The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) tackled important issues in 2012 and accomplished major successes – achievements which touched the lives of Minnesotans across the state. From responding to historic flooding in east-central Minnesota and Duluth, to the destructive July winds in the state’s northern forests, to a drought which culminated in severe wildfire conditions, DNR staff worked with Minnesota communities to minimize impact, complete emergency infrastructure repairs and to respond to disasters as they were unfolding.
“Gov. Mark Dayton has directed all his agency commissioners, including me, to make Minnesota work for Minnesotans,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “DNR’s accomplishments in 2012 show what we can achieve when we collaborate with others and address hard issues.”Protecting Natural Resources
Committed to protect Minnesota’s natural resources, DNR in 2012 focused on preservation, protection, and prevention. Dedicated to preserving forest access for the future, The Minnesota Forests for the Future (MFF) program completed several land protection projects totaling nearly 12,000 acres in cooperation with The Nature Conservancy of Minnesota. MFF also developed and refined a mapping tool to help identify and prioritize future forest conservation protection efforts.
DNR led efforts to implement a major plan and new strategies for prairie and grassland conservation by working together in a coalition with state agencies and non-profit organizations. This coalition signed the Minnesota Prairie Conservation Plan memorandum of understanding, supporting DNR in its leadership efforts to develop and implement coordination and tracking plans for the protection, restoration and enhancement of Minnesota’s prairie.
Conservation livestock grazing on Wildlife Management Areas is an emerging area of collaboration with Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA), Board of Soil and Water Resources, federal agencies, cattle ranchers and non-profit organizations. The DNR hopes to increase the number of public lands being grazed from 10,000 to 50,000 by 2015.
Working collaboratively with local governments, DNR staff responded rapidly to reported discoveries of new infestations, dramatically increased public outreach efforts, including a new documentary on aquatic invasive species. The agency beefed up its training efforts with volunteers, Lake Service Providers and others to help the DNR to curb the spread of aquatic invasive species, implemented new watercraft inspection authority and increased enforcement.
DNR aggressively expanded its efforts to prevent and curb the spread of Asian carp, working with partners to plan, and install more effective barriers for Asian carp in Southwestern Minnesota. and helped fund with Iowa a barrier in that state to keep carp from entering Minnesota.
Improving Outdoor Recreation
In 2012 DNR made progress in efforts to improve outdoor recreation for Minnesotans as well as to encourage use of the state’s abundant parks, trails and campgrounds. Through the “I Can!” skill-building program, DNR introduced several thousand new people to Minnesota state parks and trails and outdoor recreation. A total of 877 people participated in the overnight “I Can Camp!” programs in 2012, up 51 percent since the program began in 2010. Another 650 people participated in “I Can Climb!” and 260 participated in “I Can Paddle!” The DNR also exceeded its target of 1,000 trained Master Naturalists. The Master Naturalist program, a partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension, creates a network of skilled volunteers to help with natural resource projects and increase Minnesotans’ understanding and appreciation of the natural world.
DNR in 2012 worked to improve outdoor recreation for Minnesotans, broking ground on the new Lake Vermilion State Park near Tower. Also, the agency constructed 3.8 miles of the Gitchi-Gami trail and completed construction on the Agate Bay public access. Other projects include the McQuade safe harbor access shelter, a new Bear Head Lake state park trail center, and a new Paul Bunyan trail bridge over highway 197 in Bemidji.
In an effort to enhance hunter access to private lands, the federally funded Walk-In Access program completed its second year of the pilot program in 2012. At least 12,500 private acres of pheasant, small game, and deer habitat will be open for public hunting in 21 southwestern counties through 2015. The federal government also removed the wolf from the list of threatened and endangered species on January 27, 2012. Subsequently, the DNR initiated its first-ever regulated wolf harvest seasons after wolf legislation was included in the Game and Fish Bill signed by the governor. In response to longstanding hunter concerns about the negative impact on waterfowl regulations on hunting success, the DNR made a second round of significant changes to waterfowl season regulations, including zoned seasons and an earlier opener. Early reports indicate waterfowl hunters enjoyed a good season.