Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation conserves Wisconsin elk habitat

MISSOULA, MT - The Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation permanently protected key elk habitat in Wisconsin elk country by first acquiring and then conveying a 360-acre inholding to Jackson County Forest.
“This is a crucial transaction because it prevents the potential of development and fragmentation within an area that is vital to Wisconsin’s newest elk herd,” said Blake Henning, RMEF chief conservation officer. “It also both improves and increases public access for hunting, fishing and other outdoor activities.”
The Morrison Creek property is surrounded on three sides by the 122,000-acre Jackson County Forest and is located less than three miles east from where more than 70 elk were released in 2015-2016. The area also provides year-round habitat for black bear, whitetail deer, wild turkey and an array of other wildlife species.
The acquisition opens the door for improved wildlife management practices as well as habitat stewardship work designed to promote early seral habitat for elk and other wildlife.
RMEF previously supplied funding for a nearby grassland enhancement project to increase meadow habitat.

Snipe Lake II Project
RMEF also purchased an 80-acre private inholding within the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. The transaction, which builds on a prior acquisition in Wisconsin’s northern elk restoration area, permanently protects key elk habitat and is critical to future forest management efforts.
Since 1990, RMEF and its partners completed 455 conservation and hunting heritage outreach projects in Wisconsin with a combined value of more than $8.5 million. These projects protected or enhanced 5,848 acres of habitat and opened or secured public access to 1,630 acres.

SOURCE: Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation


Outdoor family events celebrate 10th anniversary of Legacy Amendment

A series of events celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment will take place throughout Minnesota in 2018.
The first of these events will be from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, at Silverwood Regional Park, 2500 County Road E, St. Anthony.
Adults and kids who attend the Parks and Trails Legacy Celebration at Silverwood Regional Park can try kick-sledding, ice fishing, a snowmobile simulator and other indoor and outdoor activities. Visitors can also hike among art sculptures throughout the park. Between activities, there will be s’mores and other light refreshments around a crackling bonfire.
“The passage of the Legacy Amendment was a game-changer for organizations working to support Minnesota’s outstanding system of parks and trails,” said Erika Rivers, director of the Department of Natural Resources Parks and Trails Division. “At this event, and the statewide events to follow, we will not only highlight what has been accomplished over the past decade with Legacy funding but, perhaps even more important, we will gather input from people throughout the state - adults and kids alike - to help shape priorities moving forward.”
Staff from the DNR, the Metropolitan Council and Greater Minnesota Regional Parks and Trails Commission will be on hand throughout the afternoon to lead activities and gather ideas.
Metro Transit is providing free rides to the event. Get a downloadable bus pass at www.legacy.leg.mn/ptlac/2018-regional-events.
Future Parks and Trails Legacy Celebration events are scheduled:
* Friday, April 27, 4-7 p.m., at the College of St. Benedict in St. Joseph.
* Saturday, May 5, 1-4 p.m. at the Red Baron Arena in Marshall.
* Friday, May 11, 4-7 p.m., at Hyland-Bush-Anderson Lakes Park in Bloomington.
* Saturday, May 19, 1-4 p.m. at 125 LIVE in Rochester.
* Saturday, June 2, 1-4 p.m. at Itasca State Park in Park Rapids.
* Saturday, June 16, 1-4 p.m. at Prairie Wetland Environmental Learning Center in Fergus Falls.
* Wednesday, June 27, 1-4 p.m. at Essentia Health Duluth Heritage Sports Center in Duluth.
For more information, visit www.legacy.leg.mn/ptlac.
For accommodations to participate, please contact Paul Purman at the DNR, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 651-259-5643.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Snowmobile season has definitely arrived

MADISON, WI - A rollercoaster of seasonal temperatures and changing snow levels have launched Wisconsin's early snowmobile season, prompting Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Snowmobile Administrator/Warden Gary Eddy to urge operators to review important safety tips to prepare for safe and fun rides.
"Snowmobilers really need to be careful because conditions for safe, early season snowmobile riding are just developing," Eddy said. "Riding conditions can become less than perfect at any time of the season, but you can almost always count on them being a bit tricky early in the season. Corners become icy, rough terrain and rocks may be exposed, road routes may be bare and ice conditions can be inconsistent."
Many northern counties have opened some or all of their snowmobile trails and snowmobile enthusiasts have been able to take advantage of some early-season riding. However, Eddy adds, many trails are in need of new snow to freshen conditions.

Here are Eddy's top tips for a safe and fun ride:
* Review the Wisconsin Snowmobile Regulation pamphlet at dnr.wi.gov, keyword snowmobile and make sure you have a valid trail pass and registration.
* Use of hand signals is voluntary, not mandatory. If you are inexperienced or uncomfortable giving a hand signal, don't! Focus on staying in control and to the right.
* Check trail conditions on Travel Wisconsin's Snow Report webpage or with local snowmobile clubs, ice conditions with local bait shops, clubs or sheriffs' departments.
* Use a safe and responsible speed based on the conditions to  experience, visibility, trail conditions and volume of riders.

Snowmobiling on frozen waters demands extreme caution for unique hazards, including open water areas and weak ice. Lack of adequate snow on the ice affects steering, braking and overall control.
Carry or wear a life vest, always ride with a companion and refrain from riding at night. Ask local fishing clubs and bait shops about waterways ice covers.
All operators at least age 12 and those also born on or after Jan. 1, 1985 are required to possess a valid, snowmobile safety education certificate to legally operate solo. Certificates issued by other states/provinces are honored. Learn more by visiting the dnr.wi.gov and searching keyword snowmobile safety.
Stay on marked trails and routes. Snowmobile clubs work hard to secure permission for trails on private property. Cutting corners or going off trail, upsets landowners and closes trails. Don't ruin the experience for others.
Practice "Zero Alcohol" which is a personal choice to not consume any alcohol while snowmobiling. Riders wait until they are done riding before consuming any alcohol.
Stay to the right hand side of the trail, especially on hills and corners. Taking the middle of the trail on hills or corners is highly unsafe, irresponsible and illegal.
For more safety tips, information on safety classes or to view a copy of the snowmobile regulations, visit dnr.wi.gov and search keyword "snowmobile."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR


Warm up to winter with family activities at Fort Snelling State Park

Winter may have gotten off to an especially cold start in 2018, but there are plenty of ways to enjoy what’s left of it.
For an introduction to snow sports, stop by the annual Winter Trails Day extravaganza at Fort Snelling State Park on Saturday, Jan. 20, between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Adults and kids can try cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, fat biking, ice fishing, quinzee (snow shelter) building and archery. Other activities will include ice harvesting, storytelling and an ice globe demonstration. Guided nature hikes will also take place every half hour, from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Between activities, visitors can enjoy hot cocoa around a crackling bonfire. Activities will be set up near the beach area.
“Winter Trails Day is about helping people warm up to winter,” said Kelli Bruns, park manager at Fort Snelling State Park. “The cold weather months are more fun when you find an activity you can enjoy alone or with others.”
This year, for the first time, sign-language interpreters will be on hand to help make the day’s activities more accessible to those with hearing disabilities. Stop by the registration tent for more information.
Winter Trails Day is made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the National Park Service, retail co-op REI, the U.S. Forest Service and Mississippi Park Connection.
Use of skis, snowshoes, fat bikes and other equipment will be free, but a vehicle permit is required to enter Minnesota state parks and recreation areas ($7 for a one-day permit or $35 for a year-round permit).

Save time, get your vehicle permit in advance
Although permits are available at the park, people attending Winter Trails Day can avoid waiting in line by getting their permit in advance. Visit www.mndnr.gov/reservations, log in (or create an account), click on “entry permit,” select a duration of “one-day” ($7) or “year-round” ($35), and continue as directed. You’ll receive an email with a permit that can be printed and displayed in your vehicle during your visit.
For more information, call the park at 612-725-2724 or visit the Fort Snelling State Park webpage at www.mndnr.gov.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Snowmobile safety awareness week set for Jan. 20-28

Here's an opportunity for the Department of Natural Resources, volunteer safety instructors, the Minnesota United Snowmobilers Association (MNUSA) and its 250 member snowmobile clubs to join together to recognize the importance of safe, responsible snowmobiling.
“It’s a fun and exciting activity, but snowmobilers should always remember to make safety a top priority,” said Conservation Officer Bruce Lawrence, DNR recreational vehicle coordinator. “They should also always use common sense and keep a clear head when riding.”
Here are some other key safety points:
* Snowmobiling and alcohol don’t mix - don’t drink and ride.
* Smart riders are safe riders – take a snowmobile safety training course.
* Always wear a helmet and adequate clothing.
* When night riding slow down – expect the unexpected.
* Know before the ride – always check local trail and ice conditions.
* Cross with care.
* Know risks and be prepared – make every trip a round trip.
* One is the loneliest number – never ride alone.
* Ride safe, stay on the trail – respect private property.
To legally ride a snowmobile in Minnesota, residents born after Dec. 31, 1976 need a valid snowmobile safety certificate. Options for both classroom and online classes can be found at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/snowmobile/index.html
People can find Minnesota snowmobiling events and activities on the MNUSA webpage: https://mnsnowmobiler.org/get-involved/mnusa/events.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR


Feeding deer can do more harm than good

MADISON, WI - Wisconsin's deer herd is faring well so far this winter as low snow levels have deer moving freely throughout the state.
Yet, the onset of snow and cold often turns people's thoughts to overwinter survival and a desire to feed deer and other wildlife. Residents should consider the negative impacts of wildlife feeding as well as alternatives that provide longterm benefits to help wildlife through a cold and snowy winter season.
"People want to see healthy deer on the landscape, but feeding is not the best solution," said Tim Marien, a wildlife health specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. "Improving habitat provides natural food sources that support deer and many other types of wildlife year-round."
Through the end of December, the Winter Severity Index tallied a small number of below zero temperature days, but is lacking the more stressful impacts of heavy snows. Even a mild Wisconsin winter can cause concerns, but deer and other wildlife commonly seen in Wisconsin adapt both physically and behaviorally to even the harshest winter weather. Animals with adequate fat reserves and good winter cover are more likely to survive.
"Deer start preparing for winter during the summer, when nutritious natural food sources are abundant," said Marien. "When winter arrives, they seek out shelter in stands of pine, cedar and fir that provide cover from snow and wind, and search for winter foods in the vicinity until spring."
However, some winters can overly stress individual animals, and this can reduce their chances of survival. Especially during hard winters, concerned people may turn to feeding to help deer through the winter. While this may have some benefit to individual animals, feeding often occurs on a scale too small to affect the overall condition of the deer herd. Feeding can also have a negative impact on deer, as it draws them out of winter range that offers the best food and cover to help deer conserve energy. Feeding also increases the risk of disease spread and severe digestive issues.
As a reminder, deer feeding is illegal in some counties in Wisconsin. Where it is legal, regulations restrict how much food may be placed and where. Feeding deer is also prohibited when elk and bear are using the site. For a full list of wildlife feeding regulations and what counties feeding is allowed, visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov and search "feeding regulations."
"Feeding restrictions are in place to protect the health and safety of both humans and wildlife," said Marien. "In areas where elk and bear are present, feeding can present a safety risk when these animals acclimate to people. Also, elk are susceptible to several diseases that deer carry, which can weaken the elk herds that Wisconsin has been working to grow over the past few decades."
Creating and improving habitat can give deer and other wildlife the resources they need during summer months and sustain them during the winter. Maintaining nutritious natural food sources, like oak, aspen and crabapple provide summer and fall food, while evergreen stands create winter cover and food for deer. Cutting trees and providing browse is a more natural food source and can also provide better cover in the long run. Good habitat fulfills the needs of many deer, rather than individuals.
A variety of resources are available to help landowners improve their land for wildlife, including the Deer Management Assistance Program, Young Forest Initiative and the Landowner Incentive Program.
More information on these programs and additional publications is available on the DNR website by searching keyword "landowner."


SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

New pricing structure begins on Wisconsin State Park System properties

MADISON, WI - A new demand-based pricing structure for Wisconsin State Park System properties will go into effect on Feb. 15, that is intended to encourage use and manage capacity while providing funds for property improvements that directly enhance visitor experiences.
There will be no increase in the annual admission fees to park system properties. However, daily admission fees will increase at three properties: Devil's Lake, Peninsula and Willow River state parks.
Devil's Lake daily admission fees will increase $5, with resident daily fees going from $8 to $13 and non-resident daily fees going from $11 to $16.
Daily fees at Peninsula and Willow River will increase $2, with resident daily fees going from $8 to $10 and non-resident daily fees going from $11 to $13.
Camping rates will be adjusted across the system based on demand, by both increasing and decreasing camping rates. Depending upon campsite type and time of year, some properties will experience both a rate increase and a rate decrease. The average camping fee increase will be $3 per night and will range to a high of $7 at Devil's Lake and Peninsula on electrical sites during summer weekends. The greatest camping fee decrease will be $5 per night.
"We believe this new pricing structure will help us better manage the demand we're seeing at some of our highly used properties while encouraging use at our lesser visited properties." said Ben Bergey, director of the Wisconsin State Park System.
The 2017-2019 state budget set new rates and authorities for the DNR including the ability to adjust camping rates from the base rates set in statute and the ability to adjust daily admission fees from the base rates set in statute, at all properties. Also included in the budget is a $5 increase on all electrical campsites at Devil's Lake, Peninsula, Kohler-Andrae, High Cliff, and Willow River.
Also authorized in the 2017-2019 state budget, the park system plans to re-invest $2 million in user fees to fund property improvements, including the electrification of an additional 200 campsites at different campgrounds throughout the system including Big Bay, Blue Mound, Buckhorn, Copper Falls, Devil's Lake, Governor Dodge, Harrington Beach, Hartman Creek, High Cliff, Interstate, Lake Kegonsa, Mirror Lake, Nelson Dewey, Pattison, Peninsula, Perrot, Potawatomi, Wildcat Mountain, Willow River and Wyalusing. They will also fund technology improvements at parks and the addition of electronic pay stations at various properties.
Other improvements will be made at a number of properties throughout the state, and may include new fire rings, picnic tables and grills; graveling and grading campsites; and repairs and improvements to facilities, entrance roads and parking.
Under a separate funding act (Act 71) approved by the legislature, the park system will complete $4.5 million in water and waste water infrastructure improvement projects at various state parks across the state, including the replacement of vault toilets, a camper dump station at Peninsula State Park and replacement of water infrastructure at Devil's Lake State Park.
Implementation of the new rate structure will begin on Feb. 15, 2018. For more information about the Wisconsin State Park System, search for keyword "parks."

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR