March 2013

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: When I think of spring, I think of making maple syrup. What conditions produce the best sap output?

A: During March, I watch the long-range weather forecast. When an extended period of warm daytime temperatures are predicted to reach the upper 40s or higher, and nighttime temperatures fall below freezing each night, the trees will break dormancy and sap will flow. Then I need to have my equipment ready to start tapping.

In northern Minnesota we rarely get steady weather patterns, so we may get a few days of sap flow followed by none. Warm mild days with little wind that reach well above freezing in the morning and nights that dip into the mid-20s will produce the strongest prolonged flow. If that pattern holds for a week or more that’s great sap flow weather. In northern Minnesota this weather traditionally comes at the end of March into mid-April. But since it is so weather dependent every sugaring season is unique.

-John Fylpaa, DNR park naturalist, Lake Bemidji State Park



Q: I've seen a number of cars with loon license plates on them. How popular are the plates and how is the money generated by their sales used?

A: The loon plate, since its introduction in 2005, has been the most popular critical habitat plate. Today in Minnesota, there are 107,059 critical habitat license plates on the roads, 30,867 of which are the loon design.  

The money from the sale of these plates goes to buy and manage land that is important for public use. Sometimes the land is for hunting, hiking, wildlife watching or all of the above.  These lands will be preserved for their unique qualities and for a valuable public purpose.

-Lori Naumann, information officer, DNR Nongame Wildlife program



Q: With the potential for a severe wildfire season this spring, is there anything people can do to protect their homes and cabins?

A: Late winter is the best time to prune trees. Look at the trees and shrubs within 100 feet surrounding the cabin or house. Eliminate ladder fuels by pruning 6 to 10 feet up from the ground. Thin out evergreen trees so their branches are 10 feet apart. Maintain a 10-foot space between the crowns of those trees. Clean roof and gutters of any pine needles, leaves or debris. Prune off any tree branches that may be touching the house. Move any wood piles outside of the 30-foot zone surrounding the cabin or house. Make sure that chimney has a spark arrestor. Now, while the snowpack is still here, burn brush piles. Remember, people need a burning permit if there is less than 3 inches of snow on the ground. Check with a local forestry office for more information or go to

-Linda Gormanson, regional firewise specialist



DNR Question of the Week Archive