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News from the DNR

Artists can find stamp contest rules online

Artists can find the rules and deadlines for contests that decide what artwork will be on fish and wildlife stamps featuring trout and salmon, waterfowl, pheasant, walleye and turkey. Sale of these stamps supports fish and wildlife habitat work. The stamps can be purchased in combination with a hunting or fishing license, or as collectables.

Artwork entry dates are as follows:

Trout and salmon stamp: Monday, July 20, to 4 p.m. Friday, July 31

Walleye stamp: Monday, July 20, to 4 p.m. Friday, July 31

Waterfowl stamp: Monday, Aug. 24, to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 4

Pheasant and turkey stamp: Monday, Sept. 21, to 4 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2.

For more information and contest guidelines, visit mndnr.gov/stamps, or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367.

Harvesting hay and grazing cattle on state lands helps DNR manage grassland habitat while also helping farmers

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture have joined forces to help connect the state’s cattle farmers in need of additional forage to DNR area wildlife managers needing to manage grassland habitat. Research over the last two decades shows that grassland wildlife and pollinators respond positively to well-managed haying and grazing.

For many years, the DNR has used its conservation grazing and haying program to manage grasslands for the benefit of wildlife. This also produces forage from DNR managed lands, such as wildlife management areas, for cattle farmers.

COVID-19-related disruptions at meat packing facilities have caused farmers to hold on to cattle longer than normal. As a result, some farmers have larger herds and are running out of feed. These changes put additional pressure on an already low statewide forage stockpile. Recognizing the opportunity to help address this need while also advancing management objectives on DNR grasslands, this summer DNR staff are working to publicize haying and grazing opportunities and streamline the process for farmers.

“The DNR is eager to partner with Minnesota cattle farmers and demonstrate the value grasslands bring to local communities,” said Dave Olfelt, DNR Fish and Wildlife Division director. “We know we can help local farmers while using haying and grazing to help us manage grassland habitat for wildlife and pollinators.”

Haying and grazing activity on WMAs is timed to avoid nesting and fall hunting seasons. Haying and grazing are done in such a way that substantial areas are left undisturbed and each WMA has good fall and winter cover. Typical hay leases are about 30 acres in size, a small portion of most WMAs.

The two state agencies worked together to update and improve information about haying and grazing opportunities on DNR lands. Cattle farmers who need additional forage are encouraged to email their DNR area wildlife manager to discuss options in their area. Area wildlife managers’ contact information can be found on the Conservation Grazing Map (link is external) on the MDA website.

“Grazing and haying can be a valuable tool in grassland wildlife conservation,” Olfelt said. “This is a win-win for both conservation and agriculture.”

Groundwater sampling planned for Kandiyohi County Groundwater Atlas

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will collect water samples from about 90 wells in Kandiyohi County this summer for use in the Groundwater Atlas of Kandiyohi County.

Select owners will be contacted by mail or phone for permission to sample their wells. Sampling involves collecting a water sample from an outside location for laboratory analysis. Participation is voluntary and owners will receive a report of the laboratory results.

Wells are selected based on geology, location, well depth and well construction. Property owner participation will help create county maps and descriptions of groundwater distribution, movement, conditions, and the pollution sensitivity of aquifers. The final products will be available as printed maps, reports, and geographic information system (GIS) files available on the web.

The atlas can be used to help identify viable water sources, evaluate supply, identify recharge sources and flow, manage sustainability, guide decisions for well and septic system construction, assist in well-head protection for public water supply, and assess pollution sensitivity and likely contamination migration.

County atlases are produced in two parts over the course of several years. Part A covers the geology of the county, and was completed for Kandiyohi in 2019 by the Minnesota Geological Survey. Part B will expand on this information to cover the hydrogeology (groundwater) using the new county well-sampling data. The DNR expects completion in 2022.

The County Atlas program is funded in part by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources. Funding also comes from the Clean Water Fund, which receives 33 percent of the sales tax revenue from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by voters in November 2008.

Reporting fish die-offs helps the DNR and others respond when needed

Anyone who finds several or more dead fish in a lake or stream can help by reporting these fish die-offs, which happen occasionally and usually result from natural causes.

“It can be unsettling and concerning to find a number of dead fish,” said Tom Burri, limnology consultant with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources who deals with water quality issues related to fisheries. “We hope people will help us out by reporting dead fish right away so we can determine if an investigation is needed.”

People should call the state duty officer at 651-649-5451 or 800-422-0798 to report fish die-offs. Doing so provides a single point of contact for the incident. The point of contact is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week. An early report also allows timely water samples or other response actions to be taken if needed.

If there is an immediate threat to life or property, call 911 first. For general information requests, people can also contact area DNR fisheries offices, but this is not the best way to report fish kills.

Bacteria a common culprit

One University of Minnesota study estimated that 500 fish die-offs happen each year in Minnesota.

In spring and summer, groupings of dead fish are usually the result of a common bacterial infection referred to as columnaris. Columnaris tends to affect fish as water temperatures warm and fish are stressed from the energy they spent on spawning. Columnaris infections can kill sunfish, crappies and bullheads, and occasionally, largemouth bass and northern pike.

Most fish diseases and infection issues found in nature tend to be concentrated in fish of a specific species and size range. In contrast, when an individual observes dead fish of vastly different sizes and from multiple species, human activity is a more likely a cause.

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