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How’s the water? Much better after 40 years of the Clean Water Act

Posted on September 25, 2012 at 3:20 PM
Categories: Environment, Outdoors

Testing Minnesota's waters for plant health

MPCA wetland monitoring staff examining plant species to check wetland health in Anoka County. Photo courtesy MPCA. 

St. Paul-- Two massive oil spills into Minnesota rivers devastated fish and wildlife in the early 1960s. At the time, no laws required that spills be reported or cleaned up.

By the early 1970s, such catastrophes were becoming common. In Ohio, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was so polluted that it caught fire – for the tenth time. Time Magazine reported that Lake Erie was dying from all the waste dumped into it. St. Louis took its drinking water from the muddy Missouri River because the Mississippi was far worse.

With the publication of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” an environmental movement swept across the nation to the halls of Congress, which passed the federal Clean Water Act on Oct. 18, 1972. The Act’s goal was simple: that all waters be fishable and swimmable where possible. 

“The Clean Water Act was has forever changed how we monitor and protect our water,” says Commissioner John Linc Stine of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). “The Clean Water Act has raised the bar of our expectations. Those expectations are high in Minnesota because 99 percent of the water found here, started here. This means our water protection efforts have an exponentially positive impact on the many states to our south, east and west all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.” 

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A Colorful Time to Explore Minnesota

Posted on September 12, 2012 at 3:39 PM
Categories: Outdoors

Frontenac State Park

A View of the changing leaves- Frontenac State Park (Courtesy Minnesota Department of Natural Resources)

With the arrival of the Fall Season, Minnesota's autumn leaves are just weeks away from gracing us with the brilliant colors that draws thousands of Minnesotans and out-of-state tourists to our state.

According to the MN DNR, as of September 10th, the state was already seeing some areas of colorful leaves at 10-25% of peak, primarily in northern Minnesota. Typically, top peak color is  seen in Northern Minnesota mid-September into early October, with Central and Southern Minnesota seeing peak from late September into early October.

These fall colors are caused by chemical compounds in the leaves, which are revealed from behind the mask of chlorophyll- a compound that gives leaves their green color throughout the year, until it breaks down as nitrogen is placed into storage for the winter.


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Up-Close with Invasive Species at the State Fair

Posted on August 24, 2012 at 11:18 AM
Categories: Outdoors, Environment

Minnesota DNR Building at the State Fair

The DNR Building promises more than a few opportunities to learn and have fun at the fair.

As you enjoy corndogs, deep fried candy bars, camel sliders and bacon ice cream (really!) at the Minnesota State Fair this year, make sure you stop by the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) building. You’ll be able to cool off and learn about the impact of invasive species on Minnesota’s environment. The DNR’s emphasis is on increasing Minnesotans’ awareness of invasive species and equipping people with the necessary tools to do their part in helping prevent these species from spreading. 

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Asian Carp (above) are an invasive species in MN waters

Renee Vail, who coordinates the DNR exhibits at the State Fair, adds that “Minnesotans are passionate about our natural resources, and this is an effective and entertaining way for us to communicate conservation messages.” 


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Minnesota: Land of 150 Trails

Posted on July 26, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Categories: Outdoors, Public Safety, Sports

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A rider on Minnesota’s newest mountain biking trail at Cuyuna Country State Recreation Area

Ask any Minnesotan—even those who don’t bicycle much—and chances are they’ll know that the State of Minnesota and the City of Minneapolis are consistently ranked among the top bike-friendly locations across the nation. But what many Minnesotans—especially those who don’t bicycle much—probably don’t know is that there is a great resource available online that is dedicated to Minnesota bicycling.

Pedal Minnesota is the result of a partnership between a wide range of Minnesota groups and government agencies, all centered on the goal of getting Minnesotans pedaling. The site features a map of trails and bike-friendly roads (as well as worthwhile locations like bike shops, parks, and food/lodging) across the state; a list of resources for individuals, communities, and businesses; a page highlighting the many bike events occurring across Minnesota; and a “Pedal Central” blog, featuring articles on all aspects of Minnesota biking, such as tips on keeping cool while bicycling this summer.

In recognition of the important role that bicycling plays in Minnesota—economically, recreationally, and as a form of transportation—Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed last May to be Minnesota Bike Month, in an effort to also promote further efforts for bike safety. Last October was also proclaimed to be Safe Routes to School Month by Governor Dayton, in collaboration with the Minnesota Department of Health (a PedalMN partner), to promote the positive health and academic benefits that accompany students who make a habit of walking or bicycling to school each day.


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Fighting the Flight of Gypsy Moths in Minnesota

Posted on July 20, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Agriculture, Outdoors, Greater Minnesota, Environment

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Gypsy moths are tree pests that can defoliate large sections of forests and are among America's most destructive tree pests, having caused millions of dollars in damage. These moths are common in Wisconsin, but are now threatening Minnesota as well. Their preferred hosts are oak, poplar, birch and willow trees. The moths spread slowly on their own, but people can unintentionally speed up the process if they unwittingly transport firewood and other objects on which the moths have laid their eggs. 

The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has recently completed treatment of approximately 150,000 acres of land in Carlton and St. Louis Counties to slow the spread of the moth. The infestation was identified last summer and the MDA has been working hard to slow down the infestation before it takes hold.


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Governor Dayton Proclaims State Water Trails Day in Minnesota

Posted on July 11, 2012 at 3:19 PM
Categories: Outdoors

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Although widely known as the Land of 10,000 Lakes, Minnesota is also home to 90,000 miles of rivers and streams and more than 800,000 registered watercraft. The vast number of lakes, rivers, and streams throughout Minnesota led the state to establish what is now the oldest and largest water trails system in the nation. This is why Governor Dayton has proclaimed July 14, 2012 to be State Water Trails Day in Minnesota.

View the Governor’s Proclamation here.

The Water Trails System, managed by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), is comprised of a series of recreational routes mapped and managed for canoeing, kayaking, boating, and camping. One of the most scenic trails is the 155-mile Lake Superior Water Trail, which hugs the shores of the world's largest freshwater lake. The newest addition to the water trail system, the Cedar River State Water Trail, flows from just north of Austin, Minnesota to Southeast Iowa, where it joins the Iowa River.

The DNR is encouraging all Minnesotans to experience the state's water systems Saturday. You can see more about it and learn more about Minnesota’s State Water Trail system, including locations, outfitting, and safety information, at the DNR website. If you are new to paddling and want to gain some skills for the water, check out the offerings in the "I Can Paddle!" program. This is on ongoing part of the DNR's "I Can!" outdoors course offerings, which includes instruction in camping, fishing and climbing.
 


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DNR encourages families to say “I Can!” to outdoor recreation

Posted on June 26, 2012 at 8:00 AM
Categories: Environment, Outdoors, Greater Minnesota

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With summer officially underway in Minnesota, the Department of Natural Resources is offering residents a chance to learn the ropes of camping and climbing through their introductory “I Can Camp!” and “I Can Climb!” course offerings at Minnesota State Parks throughout the summer.

The “I Can!” program series is organized by the Parks and Trails division of the DNR as a way to introduce young families to the many opportunities that Minnesota offers for outdoor recreation. Beyond their camping and climbing programs, the “I Can!” series also includes lessons in fishing, paddling, and archery.

While all of these courses will be available at Minnesota state parks throughout the season, those interested in camping and climbing can benefit from combined weekend courses being offered in late June at Blue Mounds and Interstate parks.


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Avoid Lyme disease this summer

Posted on May 30, 2012 at 4:46 PM
Categories: Health, Outdoors

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The unseasonably warm weather this year has been great for Minnesotans who like to spend their time outdoors. Unfortunately, it’s also been great for Minnesota’s tick population, and the risk of contracting tick-borne illnesses such as Lyme disease could be higher than ever. Last month was proclaimed Lyme Disease Awareness Month by Governor Dayton, but the Governor reminds Minnesotans to take precautions throughout the summer to avoid Lyme and other disease transmitted by ticks.

Minnesota is already a high-risk area for Lyme, a disease found primarily in northeastern and upper Midwestern states. A record-high 1,293 cases of Lyme were reported in 2010 and many experts predict we are on track to have more this year. Ticks can survive Minnesota’s harsh winters and become active when the temperature reaches 38 degrees, so while these parasites usually won’t be seen until March, they may have been active in January and February this year.

Lyme is carried by the Eastern blacklegged tick, also known as the deer tick. They are smaller than the common American Dog tick – better known as the wood tick. In order to prevent picking up a tick and the Lyme bacteria they can carry, take precautions when outdoors this summer. The Minnesota Department of Health recommends you avoid walking in brush or tall grass if you are in wooded areas; keep your feet, ankles, and legs covered; and use an insect repellant containing DEET on uncovered skin (except the face).

If you find a tick, remove it by the head with a tweezers – pulling it off by the body can leave the head embedded in your skin, increasing the risk of Lyme transmission. If you are unable to do this, visit a doctor. Since early treatment is key to a quick recovery, you should also visit a doctor if you suspect you may have contracted Lyme. Symptoms include a red “bulls-eye”-type rash around the bite area, as well as joint pain, fatigue, and flu-like fever or chills.


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Fighting the Spread of Emerald Ash Borer Disease

Posted on May 21, 2012 at 3:09 PM
Categories: Agriculture, Outdoors, Environment

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Governor Dayton has proclaimed this week, May 20-26, to be Emerald Ash Borer Awareness Week in Minnesota. Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) is an invasive species of insect that has killed millions of ash trees in North America. It is not native to the U.S., but was discovered in Michigan in 2002; in 2009, the first Minnesota case of EAB was found in Ramsey County. It has since been found in the counties of Houston, Hennepin, and Winona.

The biggest risk of spreading EAB comes from people moving firewood or other ash tree products with EAB or EAB larvae inside. In order to help prevent the spread of EAB throughout Minnesota and beyond, you should try to use only local firewood, and you should avoid transporting firewood if possible. In order to prevent the spread of this destructive species, the Department of Agriculture has prohibited the movement of ash trees, ash limbs and branches, ash logs or untreated ash lumber with bark attached, firewood from hardwood trees, and uncomposted wood chips and ash bark chips greater than one inch in two of three dimensions from the affected counties. More tips on preventing the spread of EAB can be found at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website.

You should also watch for signs that ash trees on your property are infested: heavy woodpecker activity, S-shaped tunnels under the bark, dead branches in the top canopy of the tree, and D-shaped exit holes approximately 1/8 inch in diameter are all signs of EAB presence in a tree. If you suspect a tree is infested, you can follow procedures for seeking treatment or removal of the tree from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website


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2012 Governor's Fishing Opener

Posted on May 09, 2012 at 2:37 PM
Categories: Outdoors

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The Governor's Fishing Opener will be held this weekend, May 11 -12, on Lake Waconia, popular for fishing, sailing and other water recreation. The town of Waconia sits right along the southern shore of Lake Waconia, the second largest lake in the Twin Cities area. This is the first time Waconia, a community of about 10,000 residents along the western edge of the Twin Cities metropolitan area, will host this event.

A pair of accomplished anglers from Waconia will host Governor Mark Dayton and Lt. Governor Yvonne Prettner Solon on Lake Waconia. Travis Frank will fish with Governor Dayton, and Matt Peters will fish with Lt. Governor Prettner Solon. Travis Frank is a professional angler, founder of Trophy Encounters Professional Guide Service, and a producer for Ron Schara Productions. Matt Peters grew up on Lake Waconia. Like Travis Frank, Peters has fished since he was old enough to hold a rod and reel, and he too started his first guide service at the age of 16.


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