CHANGING AND EXPANDING THE USE OF SCIENTIFIC AND NATURAL AREAS (SNA) TO MORE PUBLIC USE AND RECREATION

May 6th, 2013

According to internal documents, the Commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources and the Director of the (DNR) Division of Ecological & Water Resources in May 2012 directed the SNA Program to implement programmatic changes to the long standing legislative purposes and use of Scientific and Natural Areas.

Sources have stated that the primary factor that initiated this effort was the “threat” by the Outdoor Heritage Council (OHC) to withhold all funding to SNA if the program didn’t open more if not all SNAs to all hunting, trapping and fishing. Although legislation pertaining to the use of Outdoor Heritage Funds does limit new acquisitions to lands that are open to hunting, the use of OH funding for habitat enhancement is permitted on any land irrespective of whether or not hunting is permitted. (See LSOHC Amendment below)

The DNR Commissioner through the Director of the Division Ecological & Water Resources directed the SNA Program to implement a process to allow additional public recreational uses of SNAs.

The intention of this effort for most SNAs, is to open them to as many public uses as possible, starting with all hunting (hunting, trapping and fishing). Some forms of hunting include placing traps or bait, as in bear hunting, which could lead to disturbance of the area by digging or depositing foreign material on the site, like buckets of old donuts or frosting and dragging logs and other heavy debris over the bait to preclude raccoons and other scavengers from eating the bait before bears discover it.  Hunting disturbs animals that are integral elements of the ecological communities protected on SNAs.

By legislation, the SNA Program was established first and foremost to protect and perpetuate natural native communities, and secondarily to promote public use, education and research opportunities- and only if these activities can be done without disturbance to the natural communities.

This DNR effort currently underway has no biological basis and  is contrary to Minnesota Statute and Rules which state up front that the SNAs are ‘established to protect and perpetuate in an undisturbed state those natural features, etc…’ and secondly that they ’shall be administered to preserve, perpetuate and protect from unnatural influences…’, and finally that ‘physical development shall be limited to the facilities absolutely necessary for protection, research, and educational projects…and…for interpretive services.’ (See the actual statute wording and reference below) Historically, the SNA Program has held public hearings to open a specific SNAs to hunting based on biological reasons e.g. deer depredation. The effort currently underway, though contemplating site specific hearings, is intended to hold hearings on every SNA, with the goal of opening as many SNAs as possible to hunting and other recreational uses e.g. trails. Unfortunately, individual hearings do not let the public know that the entire purpose and uses of the entire system of SNAs is being changed.

DNR has not discussed this programmatic SNA system change with legislative committees nor vetted this effort through partner organizations and agencies (e.g. non-profits who work on SNA such as Great River Greening and Friends of the Mississippi River; Trust for Public Lands and the Minnesota Land Trust who work closely with SNA to protect suitable lands). Even other DNR Divisions such as Fish and Wildlife & Parks and Trails; or even other programs within Ecological & Water Resources such as the County Biological Survey (the CBS ecologists are responsible for identifying most of the areas that become SNAs) were not made aware of this change in DNR policy until October 2012.

It is hoped that individual members of the Minnesota Native Plant Society will contact their legislators with these concerns as the effort that has been implemented will gut the purpose of SNAs statewide.

2013 Bioblitz

May 6th, 2013
Coldwater BioBlitz June 14-15, 2013
bioBlitz_web_logo(1).jpg

BioBlitz is a 24-hour survey in which the public helps scientists find all the plants and animals at a specific location. Part scientific endeavor and part educational event, Minnesota BioBlitz brings together scientists and volunteers in a race against time. The National Park Service, Mississippi River Fund, and the Bell Museum of Natural History are working together to organize this year’s BioBlitz.

BioBlitz scientists use sonar detectors, bug lights, and live traps to count and chronicle an area’s flora and fauna. BioBlitz 2013 will take place at Coldwater Spring, a new national park site within the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area. This BioBlitz will provide a crucial baseline of information about the varieties of fish, fungi, insects, birds, and plants living within the 92 acres of Coldwater and surrounding parkland and riverfront.  Since late 2011, the National Park Service demolished a dozen abandoned Bureau of Mines buildings and has been restoring the property to a natural green space.

Volunteers of all ages and skill levels can take part, working alongside scientists to collect plants and insects and live-trap animals, which are identified before being released back into the wild.

All events are free of charge and open to the public. All participants need to check-in at the main tent at Coldwater Spring’s parking area. For more details about the BioBlitz schedule of events, check www.missriverfund.org

(http://www.missriverfund.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={4B9E70BE-6A15-48C6-A6C4-556B689CA5BF})

New Bell Museum and Planetarium Funding

April 11th, 2013

The Minnesota House Capital Investment Committee released its draft bonding bill in the past few days.  The list includes bonding for a new Bell Museum and Planetarium that would be built on the southwest corner of Larpenteur and Cleveland Avenues on the St. Paul campus.  This project has the potential to greatly increase STEM education and outreach.

Please consider contacting your legislator to voice your support for this project.  Asking for your legislator’s support within the next 24-48 hours is critically important.  Here are resources to help you follow through on this request:

Proposed updates to the Minnesota’s List of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species list

January 14th, 2013

If you have not heard yet, the MN DNR has made proposed updates to the Minnesota’s List of Endangered, Threatened and Special Concern Species list. This is a list that is supposed to be updated every ten years, with the last update well past that date, having last been revised in 1996. The proposed revisions are posted online at http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ets/rulesrevision.html. This page also lists the associated hearings dates and locations. The only metro hearing will take place on the evening of February 7th, which conflicts with our monthly meeting.

Bell Museum bioblitz

May 4th, 2012

2012 Bioblitz Update

The 2012 Minnesota Bioblitz will take place during the 24 hours from 5:00pm Friday June 10 through 5:00 pm Saturday June 11 (plants will be covered on Saturday during 9:00am through 4:30pm). The focus of this year’s survey will be the Cedar Creek Ecological Preserve in East Bethel.  If you (and friends) are interested in participating please let me know.

As always the idea of the Bioblitz is to get a snapshot of diversity, both native and exotic, within an urban area.  The public’s involvement has been vital to the success of this event in the past and I hope you will consider volunteering again this year for the day or part of the day.  It always proves to be a fun time.

Details and directions can be found on the Museum website: http://www.bellmuseum.umn.edu/ResearchandTeaching/BioBlitz/index.htm

State Representative Proposes Logging at Two State Parks.

March 28th, 2011

Representative Steve Drazkowski recently proposed an amendment to HF1010 that would require logging at Frontenac and Whitewater State Parks. This is an unprecedented move that would target black walnut (Juglans nigra) and other trees of value. The promises of revenue are far-fetched and this would benefit only a handful of individuals in Mr. Drazkowski’s district. We have state forest for a reason and the same goes with state parks. This is not only bad environmentally, it’s bad economically.

Doug Smith of the Star Tribune published a piece on this issue on March 26th (http://www.startribune.com/politics/local/118690399.html). The comments section is very interesting and encouraging. Please follow HF1010 by visiting the Minnesota House of Representatives homepage (http://www.house.leg.state.mn.us/) and type in 1010 following the HF in the upper left-hand corner of the webpage. Also contact this Representative and fellow committee members including Rep. McNamara. Voice your opinion one way or the other.

The actual language reads:

Sec. 21.  HARVEST OF TIMBER; STATE PARKS.

Notwithstanding Minnesota Statutes, section 86A.05, subdivision 2, or any other law to the contrary, the commissioner of natural resources shall assess the black walnut and other timber resources in Frontenac State Park and Whitewater State Park, harvest the black walnut and timber resources suitable for harvest, and deposit the proceeds from the sale into the state parks account in the natural resources fund by June 30, 2013.

This can be found on Page 1064 of the amended bill. You can easily skip through most of this text by running a search in  the internet browser of your choice, using the key words “Harvest of Timber” and that should take you directly there.

We report, you decide (we hope).


2011 Bioblitz – June 25th, 2011

February 1st, 2011

The details for posting: Volunteers needed: Be one of the first people to get up-close and personal with one of our newest State Parks. Starting at 12:00pm on Saturday June 25th and running through 12:00pm on Sunday, June 26th, Vermillion State Park will host a Bioblitz to help catalog all plants and animals within the boundaries of this scenic lakeshore setting. You don’t have to be an expert in either category, as you will be paired with someone who is. More details, such as camping availability and directions, will be forthcoming. If you would like more information in the short term, please contact DNR Park Manager, Tavis Westbrook: tavis.westbrook@state.mn.us.

Legislative Funding For Minnesota Invasives

March 8th, 2010

2010 Minnesota’s Wildflowers $300,000 Weed Program Funding Initiative  

On March 2, 2010 Minnesota’s Wildflowers submitted their 2010 Legislative funding initiative to Senator Satveer Chaudhary, Chairman of the Senate’s Natural Resources Committee, requesting $300,000.00 for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s state weed program.

Minnesota’s Wildflowers are asking you to now contact your state legislators and asking them for their support of this important legislation.

The time for this funding is now, not 2011 or 2012 or whenever the economy gets better because it’s not going to. Minnesota does have weed law now but it is unfunded. Non-native invasive species at present run completely unchecked throughout the entire state.

We cannot promise that you that we will get this funding from these efforts but we will have tried and for sure – no funding without your help!

Here is the link to find contact information for your legislators:

http://www.gis.leg.mn/mapserver/districts/

Conversations on Conservation: black spruce tips

November 8th, 2009

For the Nov 2009 MNNPS program, Norm Aaseng provided a detailed and insightful program on the wetland ecology for black spruce and the regulated harvesting of the tree tips as a forest product promoted by the Minnesota Forest Resources Council http://www.frc.state.mn.us/.

Conversations on conservation can be had with the forest resources council or other industry stakeholders, including:

Bachman’s http://www.bachmans.com/tipsheets/Christmas/SpruceTreeTops.cfm

Linder’s http://linders.com/whats-happening/time-to-spruce-up-those-pots/

Please comment on this posting with any insightful conversations on conservation you may have with stakeholders on this important subject.

No Child Left Inside: Legislation for Nature Deficit Disorder?

October 25th, 2009

Background

No Child Left Inside is a national movement for furthering connecting kids and nature.  Legislation from 2009 can be reviewed at this website. http://www.opencongress.org/bill/111-h2054/show

This is not a brand new issue.  As far back as 2005 NPR promoted awareness in their story with Richard Louv and his then new book ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Kids From Nature Deficity Disorder’. The story is at this website.  http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4665933

WHAT YOU CAN DO

#1 You can speak of this to legislators and advocacy groups in terms of the benefits of healthy and diverse native plant communities being a fundamental part of connecting kids with nature and addressing nature deficit disorders. 

#2 You can respond to this post with new initiatives related to this issue.