April 2008

The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.






National Volunteer Week is April 27-May 3. Each year thousands of people volunteer their time to help the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and other organizations, with a variety of projects. What sort of volunteer opportunities does the DNR have to offer?

Volunteer opportunities vary across the state from assisting with wildlife research to cleaning rivers to playing Smokey Bear at the State Fair - just to name a few. Right now the DNR is looking for volunteers to help count loons, search for rare wildflowers, catch and identify dragonflies, conduct nighttime listening surveys of frogs and toads, monitor bluebird trails and plant trees at selected State Parks, cut back brush on state trails, spread mulch and plant native vegetation as part of a shoreland restoration project, and help high school students build wood duck and kestrel nest boxes.   All volunteer positions can be found on the DNR website at www.dnr.state.mn.us by clicking on the word “Volunteering” or by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296-6157 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367). Children under 16 years of age must have adult supervision to volunteer. Opportunities are changed on a seasonal basis.

- Renee Vail, DNR Volunteer Programs administrator


As the snow melts in the spring, and during lengthy periods without rainfall, the DNR issues fire restrictions. Is there a difference between a restriction and burning ban?

Burning restrictions involve the issuing of burning permits. Burning permits are required for running fires, such as a grassy ditch or field, or piled vegetative debris. When restrictions are in place, permits are only issued for management or prescribed burns, or special burns such as construction companies burning trees and brush cleared from roads. Burning bans, which are issued by the DNR commissioner, prohibit other types of fires. For example, bans may disallow campfires completely or restrict them certain hours of the day. They may also restrict any fire outdoors, including smoking and barbeque grills. Bans are only imposed when extreme fire conditions have existed for a long period of time.

- Jean Bergerson, Minnesota Interagency Fire Center information officer


Spring is the time when wildlife babies are born. What should people do if they find what appears to be an abandoned wildlife baby, or see a baby bird that fell out of its nest?

The arrival of spring also means the arrival of newborns and just-hatched wildlife. These youngsters soon venture into the world on shaky legs or fragile wings. All too often, well-meaning people pick up animals, particularly white-tailed deer fawns and young birds, believing that these animals have been orphaned or abandoned and need to be saved. This is almost never the case, because the parents are usually waiting nearby. In fact, a would-be rescuer is causing more harm than good to the young animal. Those early unsteady steps and flights are part of normal development, helping the young learn how to care for themselves. So, it's important for people to remember that wild animals belong in the wild. If you care - leave them there!

- Lori Naumann, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program


How important are the snowmelt and spring rains to Minnesota's ground water supply?

Snowmelt and rainfall during the spring months are the primary sources of replenishment for the ground water system in Minnesota. While a great deal of the melted snow and spring rain will run off into lakes and rivers, some of it infiltrates to the ground water system as soon as frost leaves the soil. Water stored as ground water gradually flows into rivers and lakes through springs and seeps, helping to maintain river and lake levels. Most of the summer precipitation is taken up by growing vegetation or is evaporated. As plants go dormant at the end of growing season, a portion of fall rains can infiltrate the subsurface and also replenish ground water. Ground water supplies 75 percent of Minnesota's drinking water and nearly 90 percent of the water used for agricultural irrigation.

- Jan Falteisek, DNR hydrogeologist



DNR Question of the Week Archive