March 2004

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.






Many landowners use ATVs strictly for agricultural-related purposes, where the machines never leave their property. Do they need to purchase a three-year license for their ATVs?

Regardless of where they're operated, all ATVs must be registered in Minnesota. However, landowners using ATVs solely for agricultural activities or harvesting wood, or exclusively on private property, can purchase a permanent registration sticker for their machine instead of the public use license, which has to be renewed every three years. The cost for the permanent license is a one-time fee of $14.50 and is valid until the ownership of the ATV is transferred. The private use registration license is not transferable. Additional licensing requirements for ATVs and other Off-Highway Vehicles can be found in the 2003-04 Off-Highway Vehicle Regulations handbook, or on the DNR's Web site at

Steve Michaels, DNR License Bureau supervisor


Spring is the time of year when the threat of wildfire is usually high. What can homeowners in rural and urban areas do to protect their property?

Homes in both rural and urban areas near wild lands such as a forest, field or swamp are at the highest risk of wildfire, especially during the spring. In fact, now is an excellent time for all property owners to prepare for the potential of wildfires. The key is to remove anything on or near buildings that is flammable. This includes: trimming back branches that hang over buildings before mid-April; cleaning rooftops and gutters of leaves, needles and other debris; removing dead vegetation from foundation shrubbery and flower beds; relocating the firewood pile, lumber pile or other flammable materials at least 30 feet away from any buildings; and raking the lawn to remove dry thatch and leaves that could carry a fire from the woods to your home. Rather than burning this debris, start a compost pile or take it to a community compost site. Most wildfires in Minnesota are caused when the burning of debris piles escape control. For more information on making your home safe from wildfire, visit the DNR Firewise Web site at

Dave Schuller, DNR Firewise Communities specialist


There have been changes to the reservation system for camping in Minnesota State Parks. What is it campers need to know when making their reservations?

Minnesota State Park customers now are able to reserve group camps and campsites in horse campgrounds by phone or online in addition to regular camping and lodging accommodations. Group camp reservations can be made from three days up to a year in advance for locations in 51 state parks. Horse campground sites, which are located in eight state parks, can be reserved from three to 90 days in advance. All reservations will be charged a non-refundable reservation fee of $8.50 in addition to the first night's camping fee. For complete reservation information, contact the DNR Information Center for a free brochure or check the DNR Web site at

Steve Anderson, DNR Parks operations coordinator


There has been a lot of discussion recently about winter fishkills taking place in lakes in southern Minnesota. What sort of impacts can this "natural occurrence" have on lakes?

Lakes that have excessive populations of undesirable fish species, such as carp and black bullhead, a winterkill can knock back these populations. That is a good thing, since these fish tear up aquatic vegetation while looking for food and stir up lake bottom sediment - blocking sunlight needed by aquatic plants and impairing water quality. But winterkills are not selective in which species of fish are affected - walleye, panfish, bass and northern pike are also susceptible. Winterkills occur when prolonged snow cover on lakes prevents sunlight from reaching aquatic plants, which depletes the amount of oxygen available for fish. These natural occurrences can be an inexpensive way to rehabilitate a lake if a total kill is achieved, whereas a partial winterkill may only exacerbate the current problem. The end result of a winterkill can lead to improved habitat and food sources for fish and better fishing opportunities for anglers. Shallow lakes are the most susceptible to winterkills.

Huon Newburg, DNR regional fisheries manager, New Ulm


One of the sure signs of spring is when tree sap begins to run and the spring tradition of maple syrup making begins. What determines when and how tree sap runs and what is the process that turns sap into syrup?

Maple sap runs best when daytime temperatures are in the high 30s to mid-40s and overnight temperatures are below freezing. This cycle of above-freezing days and below-freezing nights needs to continue for several days, although nature has been known to occasionally provide a good run under less perfect conditions. Some sap may flow as early as late January or as late as May, but the typical time for a ?good? sap run in Minnesota is March 15 to April 20. Sap is converted to syrup by boiling off most of the water content of the sap, which leaves the sugar and flavor behind. It usually takes 30-40 gallons of sap from a sugar maple to produce one gallon of pure maple syrup.

Dave Crawford, Wild River State Park naturalist


DNR Question of the Week Archive