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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: DNR highlights need for infrastructure repairs in governor's public works bill, Red River Catfish League sets summer season, Ducks Unlimited recognizes Bismarck chapter for fundraising efforts etc.

Boat ramps in need of repair are just one of the infrastructure issues the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is facing. Gov. Mark Dayton has outlined $130 million in DNR asset improvements in his 2018 public works bill. (Minnesota DNR photo)

DNR highlights asset repair needs

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources last week highlighted the need for infrastructure improvements as outlined by Gov. Mark Dayton in his 2018 public works bill. The governor's proposal requests legislative approval for $130 million in improvements for DNR buildings and other infrastructure.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr said the list of repairs needed at DNR facilities across the state grows longer each year.

"These are facilities owned by the citizens of Minnesota and managed by the DNR," Landwehr said. "Many of these needs are becoming urgent and require immediate funding to slow or stop their decline."

According to the DNR's most recently completed facility assessment, the agency has more than $35 million in buildings that need immediate repair or replacement. The DNR also has hundreds of millions of dollars in other investments needed over the next decade to prevent asset failures such as a broken water line at Jay Cooke State Park that failed this winter. Repair costs increase about 8 percent annually, so addressing these problems now saves Minnesota money over the long term, the DNR said.

In addition, the DNR's 10-year capital needs report shows 192 of the agency's 2,700 buildings are in crisis or unacceptable condition and 520 are in poor condition. Some DNR forest road or trail bridges are weight restricted because of structural deterioration over time—meaning logging trucks and grooming vehicles can't use them.

Other funds in Dayton's proposal would be used to upgrade trails, hatcheries and water control structures in need of repair, the DNR said.

A full report on the DNR's infrastructure repair needs is available on the DNR website.

-- Minnesota DNR

Catfish League sets summer schedule

The Red River Valley Catfish Club kicks off its Wednesday night Catfish League season May 9 at the North Landing in Grand Forks. League nights will alternate between the North Landing and the LaFave Park landing below Cabela's in East Grand Forks.

Registration begins at 5 p.m. each league night with fishing from 6 to 9 p.m.

League nights at the LaFave Park landing are set for May 16, May 30, June 13, July 11 and July 25. Subsequent North Landing league nights after May 9 are set for May 23, June 6, June 27, July 18 and Aug. 8.

There will be no league nights June 20 and Aug. 1, and the year-end tournament is set for Aug. 11, location to be announced.

For more information, go to or check out the Red River Valley Catfish League's Facebook page.

-- Brad Dokken

DU recognizes fundraising chapters

The Bismarck chapter of Ducks Unlimited has been named as a 2018 President's Elite chapter, a distinction given to chapters that raise between $100,000 and $249,999 in grassroots income for the conservation group.

Minnesota 2018 President's Elite chapters are the Garrison chapter, the South Metro Flyway chapter in Lakeville, the Paul Bunyan chapter in Brainerd, the Marsh Lake chapter in Minneapolis, the Lake Minnetonka chapter in Minnetonka and the Metro-St. Paul chapter in St. Paul.

Minnesota DU chapters recognized as 2018 President's Roll of Honor chapters for raising between $65,000 and $99,999 were the Frozen North chapter in Bemidji, the St. Croix Valley chapter in Stillwater, the Fergus Falls Area chapter in Fergus Falls, the Freeborn County chapter in Albert Lea, the Sherburn chapter in Sherburn and the Sizzlin' Southeast Minnesota chapter in Cottage Grove.

"These fundraising events are the backbone of DU's habitat conservation efforts, and the volunteers who make up these chapters are the force making a difference for North American waterfowl populations," DU President Rogers Hoyt Jr. said in a statement. "It takes a great deal of effort to achieve these levels, and these chapters deserve to be congratulated by every person who enjoys the outdoors."

-- Herald staff report

Be on the lookout for whooping cranes

As it does every spring, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking the public to report whooping crane sightings, which will increase over the next several weeks as the birds migrate through the state.

The whooping cranes that migrate through North Dakota are part of a population of about 400 birds that are on their way from wintering grounds at Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas to their nesting grounds at Wood Buffalo National Park in Canada, a distance of about 2,500 miles.

Whoopers stand about 5 feet tall and have a wingspan of about 7 feet from tip to tip. They are bright white with black wing tips, which are visible only when the wings are outspread. In flight, they extend their long necks straight forward, while their long, slender legs extend out behind the tail. Whooping cranes typically migrate singly, or in groups of two to three birds and may be associated with sandhill cranes.

Other white birds such as snow geese, swans and egrets often are mistaken for whooping cranes. The most common misidentification is pelicans, because their wingspan is similar and they tuck their pouch in flight, leaving a silhouette similar to a crane when viewed from below.

Anyone sighting whoopers should avoid disturbing the birds and record the date, time, location and the birds' activity. Observers also should look closely for and report colored bands that may occur on one or both legs. Whooping cranes have been marked with colored leg bands to help determine their identity.

Reporting whooping crane sightings to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service offices at Lostwood, (701) 848-2466 or Long Lake, (701) 387-4397 national wildlife refuges; the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Bismarck at (701) 328-6300; or to local game wardens across the state. Reports help biologists locate important whooping crane habitat areas, monitor marked birds, determine survival and population numbers and identify times and migration routes.

-- N.D. Game and Fish Department

DNR reports winter fish kills in some areas

The Minnesota DNR said it already has taken reports of winter fish kills in lakes near Brainerd, Hinckley and the Twin Cities area.

"While seeing lots of dead fish can be disconcerting, we remind people that winterkill is normal and happens every year to some extent," said Neil Vanderbosch, DNR fisheries program consultant.

Winterkill is most prevalent during cold winters with abundant snowfall. Without adequate sunlight, aquatic plants produce less oxygen. If the vegetation dies, it further depletes oxygen dissolved in the water.

Trout species require high dissolved oxygen levels and may begin dying off when a lake's dissolved oxygen falls below 5 parts per million. Bluegill and largemouth bass also are sensitive to low oxygen levels. Walleyes, yellow perch, northern pike, carp and crappies can tolerate dissolved oxygen levels as low as 2 ppm.

Winterkill rarely results in the death of all fish in a lake, but lakes with frequent winterkill events tend to be dominated by bullheads.

Winterkill can have some benefits. In lakes with too many panfish, occasional winterkill can increase growth rates of the fish that survive. Winterkill also can greatly reduce carp abundance, which leads to increased water quality and more successful stocking efforts.

People in Minnesota who see numerous dead fish after the ice melts should report their observations to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency at (800) 422-0798.

-- Minnesota DNR

DNR offers 'I Can!' programs

The DNR again this summer is offering a series of "I Can!" programs that teach camping, paddling, mountain biking and fishing skills at Minnesota state parks.

"I Can!" and Archery in the Parks events are scheduled across the state throughout the summer, and here's what's on tap in northwest Minnesota:

• I Can Camp!: Itasca State Park, June 22-24; Lake Bemidji State Park, Aug. 17-19.

• I Can Paddle!: Canoeing on the River, July 1, Otter Tail River State Water Trail; Kayaking on the River, July 1, Otter Tail River State Water Trail.

• I Can Fish!: Lake Bemidji State Park, 1 to 3 p.m. June 14, June 21 and June 28; Itasca State Park, 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. June 25, July 23 and Aug. 13.

• Archery in the Parks: Hayes Lake State Park, June 23, July 14, July 28 and Aug. 18; Lake Bronson State Park, June 30, July 7 and Aug. 4; Red River State Recreation Area, June 30.

"We provide all the gear along with friendly instructors who can show you how to use it," said Erika Rivers, director of Minnesota state parks and trails. "Our goal is to make it easy for busy families to discover the fun of spending time outdoors together."

Registration for the programs now is open. I Can Camp! Events cost $60 for one-night programs and $85 for two-night programs; I Can Paddle! Prices vary; I Can Fish! costs $7 per person and is free for children younger than 12; and Archery in the Parks programs are free.

Registration and additional information is available at or through the DNR Information Center at or (888) 646-6367 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.

The program series is made possible with funding from the Parks and Trails Fund, created after voters approved the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in November 2008.

More than 15,400 people have participated in the "I Can!" programs since they first were offered in 2010.

-- Minnesota DNR