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: With a winter chill in the air, folks are getting ready to ride their snowmobiles. What are the educational requirements for the legal operation of a snowmobile?
A: Current statute requires anyone born after Dec. 31, 1976 to take a safety-training course before operating a snowmobile on public lands or waters. Two types of youth courses are available for students 11-15 years of age. The first is the traditional eight-hour course, which meets two or more times for classroom-style training. The second is a CD-based course that can be completed at home. Both courses require a field day, which includes content review, a final exam and a hands-on riding performance test.
Those riders who are 16-years-old and older and need snowmobile safety training can study and complete the CD-based course; a hands-on performance test is not required.
Both of these introductory courses are designed for youth or riders with little or no experience. The courses show students the most common causes of snowmobile accidents in Minnesota, and how to avoid them. Trained volunteer instructors teach classes across the state.
Information regarding snowmobile safety certification classes can be found on the DNR's website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/vehicle/snowmobile.
--Capt. Mike Hammer, DNR Enforcement Division education program coordinator
Q: Now is the time of year when most property owners are considering pruning their trees. Removing unwanted branches improperly and at the wrong time of the year can stress and damage the tree. When and how should trees be trimmed?
A: The best time of the year to prune trees is in the fall after the leaves have fallen from the tree. Most of the energy that the tree has produced over the year has been sent down to the roots for storage, so removal of unwanted branches will have a lesser impact on the health of the tree. When removing a branch, make sure not to cut into the branch collar (tissues where the branch meets the trunk), and don’t remove more than one-third of the live crown of the tree.
The USDA Forest Service has a pamphlet that describes proper pruning techniques. It is available on their website at http://www.na.fs.fed.us/spfo/pubs/howtos/ht_prune/prun001.htm.