May 2005

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.






Summer is a busy time for landscaping projects and planting trees. What is the proper way to plant a tree to ensure that it will survive and grow to its full potential?

The most common threat to the survival of newly planted trees is desiccation - not getting enough water. When planting a tree, the first thing property owners need to do is dig a hole big enough to accommodate all of the roots; no roots should be exposed. Once the tree is in the hole, the roots should be arranged so that they are in as near a natural position as possible to avoid root deformities that could weaken the root system. After the tree is in place be sure to refill the planting hole so that there are no air pockets and all of the roots are covered with soil; it is important to maximize soil-root contact to ensure trees get the moisture and nutrients they need. Finally, be sure that the tree gets plenty of water, but not too much because it should not be in standing water. Following these steps should give all trees a great jumpstart on a long and healthy life.

Rick Klevorn, DNR Silviculture Program Coordinator


It is recommended that public and private landowners refrain from mowing in roadside ditches until Aug. 1. Why?

Roadside ditches, which make up approximately half-million acres of the state's total land area, are highly productive nesting sites for more than 40 kinds of birds and animals that nest on the ground or in low vegetative cover. Wildlife that nest in these areas include pheasants, gray partridge, rabbits, waterfowl and songbirds. Because each species has its own nesting habits – when and how many times per year they rear young – this habitat type receives continuous use from spring until late summer. Unfortunately, thousands of nest and nest sites are destroyed annually in southern and western Minnesota due to mowing, off-highway vehicle traffic, agriculture encroachment and blanket spraying. These disturbances can occur at any time, but they have the most impact during the month of June when hens are on the nest raising young. Planting native vegetation would help alleviate nest disturbances because a ditch would not need to be hayed until crops are harvested at the end of the nesting season. Native plants once established reduce the presence of weeds and are better suited for producing wildlife.

Pete Schaefer, DNR roadsides for wildlife technician


Minnesota lawmakers recently passed a lifejacket law requiring kids under 10 years old to wear a lifejacket while in a boat. What are the reasons for and specifics of the new law?

Children not wearing a life jacket in a serious boating accident where they enter the water have a greatly reduced chance of survival. Because they're not as strong as adults, their swimming skills are limited, hypothermia occurs much faster in a smaller body mass, and kids are generally less able to deal with the physical and emotional stress of an emergency situation. The new law requires children under 10 years old to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved life jacket when boating unless they are in a commercial vessel with a licensed captain, or the boat is anchored and being used as a platform for swimming or diving. DNR conservation officers have been rewarding kids who they observe wearing their life vests with a certificate for a free Dairy Queen treat. That program will continue this summer.

Tim Smalley, DNR Boat & Water Safety Specialist


Safety is always a concern when out on the water fishing or just enjoying one of Minnesota's thousands of lakes and rivers. With the 2005 fishing season upon us, what do boaters need to remember about early season boating?

When getting ready for the opener, many people give more thought to what kind of sandwiches they should pack for lunch than they do about boating safety. It is important for people to remember that early in the season, although the air temperature may be 70 degrees, most of the bodies of water are still in the 30s and 40s. Even the strongest swimmer can become quickly incapacitated by cold water and suffer hypothermia. This means it is especially important to make sure everyone not only has a lifejacket but also wears one. Make sure navigation lights are all in proper working order, and be sure to use them between sunset and sunrise. Also, be sure the boat registration decal is current and check air pressure on trailer tires. Pack a spare and make sure the axle bearings are freshly greased. Finally, it is a good idea to leave the alcohol at home. Many of the boating accidents that result in injury, or worse, are the result of intoxicated boaters.

Tim Smalley, DNR Boat & Water Safety Specialist


Every summer parents are looking for ways to get their children out of the house and enjoying the outdoors. What sort of volunteer opportunities does the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have for children to participate in?

Children may volunteer for the DNR in a variety of ways. According to the Minnesota Child Labor Standards, children under the age of 16 are welcome to do family volunteering with their parents or a legal guardian, or volunteer with an organized youth group under adult supervision. Children 16 years and older may be eligible to volunteer on their own if they meet the volunteer position qualifications. Volunteer opportunities vary throughout the state. They include planting trees, clearing trails, monitoring bluebird houses, collecting prairie seed, cleaning rivers and playing Smokey Bear at the State Fair. All volunteer positions are available on the DNR Web site , or by calling DNR Volunteer Programs at (651) 259-5249 or toll free 1-888-MINNDNR (646-6367). Opportunities depend on the season.

Renee Vail, DNR Volunteer Programs Coordinator


DNR Question of the Week Archive