Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Minnesota DNR lists agency accomplishments during past year

A welcome sight in May was that of sturgeon spawning in the Red River Basin, where species restoration efforts have been concentrated for several years. (Photo courtesy of Minnesota DNR)

St. Paul — Throughout 2022, the Minnesota DNR made progress toward fulfilling its mission, as well as the goals and priorities outlined in its strategic plan.

Below is an overview of key accomplishments in several strategic priority areas.

These examples illustrate some of the many ways in which the DNR works with Minnesotans to fulfill its mission to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources, to provide outdoor recreation opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life.

Chronic wasting disease

In 2022, the DNR continued to work aggressively to manage chronic wasting disease by implementing new strategies, expanding partnerships, and working with hunters to conduct disease surveillance.

One new management strategy in 2022 was the use of mail-in kits for CWD testing. These kits allowed participating hunters throughout the state to collect their own CWD samples and mail them in to be tested.

The DNR also expanded its partner sampling program, which allows hunters to work with local taxidermists to collect CWD samples. This year’s network of more than 80 taxidermist partners encompassed the entire state.

When it came to the management of captive white-tailed deer, DNR conservation officers inspected more than 90 facilities. Sixty-one of those were inspected in conjunction with the Board of Animal Health as part of the department’s concurrent management authority.

Red River Basin sturgeon restoration

In May 2022, DNR Fisheries staff recorded the first verified lake sturgeon spawning event in the Red River Basin in more than 100 years. Between 1880 and 1930, lake sturgeon were extirpated in the Red River Basin by overfishing, habitat fragmentation, and declines in habitat quality.

In 1997, the Minnesota DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, White Earth Nation, Red Lake DNR, Rainy River First Nations, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, and Canadian partner agencies began a lake sturgeon-reintroduction program, including habitat enhancements and fish stocking. The habitat work was funded, in part, through the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Amendment passed by Minnesotans in 2008.

The 2022 spawning event marks a major milestone as DNR and partner agencies
work toward the final restoration goal of re-establishing
self-sustaining lake sturgeon populations in the Red River Basin.

St. Louis River Area of Concern

The DNR, in collaboration with the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior
Chippewa, Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, and Wisconsin DNR,
achieved a significant milestone in the St. Louis River Area of Concern.

The estuary in the Duluth/Superior area is the confluence of the St. Louis
River with Lake Superior and the largest freshwater estuary in North
America.

During the past 100 years, a legacy of historic commercial uses of the estuary disrupted and altered natural habitats.

The DNR and its partners worked with interested groups and residents to
develop a set of management actions to address the legacy contamination
and degraded habitat. The DNR anticipates addressing the remaining
impairments by 2030, which could then lead to the area being removed
from the list of most polluted sites on the Great Lakes.

Goose Prairie Marsh Project

Construction is under way on the Goose Prairie Marsh Enhancement Project, which will
provide water-level management of a 200-acre shallow lake within the
Goose Prairie Wildlife Management Area in Clay County.

The goals of the project are to improve wetland wildlife habitat, improve
water quality, and reduce the risk of downstream flooding. The Wild Rice
Watershed District and the DNR have been cooperatively planning this
project since 2013.

Outdoor recreation safety

The DNR endeavors to connect people to the outdoors, and help them recreate
safely, regardless of the activity. One way to do this is by providing
safety training and messages to Minnesotans each year.

To date, the DNR’s Enforcement Division and volunteer instructors have
certified more than 1.5 million students in firearms safety. Due to
concern about people putting themselves in dangerous situations by
swimming in fast-moving waters, the DNR’s Enforcement, Ecological and
Water Resources, and Parks and Trails divisions worked with county
rescue teams to produce a swift-water rescue video.

And in response to increased numbers of people recreating on ice, the
Enforcement Division created a new ice safety coordinator position and
hired a full-time staff person to fill the role.

Wolf management plan update

The DNR’s update to Minnesota’s Wolf Management Plan incorporates the
diverse views of Minnesotans and guides the state’s approach to wolf
conservation for the next 10 years. This multi-year effort included
extensive engagement and outreach during the course of the updated
plan’s development.

From its conception, the diverse viewpoints of Minnesotans were incorporated using a variety of strategies. The DNR received more than 4,500 separate comment
submissions that conveyed diverse attitudes regarding wolf management.
All of these efforts culminate in the updated Wolf Management Plan,
finalized in December 2022.

Commissioner’s ‘office hours’

The DNR Commissioner’s Office continued to host live and in-person “office hours” in 2022.

Each monthly, hour-long event focused on a timely and relevant natural
resources, conservation, or outdoor recreation topic. This year’s events
included topics such as 2022 legislative priorities, investing in
Minnesota’s outdoor resources, the importance of volunteers,
accessibility to the outdoors, and the DNR’s role in managing our water resources.

Office hours will continue in 2023.

First DNR environmental justice coordinator

DNR’s Forestry Division recently hired an environmental justice coordinator,
one of a small cohort of “tree equity specialists” across the country.

This position is building relationships with marginalized communities to
advance their tree canopy equity goals, guide DNR resources to support
shared community forestry priorities, and identify gaps in workforce
development programs to increase opportunities for underrepresented
populations in forestry careers.

Habitat management for moose
Much DNR research has focused on moose and their longterm survival. The species – and researchers – recently received a significant boost in funding for more studies. (Photo by Bob Drieslein)

Moose are an iconic species in Minnesota, with particular importance to the
tribal nations in northeastern Minnesota. Moose are also significantly
at risk. In fact, Minnesota’s moose population has declined about 50%
over the past 20 years due to a host of overlapping issues, including climate change.

The DNR has been working to understand and stop this decline for more than
two decades. In 2022, this effort received a significant boost in the
form of a $400,000 competitive “America the Beautiful” grant awarded to
the DNR. The grant will fund a collaboration among the DNR and tribal,
federal, state, local, and non-governmental partners to identify and
overcome challenges facing large-scale moose habitat restoration in
northeastern Minnesota.

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