnesota brought us critical insight into other recreation systems. We will miss his steady presence and leadership.”
Following his retirement, Nelson plans to spend more time with his wife and their daughter. They plan to divide their time between Utah and Minnesota, where park and trail users in both states can expect to see them out hiking, biking and cross-country skiing on a regular basis.
The early onset and bitter cold of winter 2013-14 have combined to make some shallow lakes susceptible to winterkill, prompting the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to open Pelican Lake in Wright County to liberalized fishing until sunset on March 9.
Winterkill conditions are created when sunlight is unable to penetrate the ice and oxygen levels in the water drop. Fish are often unable to survive in these low-oxygen conditions. Such lakes are opened so the public can make use of these fish, which are otherwise likely to die. Tests conducted on Friday, Feb. 28, showed oxygen levels less than 1 part per million throughout the lake.
On a lake open to liberalized fishing, licensed resident anglers may take for personal use all species of fish, in any quantity and in any manner, except with the use of seines, hoopnets, fyke nets or explosives. Rough fish such as bullheads, carp, suckers, and buffalo fish may be sold. If used, all gill nets must have metal tags affixed to the net stating the operator’s name and address; the tags must be attached to one end of the float line near the first float. Each tag must be a minimum of 2-1/2 inches by 5/8 inches.
Anglers are reminded that they must obey all laws regarding trespassing on private property, and that it is against the law to discard fish on shore or on the ice.
Find the latest information on lakes that are open to liberalized fishing and for detailed information about those lakes, online.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is seeking cooperation from anglers who need to act now to remove their fish shelters in the southern two-thirds of the state by 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 3.
For structures on lakes in the northern third of the state, the deadline is 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 17.
Shelters are required to be removed by the deadline and conservation officers will enforce that deadline except where shelter owners have made all reasonable efforts to remove the shelter but are not successful because of inaccessible travel conditions.
“We hope anglers understand they are going to face difficult conditions when they remove their fish houses this year,” said Col. Ken Soring, director of the DNR’s Enforcement Division. “We’ll work with anglers who show due diligence to get their shelters off the lakes but we are urging everyone to take responsibility.”
According to the DNR, there are some responsible options for removing shelters like enlisting the help of friends and locating equipment to make the job easier. This requires hard work and tenacity to remove or dismantle a stubbornly frozen fish shelter. Some people are also offering shelter removal for a fee.
At a minimum, shelter owners must ensure that unretrievable shelters are prepared for removal by raising and blocking the shelter up to prevent the bottom portion from becoming frozen in the ice. Once lake travel is possible, the entire structure and all other materials must be cleaned up to prevent littering and potentially ending up on someone’s beach when the ice melts.
DNR conservation officers see everything from furniture and appliances, to tires and auto parts discarded on lakes at the end of the ice fishing season. Failure to remove the house may result in a fine of $125 plus court costs.
If shelters are not removed, owners will be prosecuted and structures may be confiscated or destroyed by a conservation officer. If the shelter is left on the ice for an extended period, a mandatory court appearance is required. The DNR is diligent about ticketing owners who fail to remove shelters or debris, and officers use GPS and photos to mark fish house locations.