July 2005





The DNR is working with the University of Minnesota Extension Service to start a Master Naturalist program. What is it and how does a person become one?

The Master Naturalist program is a community-based natural-resource volunteer program that is open to any adult who is interested in learning more about the natural world. This program is different than the Master Gardener program as it will provide participants a broader based understanding of the state's natural environments. Those who sign up for the program will have the opportunity to be trained in any one, or all, of Minnesota's three biomes -- prairie, deciduous forest or coniferous forest. However, in order to be certified as a master naturalist, volunteers must complete 40 hours of training and a supervised sponsored outreach project. Following training, these conservationists will assist the DNR, the Extension Service and other partners with public outreach and management of the state's diverse natural environments. The first training session will begin this fall and focus on the deciduous forest, entitled "Big Woods, Big Rivers." Additional information is available at Minnesota Master Naturalist's website.

Dawn Flinn, DNR Stewardship Education Coordinator


Weedrollers have become a popular tool for eliminating unwanted vegetation along the shoreline, especially in the Brainerd Lakes area. What sort of problems do they cause for fish and water quality?

Mechanical devices, such as weedrollers, are commonly used to control aquatic vegetation in public waters and their use is regulated by the DNR through the issuing of permits. Not all sites are suitable for the operation of these devices, however. Although they can be an effective method of controlling vegetation, these machines can have a negative impact on lakes, which is an area of concern when it comes to lake management. The potentially harmful affects of the loss of aquatic plants are felt by a wide variety of species, including waterfowl, invertebrates, amphibians and fish. Specifically, weedrollers can decrease water clarity by displacing sediment and destroy fish spawning beds and nursery areas, and potentially impact recreational activities. Lakeshore owners should be aware of these tradeoffs when considering using such devices. A proper permit should be obtained before using any mechanical vegetation removal device.

Wayne Mueller, DNR Aquatic Plant specialist


In the natural resources and environment bill signed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty on June 30, it gives the DNR commissioner the option to classify state forests north of U.S. Highway 2 as "managed," which means trails are open unless posted closed. How will this affect trail use in these state forests?

The goal of state forest classification, regardless of their location, is to provide for managed use on managed trails. Since 2003, the DNR has classified forests as either "closed" or "limited." Some people mistakenly believe that, because of the bill, classifications for all state forests north of Highway 2 will always be "managed," and, thus, off-highway vehicles (OHV) use will remain the same. This is not the case. The DNR will work closely with counties and stakeholder groups prior to making forest designations, and those decisions will be made forest by forest. This process will clearly identify places to ride for motorized users, designate trails for non-motorized users, and close those trails that cannot be managed in an environmentally sustainable manner. In addition, the enforcement of OHV laws will continue to be a top priority to conserve Minnesota's natural resources and minimize user conflicts.

Brad Moore, DNR Assistant Commissioner


Earthworms make great fishing bait, but recent research has discovered that they are a threat to Minnesota's forests - making them an invasive species. What sort of damage do they cause?

It really is true that all of the terrestrial earthworms in Minnesota - including night crawlers - are non-native, invasive species from Europe and Asia. Invading earthworms eat the leaves that create the "duff" layer in forests and are capable of eliminating it completely. This layer is important to native plants and ground dwelling animals. Studies conducted by the University of Minnesota and forest managers show that at least seven species are invading our hardwood forests and causing a loss of tree seedlings, wildflowers and ferns. In areas heavily infested by earthworms, soil erosion and leaching of nutrients may reduce the productivity of forests and ultimately degrade fish habitat. However, many areas of the state are still free from earthworm disturbance. Because earthworms are non-native, it is illegal to release them into the wild, according to Minnesota Statutes 84D.06, which means anglers should dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

Jay Rendall, DNR Invasive Species Program coordinator