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Cool weather does not mean strong ice

March 24, 2014

by Chris Schultz

From the DNR

As snow continues to melt, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reminds winter recreationists that ice in the Twin Cities metro area is deteriorating rapidly.

“While we have had temperatures in the 20s or 30s that does not mean the ice on a lake, pond or river is safe,” said Kara Owens DNR boat and water safety specialist.

Right now the ice around the metro is in the melting stage and thickness levels vary from area to area, she said.

Many metro area lakes are still ice covered, but both the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers have open water.

The recent snowfall does not mean safe ice either. Snow weighs down on the ice and insulates the ice, preventing cold air from getting through.

So far this winter (November to April), two people have died from falling through the ice or in open water compared to six ice fatalities last winter (2012-2013).

On Jan. 23, a 38-year-old ice fisherman died after he broke through the ice on the Minnesota River in Scott County.

Less than a month later, on Feb. 15, an ice fisherman died after falling into open water inside his spearfishing house on Maple Lake in Polk County.

“The bottom line is it‘s crucial that people do not let their guard down and recognize ice is never 100 percent safe,” Owens said.

For more information on ice safety, visit www.dnr.state.mn.us/safety/ice/thickness.html.

Winsted Sportsmen’s Club to offer firearm safety classes

The Winsted Sportsmen’s Club will be offering firearm’s safety classes starting Monday, April 7.

To sign-up, attend the first class Monday, April 7 at the Blue Note Ballroom. The class runs from 5 to 6 p.m.

You must be 12-years old by Sept. 1, 2014 to register for the class – adults are welcome.

The class runs for three weeks. If you have any questions, contact Steve Fiecke at (320) 485-2434 (after 4 p.m.).

CRDU banquet set for Mon., April 14

The annual Crow River Ducks Unlimited banquet will take place Monday, April 14 at 5 p.m. at the Blue Note Ballroom in Winsted.

LPSC to offer firearm’s safety training this spring

The Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club will be offering firearms’ safety training this spring, every Tuesday and Thursday in April.

The first class and registration night is Tuesday, April 8 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Lester Prairie Sportsmen’s Club.

Classes, which are on Tuesdays and Thursdays, will be April 10, 15, 17, 22, 24, and 28.

The test will be Tuesday, May 6. The test for the online course is Saturday, May 3.

All classes begin at 6:30 p.m.

For additional information, contact Doug Minnick at (320) 395-2143.

Deadline approaching for seasonal and montly camping reservations at MN state parks
From the DNR

Campers should act now to reserve one of the few campsites available at Minnesota state parks for stays longer than a week or two, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

At a limited number of state park campsites, visitors can stay for a month or a full season. Reservations are due by Tuesday, April 1.

For pricing and other park-specific information, or to submit a request to reserve a site, prospective visitors can call the phone numbers listed below or check the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov (www.dnr.state.mn.us/state_parks/extended_stay.html).

Six Minnesota state parks have monthly and seasonal openings for camping in 2014.

• Myre-Big Island State Park (507-379-3403) in Albert Lea will offer monthly or seasonal camping at four campsites, three of which have electric hook-ups.

• Lac qui Parle State Park (320-734-4450) in Montevideo will offer monthly or seasonal camping at three electric campsites and one with a full hookup to water, sewer and electricity.

• Upper Sioux Agency State Park (320-564-4777) in Granite Falls will offer monthly or seasonal camping at two campsites, both of which have electric hook-ups.

• Big Stone Lake State Park (320-839-3663) in Ortonville will offer monthly and seasonal camping at two sites with an electric hookup.

• Kilen Woods State Park will offer monthly and seasonal camping at three sites with electric hookups. Call Phil Nasby at 507-831-2900, ext. 225.

• Rice Lake State Park (507-455-5871) in Owatonna also may have sites available.

Seasonal and monthly camping is available from May 23 to Aug. 31 at Kilen Woods State Park and from May 2 to Aug. 31 at the other parks.

If demand exceeds availability at a particular park, a lottery will be conducted on Friday, April 4, and the park will notify applicants whether or not they were selected.

If sites are available after this date, they will be administered on a first-come, first-served basis.

No preference will be given to monthly or seasonal campers from prior years.

For monthly campsite reservations, the entire monthly fee is due by Friday, April 18.

For seasonal campsite reservations, a one-month down payment is due by Friday, April 18, and the remainder of the seasonal fee is due when visitors arrive to check-in.

If a lottery is not necessary and sites are available after April 4, the monthly fee must be paid at the time of reservation to hold the site.

DNR reminds ATV operators to steer clear of road ditches in the agricultural zone
From the DNR

With warm weather on the way, many all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders are anxious to hit the trails, but the Department of Natural Resources reminds riders to be aware of riding restrictions in some parts of the state due to wet conditions or closures.

Between April 1 and Aug. 1, Minnesota law prohibits ATVs from riding in ditches in the agricultural zone, that is, the area of the state south of a line that runs roughly from Moorhead to Taylors Falls along Highway 10 and Highway 95. The area roughly covers the southern half of the state.

“During these four months, ATV riders need to stay out of the road ditches completely in the agricultural zone,” Lt. Leland Owens, DNR recreational vehicle coordinator said. “In addition to the law prohibiting ATV use, those road ditches provide some of the only nesting habitat available in places.”

The ATV restriction does not apply to grant-in-aid trails or to ATVs registered and used exclusively for agricultural purposes.

Owens said that in addition to potentially disturbing wildlife, ATVs in wet road ditches can cause erosion problems and even, in some cases, damage the roadbed itself.

As they do each spring, the DNR will need to temporarily close some state forest roads and trails to ATV operators due to wet conditions.

All off-highway vehicle riders are encouraged to check on trail conditions and temporary closures before planning riding trips to prevent damage to forest roads and trails.

Trail condition information is available at www.mndnr.gov (www.dnr.state.mn.us/current_conditions/index.html) or by calling the DNR Information Center at (651) 296 6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367.

The DNR will also post signs at entry points and at parking lots in state forests.

DNR encourages homeowners to burn vegetative debris early
From the DNR

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages homeowners to dispose of vegetative debris before the snow melts and fires spread more easily.

Vegetative debris includes downed trees and branches, grass clippings and leaves.

Getting rid of this debris is especially important with large woody debris piles in areas that experienced storm damage over the last couple of years.

Burning these piles when there is no snow cover can pose a serious threat for spring wildfires due to flying embers and smoldering coals these fires generate.

When there is less than 3 inches of snow, state law requires people to get a permit to burn and to activate the permit daily for open fires other than campfires.

Permits are available online at www.mndnr.gov (www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/questions.html), from local fire wardens, community/city offices or from DNR area forestry offices.

Traditionally, most wildfires in Minnesota occur in April and May.

“Because of the high fire danger between snow melt and spring green up, the DNR restricts burning activities during that time,” said DNR Fire Prevention Coordinator Larry Himanga.

Fire danger increases when the snow melts and winds dry the dead standing grass and brush.

At that time, local DNR wildfire managers will restrict burning permits in their areas.

Spring fire restrictions cover large areas of the state; open burning will be drastically limited until summer green up occurs.

Because more than 95 percent of Minnesota wildfires are caused by human error, the restrictions have resulted in a dramatic decrease in both the numbers and sizes of accidental fires, Himanga said.

The restrictions are weather dependent, but normally last from four to six weeks until sufficient green vegetative growth occurs.

Although the DNR has not set the date for restrictions to begin, they are likely in the southern part of the state in a couple weeks.

Check the DNR website burning restrictions page for the latest information at: www.dnr.state.mn.us/forestry/fire/firerating_restrictions.html.

Although there may still be snow on the ground today, the DNR urges caution when burning debris piles.

Attend fires at all times and make sure a fire it is out and cold to the touch before leaving.

This will require stirring or spreading ember piles.

Use water to put out the fire when possible.

Large piles can hold hot embers for days, weeks, or even months.

Escaped fires from debris piles endanger homes and property every year.

If an escaped fire requires the DNR or a fire department to put it out, the homeowner is responsible for the costs.

The safest way to dispose of yard waste is to recycle or compost it. Many communities have chipping or composting areas.

CO weekly report
From the DNR

• CO Brian Mies (Annandale) checked anglers this past week.
CO Mies gave a law talk at a turkey clinic in Kimball.
CO Mies worked on fish house info on area lakes, and also checked sleds.

• CO Rick Reller (Buffalo) gave presentations to Youth Firearms Safety Classes in Waverly and Buffalo this past week.
CO Reller followed up on several fish houses either left on the lake or on public accesses.
Litter complaints were also investigated on area lakes.
Enforcement action was taken for no trapping license, improperly marked traps, past deadline on fish house removal and no angling license.

• CO Mitch Sladek (Big Lake) worked fishermen on area rivers and lakes.
He issued summons for taking fish by snagging on the Mississippi River.
He assisted with locating a fish house owner that was storing it on a public access.
He followed up on a report of an injured swan.

• CO Jen Mueller (Hutchinson) investigated a large amount of Canada geese dumped in a dumpster at the Outpost in Hutchinson.
She took a call of shots fired off the road in the middle of the night.
Mueller did some commercial checks in the Hutchinson area and aeration checks were completed on local lakes.
Mueller also took updated DWI training.

• CO Brett Oberg (Hutchinson) followed up on phone calls related to coyote hunting activity.
Coyote hunting activity was worked in the area.
Snowmobiling and fishing activity in the area were down due to poor snow and ice conditions.
A road kill otter call was also handled.