DNR Question of the Week Archive





Money raised through mineral leases and timber sales is deposited in the school trust fund. What schools benefit and what is the money used for?

The money raised from the sale of school trust fund land is invested directly into the Permanent School Fund account. In fiscal year 2005 - July 1, 2004 to June 30, 2005 - more than $16 million - $11 million from iron ore taconite leases and $5 million from timber sales - was added to the account, bringing the principal balance to about $600 million. Only the interest or dividends generated by the principal is allocated for educational purposes. That money, which makes up a part of the overall funding the state appropriates for K-12 education, is used to pay staff salaries and other operating expenses in individual school districts. The first deposit into the school trust fund was made in 1862, four years after Minnesota became a state.

Tom Baumann, DNR Forest Management supervisor, and Kathy Lewis, attorney, transactions manager


Lake levels rise and fall naturally. However, lately a number of lakes have dropped dramatically. What is the cause of this?

For lakes without rivers feeding into them precipitation, is almost everything. As groundwater levels decline, land locked lakes experience a drop water level. Below normal rainfall during the summers of 2004 and 2005, and the effects of above normal evaporation, resulted in declining water levels. In July 2005, rainfall totals ranked among the lowest on record for many locations in central and northern Minnesota. Duluth finished as the fourth driest July on record, which dates back 135 years. While stream flows in west central and northwestern Minnesota remain high, stream flows in east-central and northeastern Minnesota are low. This follows the pattern of precipitation, and therefore, even reservoir lakes (river inlets) are experiencing water level declines. It can take a series of years for some land locked lake levels to rebound from moderate drought conditions. Groundwater levels must rebound before lake levels will respond. Given the cyclical nature of lake water levels in Minnesota, rest assured that lakes will return to levels more within the normal range of ups and downs. Current and historic lake level information is available from the DNR at www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind.

Mike Peloquin, DNR Waters Northeast Regional manager


Scientific and Natural Areas (SNAs) are lesser known for their recreational opportunities unlike Wildlife or Aquatic Management Areas. What do they provide?

SNAs offer significant recreational opportunities for nature observation, photography and hiking. These sites are unrivaled by other public lands in Minnesota because of the unique wildflowers and rare plant and animal species that call these places home. In fact, many of these species can only be found on SNAs. There are also more than 40 SNAs that permit some or all forms of hunting. More than 85 percent of the acreage set aside in the SNA program is open to this type of activity. However, motorized vehicles are not permitted, and erecting tree stands and cutting vegetation for any purpose is prohibited. The intent of SNAs is to protect and enhance the unique features of the sites.

Bob Djupstrom, Scientific & Natural Areas Program supervisor


How did Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, the official magazine of the DNR, get its name?

The name Minnesota Conservation Volunteer stems from the magazines original purpose. It became the official publication of DNR in 1940, known then as the Minnesota Department of Conservation. The intent was to help mobilize an army of "conservation volunteers" throughout the state. Readers were encouraged to take a pledge to support by word and deed all aspects of conservation. Early issues of the magazine featured a card that Conservation Volunteers could clip and carry with them in their wallets. Sixty-five years later, the magazine still relies on volunteers. It has 135,000 subscribers and is funded solely by reader donations, which pay for the entire cost of producing and printing the magazine, including shipping, staff salaries and other expenses.

Kathleen Weflen, Minnesota Conservation Volunteer editor-in-chief


DNR Question of the Week Archive