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.
Q: What is the DNR doing to reverse the decline in the number of youth interested in fishing?
A: The DNR has taken a variety of approaches to this societal trend in which children and families are participating at reduced levels in fishing, hunting and many other outdoor pursuits.
The MinnAqua fishing and aquatic education program publishes a state-of-the art guide (Fishing: Get in the Habitat!) for teachers and youth leaders who want to teach angling, aquatic ecology and stewardship to youth. Through educator workshops and mentoring, MinnAqua is developing providers of high quality aquatic education programs throughout Minnesota.
The Fishing in the Neighborhood program in the Twin Cities metropolitan area was developed to increase access by stocking ponds and other small bodies of water fish to create urban angling opportunities that previously did not exist. Additionally, the DNR pushed to reduce barriers to fishing in Minnesota state parks by eliminating the need for a license and offering "I Can Fish!" instructional clinics.
Finally, the agency is working with national and state organizations to encourage families to try fishing as a way to relax and enjoy the out-of-doors.
Minnesotans will have a chance to do just that Feb. 18-20 as part of Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend. During that weekend, anglers 16 and older do not need a fishing license if they are accompanied by a child younger than 16 and are actively participating to introduce a kid to fishing.
More about Take a Kid Ice Fishing Weekend is at http://www.mndnr.gov/takeakidicefishing.
-- Roland Sigurdson, DNR MinnAqua education specialist
Q: I recently saw a bald eagle sitting on the edge of a nest. Isn't it pretty early in the year for eagles to be nesting? And if they are, how far away from the nest should I stay so as not to disturb the birds?
A: The first week in February is typically the time to look for bald eagles returning to their nests in Minnesota. However, since many bald eagles do not migrate, they may show up at their nests even earlier. Much more tolerant than previously thought, bald eagles are now nesting in urban areas. To avoid disturbing nesting eagles, when observing with non-motorized recreational activity, it is best to maintain a respectful distance of about 330 feet away.
-Lori Naumann, information officer, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program
Q: Minnesota has a number of species on the state’s list of endangered, threatened and special concern species. How far have we come in helping to protect and re-establish these populations? Are we close to removing any from these lists?
A: Minnesota has a total of 96 endangered, 101 threatened and 242 special concern species. The management and recovery of Minnesota's listed species is a major responsibility of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
Recovery over the past decade of high-profile species such as the gray wolf, trumpeter swan, peregrine falcon and bald eagle are testimony to the effectiveness of the endangered species laws and the DNR’s species management efforts. Additional populations of some listed species, such as the threatened Blanding's turtle, have been discovered. The endangered Higgins eye pearly mussel has a brighter future thanks to captive breeding and subsequent release into restored habitats. Active management programs are also underway for recovery of the Karner blue butterfly, timber rattlesnake, Topeka shiner (minnow), and many other plant and animal species. As some species rebound, others, such as the piping plover, continue to decline due to a loss of habitat.
Federal funds and private landowners are key to the success of many programs. Donations to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff on state tax forms are used to match federal wildlife grant and endangered species funds to protect Minnesota's endangered and threatened wildlife species.
- Rich Baker, DNR endangered species coordinator