DNR Question of the Week Archive





There has been a lot of talk in recent months about the need for forest stewardship plans on public and private lands. What are they and why are they important?

Forest Stewardship plans are management strategies written for private forest landowners. A DNR forester starts by meeting with a landowner to discuss goals, and writes a plan for management of the property based on those goals. This plan includes a map of the property as well as an inventory of the trees and shrubs and other significant features on the land. Because private landowners own 40 percent of Minnesota's forestlands, good forest management practices on these lands is necessary to protect the water quality, wildlife habitat and cultural and scenic resources in the state. Forest landowners with 20 or more acres may request a Forest Stewardship plan from their local DNR Forestry office. There is no charge for the service.

Doug Anderson, DNR community and private forest lands supervisor


How does the money invested in the Environmental & Natural Resources Trust Fund benefit Minnesota's natural resources?

The Trust Fund provides money for a wide variety of projects such as the Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) program, which protects critical fish and wildlife habitat and related recreational opportunities. Money allocated for RIM projects matches private funding raised by private citizens and groups to acquire land for wildlife management areas and aquatic management areas, restore wetlands and native prairies, and preserve habitat for rare plant and animal species. Trust Fund dollars enables researchers to identify more effective natural resource protection and management strategies, and collect data that helps develop natural resource policy. Money from the Trust Fund is also used for public education, and to increase awareness and understanding of natural resources. Forty percent of the net proceeds from the Minnesota State Lottery are deposited into the Trust Fund. The money allocated from this account may only be used to fund projects of long-term benefit to Minnesota's environment and natural resources. It must supplement, not replace, traditional sources of funding.

Kim Hennings, DNR Wildlife land acquisition coordinator


Late summer and early fall large numbers of loons were recently spotted gathering on a number of lakes. However, they were not feeding and not fighting; they appeared to be partying. Why is this? Is this part of the fall migration?

Loons are territorial when they are nesting and raising chicks. But starting in mid-summer, groups of non-mated loons, or loons that were unsuccessful with nesting, begin to gather and move around between lakes. I call these groups "loon parties" because they are indeed socializing and not fighting. Sometimes the loons will circle and actively interact. As the summer wanes on, these groups get larger and blend into the pre-migratory behavior of gathering on larger lakes. In September, many adult loons that successfully raised chicks leave those lakes, and their chicks, to join the loon groups. In 1998, loon counts completed on Mille Lacs and Winnibigoshish lakes documented a peak of more than 1,500 loons on each lake in mid-October. The loons then fly south to the ocean for the winter, leaving in late October and November.

Pam Perry, DNR Nongame Wildlife specialist, Brainerd


How do I know if my trees have a disease or are affected by the drought?

A simple way to distinguish whether a tree is diseased or is affected by drought is to look at its neighboring trees. During a drought, all trees will be affected to some degree and show similar symptoms. If it is a disease, neighboring trees are usually unaffected. Visible drought symptoms include premature and dull leaf color in the autumn, and early leaf fall. Invisible symptoms are often below ground, which will not be apparent until next year. Severe water shortage can damage the root system, decrease tree vigor, and reduce buds. Watch carefully next spring for late leaf-out, small leaves, twig dieback, and the creation of epicormic sprouts on the main stem. Additionally, drought-stressed trees may attract opportunistic pests, such as Two-lined chestnut borer, Pine engraver beetles, and Armillaria root disease. Keep watering your trees until the ground freezes, and then continue watering them in the spring. Also, avoid fertilizer applications now and in 2007 because they stimulate leaf formation, and put more stress on the already drought-stressed trees.

Jana Albers, DNR forest health specialist, Grand Rapids


A telltale sign winter is approaching is the ongoing wildlife activity. Although birds migrate to warmer climates, many wildlife species stay put, including the creepy, crawly, and slithery critters. What do reptiles and amphibians do to prepare for winter?

Because Minnesota's 50 species of amphibians and reptiles are unable to migrate south to escape the wrath of winter, these cold-blooded animals seek out sites during the fall that will meet their over-wintering needs. Strategies for surviving the inevitable chill are interesting and varied. Some species of salamanders, toads, lizards and snakes seek safety underground, traveling deep into rock crevices or small mammal burrows to escape the frost line. Some frogs, turtles and snakes seek refuge in aquatic habitats where they stay submerged throughout the winter. Wood frogs and members of the treefrog family are truly hardcore. They nestle beneath a thin blanket of leaves on the forest floor, freezing solid. They protect their vital organs by creating their own antifreeze. These frozen frogs do not breathe or have a pulse, yet recover quickly when spring returns. Amphibians and reptiles typically have settled in by late October. However, global climate change could alter seasonal patterns in animals whose activities are so closely linked to temperature.

Carol Hall, DNR herpetologist


DNR Question of the Week Archive