Flooding closes parts of Fort Snelling State Park

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has closed significant areas of Fort Snelling State Park due to flooding.
The park - one of Minnesota’s busiest, and a popular local destination for hikers, bikers, and birders - is located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Minnesota rivers, which are both experiencing rising waters from the spring thaw.
Most facilities within the park are closed and key park locations, including Picnic Island and Pike Island, are not accessible. Various trails are underwater and the main park road is currently closed just past the beach, limiting parking options and access to the park. As with all state parks, accessible portions of Fort Snelling State Park remain open for day use during Gov. Tim Walz’s Stay at Home order.
“We know how eager folks are to get outside and do their social distancing in nature now that spring has finally arrived, so reducing access in response to seasonal flooding is particularly difficult this year,” said Fort Snelling State Park manager Nadine Meyer. “But our first priority is ensuring the safety of the public and our staff, so these are steps we have to take.”
Other recreational facilities around the state also have been impacted by melting snow, heavy rain and flooding. Some roads and trails in state forests, state parks, recreation areas and wildlife management areas will be closed temporarily because they are not firm enough to support vehicle traffic without causing damage.
Some spring flooding and thaw-related closures could remain in effect until sometime in May, depending on weather conditions. People should check the DNR’s closure webpage for current conditions before visiting.
As a reminder, during the Stay at Home order visitors to state parks and other public recreation lands are urged to:
* Stay as close to home as possible.
* Practice social distancing (stay at least 6 feet from people from other households).
* Explore the range of nearby public lands available to avoid overloading busy areas.
* Visit early or late in the day, when there are fewer people.
* Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
* Stay home if sick.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Gov. Evers closes 40 state parks, recreation areas due to COVID-19

Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers has closed 40 state parks, forests and recreational areas to address public health concerns during the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Social distancing was challenged last weekend at Devil's Lake State Park. On Thursday, Evers directed the Department of Natural Resources to close the parks due to "unprecedented crowds, litter, vandalism and out of an abundance of caution to protect public health and safety and help flatten the curve," according to a statement.
Evers had originally left such parks open to allow residents places for outdoor recreation, as many other options are limited due to his order to close down essential businesses and ban mass gatherings.
Crowds were robust last weekend at Devil's Lake State Park near Baraboo. The state's busiest state park, along with several other state parks and several natural areas near well populated areas were ordered by Evers closed beginning Friday.
“Unfortunately, growing difficulty with ensuring social distancing compliance, dwindling cleaning supplies and mounting trash are some of the challenges faced by our state parks staff," Evers said in the statement. "We have to address the growing public health and safety concern and protect Wisconsinites.”
Evers added that additional parks may close if the public does not follow social distancing guidelines or if vandalism continues.
"We know there are benefits to getting outdoors, DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole said in a statement. "By not doing this would put people's lives at risk. With the weather warming we are seeing increases in visitors and a myriad of challenges surrounding social distancing. In order to the protect the public, this is a necessary step."
The DNR reports that several state parks have witnessed record attendance since the outbreak began. In last weekend alone, High Cliff had more than 16,000 visitors, Lapham Peak saw more than 11,000, Kohler-Andrae had more than 8,400, more than 7,600 people visited Devil's Lake, Richard Bong had nearly 4,000 visitors, and at Mirror Lake, more than 2,800 people visited.
Harrington Beach had more than 3,600 visitors over the weekend, and more than 5,600 estimated visitors so far this month. Over the last 12 years, Harrington Beach saw an average of 9,695 visitors in the month of April, according to the DNR.

Areas that have been closed
Aztalan State Park
Belmont Mound State Park
Big Foot Beach State Park
Blue Mound State Park
Cadiz Springs State Recreational Area
Capital Springs State Recreational Area
Cross Plains State Park
Dells of The Wisconsin River State Natural Area.
Devil’s Lake State Park
Fenley State Recreational Area
Gibraltar Rock State Natural Area
Governor Dodge State Park
Governor Nelson State Park
Harrington Beach State Park
Havenwoods State Forest
High Cliff State Park
Kettle Moraine State Forest Lapham Peak
Kohler-Andrae State Park
Lake Kegonsa State Park
Lakeshore State Park
Loew Lake
Lower Wisconsin Riverway
Mackenzie Center
Mirror Lake State Park
Mukwonago River
Natural Bridge State Park
Nelson Dewey State Park
New Glarus Woods State Park
Northern Unit
Parfrey’s Glen State Natural Area
Pewits Nest State Natural Area
Pike Lake
Richard Bong State Recreational Area
Rocky Arbor State Park
Sauk Prairie State Recreational Area
Southern Unit
Tower Hill State Park
Wyalusing State Park
Yellowstone Lake State Park

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR

DNR seeks comments for Nolte Family Irrigation Project

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is accepting public comments through May 6, on an environmental assessment worksheet for the Nolte Family Irrigation Project in Wadena County. The area is located within the Pineland Sands Area of central Minnesota.
Timothy Nolte proposes to begin irrigation of 303 acres of land, previously managed as private timberland, for livestock grazing and commodity and staple crop production. The land is currently used for non-irrigated crops and livestock grazing. The project would also complete the conversion of the remaining standing timber and stumps on the land to irrigated agricultural land.
The land would be cultivated and three groundwater-supplied center pivot irrigation systems would be installed.
On Aug. 29, 2019, the DNR determined this project may have the potential for significant cumulative environmental effects associated with nitrate contamination of groundwater. As a result, the DNR ordered preparation of an environmental assessment worksheet.
This decision was made after considering a citizen’s petition requesting an EAW for continued potato field expansion that includes forest-to-field conversions, chemical applications and water appropriations in and around the Pinelands Sands Area.
A copy of the EAW is available on the project page.
Additional copies may be requested by calling 651-259-5168.
The EAW notice was published in the April 6, EQB Monitor. Written comments on the EAW must be submitted no later than 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, May 6, to the attention of Jill Townley, supervisor, Environmental Policy and Review Unit, DNR Ecological and Water Resources Division, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4025.
Electronic or email comments may be sent to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with “Nolte EAW” in the subject line. Written comments may also be sent by fax to 651-296-1811.
People who submit comments will receive a copy of the decision document, which includes responses to comments. Because all comments and related information are part of the public record for this environmental review, commenters' names and email or postal addresses will also be published and publicly available as they appear in the materials they submit.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Be aware of bears this spring

As bears emerge from hibernation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds homeowners to check their property for food sources that could attract bears.  
“April is a good time to walk around your property to remove or secure anything that could attract a bear,” said Eric Nelson, wildlife damage program supervisor for the DNR. “Taking action now to avoid attracting bears can help you prevent a season-long problem.”
As bears emerge from hibernation, their metabolism gradually ramps up and they will begin looking for food at a time when berries and green vegetation are scarce. People should remove or secure attractants such as birdseed, garbage, livestock feed, or compost to reduce potential conflict.
Black bears are the only bear species that live in the wild in Minnesota. Bears are more common in the forested region of northern Minnesota, but can live anywhere in the state if they find an area of suitable habitat. They usually are shy and flee when encountered. Never approach or try to pet a bear. Injury to people is rare, but bears are potentially dangerous because of their size, strength and speed.

Avoid bear conflicts by following these tips:
* Around the yard.
* Any time you feed birds, you risk attracting bears. Avoid feeding birds from April 1 to Nov. 15.
* If you still wish to feed birds, hang bird feeders 10 feet up and 4 feet out from the nearest trees. Use a rope and pulley system to refill bird feeders, and clean up spilled seeds.
* Do not put out feed for wildlife (like corn, oats, pellets or molasses blocks).
* Replace hummingbird feeders with hanging flower baskets, which are also attractive to hummingbirds.
* Do not leave food from barbeques and picnics outdoors, especially overnight. Standard coolers are not bear-proof.
* Clean and store barbeque grills after each use. Store them in a secure shed or garage away from windows and doors.
* Elevate bee hives on bear-proof platforms or erect properly designed electric fences.
* Pick any fruit left on trees from last fall and collect any fallen fruit promptly.
* Cover all compost material added during the winter by turning the piles or covering with leaves, shavings, manure or other composteable material. If you compost household food scraps, consider securing it with an electric fence.
* Harvest garden produce as it matures. Locate gardens away from forests and shrubs that bears may use for cover.
* Use native plants in landscaping whenever possible.
* Store pet food inside and feed pets inside. If pets must be fed outdoors, feed them only as much as they will eat.

* Store garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or dumpsters. Standard rubber or plastic garbage cans are not bear-proof.
* Keep garbage inside a secure building until the morning of pickup.
* Properly rinse all recyclable containers with hot water to remove all remaining product.
* Store recyclable containers, such as pop cans, inside.

More bear information
* People should be cautious around bears and give them space. If bear problems persist after cleaning up food sources, contact a DNR area wildlife office for advice. For the name of the local wildlife manager, contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or find wildlife area office contact information on the DNR website.
* The DNR does not relocate problem bears because doing so does not resolve the underlying problem, which is often unsecured attractants provided by people. Relocated bears generally become a problem somewhere else.
* For more information, visit the DNR website. Additionally, the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies has information online at bearwise.org.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Minnesota chooses new Outdoor Recreation Task Force members

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and Explore Minnesota have named members to the new Outdoor Recreation Task Force.
The 20-person task force, which is set to meet via WebEx for the first time on April 28, represents a broad swath of outdoor recreation interests in the state.
“Engaging this group of individuals is truly a unique opportunity for collaboration,” said DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen. “I am confident that this group is ready to think creatively and develop ideas that will ensure Minnesota continues to be a national leader in outdoor recreation.”
The DNR and Explore Minnesota, in partnership with the Governor’s Office, selected task force members out of a pool of 140 applicants.
The agencies reviewed applications and considered the needs of the task force through several lenses, including the variety of interests that are directly or indirectly related to outdoor recreation, such as non-motorized and motorized outdoor activities, economic development and tourism, health, education, and diversity, equity and inclusion. Other selection factors included type of outdoor organizations, such as nonprofits, manufacturing, retail, advocacy and volunteer-run groups in addition to diversity in race and ethnicity, gender, age, and geography.
“I think the team assembled here is robust and represents a wide variety of industries, organizations and perspectives that we need to continue elevating Minnesota’s outdoors as a national and international destination,” said Explore Minnesota Director John Edman. “Now more than ever, our great outdoors are vital to the well-being of Minnesotans and we hope this group will delve into how we can meet those demands.”
The first meeting is scheduled for April 28, via WebEx with an opportunity for the public to observe and send questions or comments.
Meetings will continue remotely until risks of COVID-19 have dissipated, after which the task force will meet in-person, with the public welcome to attend.
Interested members of the public may stay updated on task force meetings and progress by subscribing to email updates and visiting the webpage at mndnr.gov/ortf. Information about meeting specifics for April 28, and how to login to the WebEx will be posted on the website shortly.

Minnesota Outdoor Recreation Task Force Members
* Reinaldo Aponte, adventures director, The Loppet Foundation.
* Mary Bauer, registered nurse, VA Medical Center, representative of the Minnesota Canoe Association and Minnesota Ski League.
* Steven JR Burke, director of government affairs, Polaris.
* Elliot Christensen, tobacco prevention coordinator, Lower Sioux Indian Community.
*Megan Christianson, executive director, Visit Grand Rapids.
* Katy Friesz, corporate responsibility, Winnebago Industries.
*Matt Gruhn, president, Marine Retailers Association of the Americas.
* Aaron Hautala, Cuyuna Lakes Mountain Bike Crew.
* Breanne Hegg, vice president, programs for Girl Scouts River Valleys.
* Joe Henry, executive director, Lake of the Woods Tourism.
* Hansi Johnson, director, Recreational Lands for Minnesota Land Trust.
* Greg Lais, founder, director, Strategic Initiatives.
* Perry May, director at large, All-Terrain Vehicle Association of Minnesota.
* Sarah Milligan-Toffler, executive director, Children and Nature Network.
* Mark Norquist, founder, Modern Carnivore.
* Stephen Regenold, founder and publisher, GearJunkie.com.
* Mollika Sajady, DO, MPH, University of Minnesota Health.
* Naomi Sam, coordinator and director, Cultural Resources for the Mille Lacs Band DNR.
* Asha Shoffner, founder, Fiwygin Outdoors.
* Steven Voltz, store manager, REI Roseville.
For more background information, see previous news release detailing the purpose of the Outdoor Recreation Task Force.                                                                         

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

USDA targeted culling complete in southeastern Minnesota

The DNR has completed its work with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services to perform targeted culling of deer in localized areas where chronic wasting disease has been detected in wild deer in southeastern Minnesota.
Reducing deer densities in these areas reduces the risk of disease spreading, and all deer are tested to give more information about the prevalence of disease in the area.
Of the 463 deer culled in February and March, seven tested positive for CWD. A map of the areas of focus is available on the southeast disease management zone webpage.  
For the 2019-2020 season, including hunting, opportunistic testing and culling, CWD was confirmed in a total of 36 wild deer out of 18,540 tested. Since 2010, 88 wild deer have been confirmed positive for CWD in Minnesota. Test results, including locations of confirmed positive test results and statistics, are available on the DNR website.

SOURCE: Minnesota DNR

Leave wild animals alone this spring, summer

MADISON, Wis. - Spring and summer are when people encounter wild animals the most. Wisconsin's Keep Wildlife Wild initiative urges people to call a licensed wildlife rehabilitator or the Department of Natural Resources before assuming a wild animal is orphaned or in need of assistance.
Under Gov. Evers' Safer at Home order, wildlife rehabilitation by licensed professionals is considered an essential service. To protect the health and safety of the professionals who provide this care to wild animals, many wildlife rehabilitators may need to modify and limit how that care is provided.
This year, it is more important than ever to call your local wildlife rehabilitator before assuming a wild animal needs help. Visit the Keep Wildlife Wild webpage to find contact information for a wildlife rehabilitator in your area. Learn more about the Keep Wildlife Wild listen to our Off The Record: Wild Wisconsin podcast.
If you come across a baby wild animal that appears to be alone, observe from a distance and give the animal some time to be reunited with its mother. Most often, a young animal seen alone is not truly orphaned and it is in fact under the care of its mother. Many of these situations resolve on their own when a young animal and its mother have time and space to be reunited. Remember to call first if you think a wild animal needs assistance.
"Young rabbits are left alone in their nest, concealed by grass or vegetation. The mother returns to feed her young and then leaves to keep predators away," said Amanda Kamps, DNR Wildlife Health Conservation Specialist. "Young raccoon are often seen playing in trees or yards without their mother, but she is nearby. Fledgling songbirds leave nests without parental supervision and before they are capable of full flight. Fawns are born with spots and very little scent to hide them from predators. A fawn found lying still and by itself should be left alone. Even if you do not see the mother, she is likely nearby and keeping a close watch."
By keeping wild animals in their natural environment, everyone in Wisconsin can protect wildlife welfare and assist rehabilitation centers in this time of need.
Here's what you can do:
* Observe wild animals from a distance.
* Know where to find Keep Wildlife Wild resources and information about wild animal natural behaviors.
* Know how to determine if a bird, mammal, or fawn is in need of assistance.
* Never attempt to handle or rehabilitate a wild animal on your own.
* Contact a wildlife rehabilitator if you have questions or think an animal needs assistance.
* Monitor pets when they are outdoors.
* Be careful with yard work to avoid disturbing a wild animal den or nest.
* Cover window wells, use chimney caps, seal up spaces to prevent animals from getting into these spaces.
* Make potential food items, like pet food and garbage, inaccessible to wild animals.
* Stay alert for wildlife on roads.
* Be careful if trapping and relocating adult wild animals so you do not unknowingly separate wild animal parents and their young.
"These are all things that people can do year-round, but in spring time with young wild animals being born, it's important to do what we can to keep wild animal families together," said Kamps. "People should resist the well-intentioned temptation to interact with a young animal they think is orphaned, because human interaction may do more harm than good."
The Keep Wildlife Wild initiative works to help prevent orphaned or injured wildlife situations. Please do your part to help Wisconsin's wildlife and the licensed wildlife rehabilitators in this time of need. Remember, a young wild animal's best chance of survival is with its mother.

SOURCE: Wisconsin DNR