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OUTDOORS NOTEBOOK: OHF grant expands DU habitat program in North Dakota, Federal bill targets CWD, DNR finalizes leadership team etc.

Tanner Gue

OHF grant helps DU expand habitat program

After a successful pilot year, Ducks Unlimited in North Dakota is expanding its Cover Crop and Livestock Integration Project—CCLIP for short—from a few counties in southeast North Dakota to landowners in the 37 counties of the state's Prairie Pothole Region.

The North Dakota Outdoor Heritage Fund recently funded the project by awarding DU and partners a $1.25 million grant.

"In addition to the soil health improvements, water quality benefits and habitat conservation practices promoted by CCLIP, we are working with new partners and landowners, many of whom were previously unaware of DU's voluntary conservation programs," Tanner Gue, Ducks Unlimited regional biologist, said in a news release.

In summer 2017, the OHF awarded Ducks Unlimited $620,000 that funded the startup of CCLIP. With those funds, DU completed 14 projects that enhanced more than 3,500 acres of grassland, 3,500 acres of cropland and 500 acres of wetlands. Twelve additional projects are pending from that initial effort.

"One of our goals with this program is to reduce some of the economic pressures producers feel to drain small, yet significant wetlands that are imbedded in croplands," Gue said.

The program assumes some of the financial risk by cost-sharing 60 percent of the expenses of adding grazing infrastructure to croplands and buying cover crop seed. Project partners include North Dakota Natural Resources Trust, Pheasants Forever, North Dakota Game and Fish Department, local North Dakota soil conservation districts, North Dakota Grazing Lands Coalition, Millborn Seeds and Pulse USA.

-- Ducks Unlimited

Bipartisan federal bill targets CWD

Bipartisan legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to help combat the spread of chronic wasting disease among deer, elk, and moose populations across the United States.

Authored by Reps. Ralph Abraham, R-La., and Marc Veasey, D-Texas, the bill would direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study how CWD is transmitted, how quickly it spreads among a given population and how easily it infects individual animals. The neurological disease that is always fatal to deer, elk and moose now is present in 26 states, including Minnesota, North and South Dakota and Montana.

"Chronic wasting disease threatens America's hunting tradition and our nation's model for funding conservation," Whit Fosburgh, president and CEO of the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, said in a statement. "This legislation will provide solid scientific data so we can attack this disease head-on and protect deer herds across our nation."

The legislation is supported by the National Wildlife Federation and other groups, including the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and the National Deer Alliance. Companion legislation is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the coming weeks.

-- Herald staff reports

North American waterfowl plan updated

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan recently was updated to reflect a call for refocusing waterfowl conservation efforts through eight recommendations, including ways to better understand and integrate the interest and values of people into conservation efforts while continuing strategic actions to conserve waterfowl habitat and achieve population management objectives.

The recommendations aim to better conserve waterfowl habitat, focus conservation efforts in areas that are most important for waterfowl and people, and bolster training programs for future waterfowl management professionals, members of the waterfowl plan committee said in a news release.

For 32 years, the North American Waterfowl Management Plan has been a model of waterfowl conservation and a beacon of success for wildlife conservation practitioners and enthusiasts worldwide. Through partnerships combining science, boots-on-the-ground conservation delivery, and public and policy engagement, the plan has demonstrated how continental-scale conservation can be achieved.

The update of the 2012 plan appropriately is subtitled "Connecting People, Waterfowl and Wetlands."

"The 2018 update does an excellent job of building on the tremendous history of waterfowl conservation success delivered through NAWMP since 1986," Ducks Unlimited Chief Conservation Officer Nick Wiley said in a statement. "Bringing more people into the cause of waterfowl and wetlands conservation is a major theme of this update and shows great vision from three great nations working in effective partnership."

More info: https://nawmp.org.

-- Ducks Unlimited

DNR sets final leadership team staff

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Monday announced its second round of leadership appointments.

DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen named Shannon Lotthammer as assistant commissioner overseeing the divisions of Forestry, Parks and Trails and Operations Services. Lotthammer comes to the DNR from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, where she served as assistant commissioner for water policy and the agency's agricultural and tribal liaison.

Most of agency's current regional and division leadership will remain, Strommen said, reflecting a strong team that has "a great deal of experience, a diversity of views, and a wide range of backgrounds."

The regional directors who have been reappointed are Rita Albrecht, Northwest Region, Bemidji; Patty Thielen, Northeast Region, Grand Rapids; Keith Parker, Central Region, St. Paul; and Scott Roemhildt, Southern Region, New Ulm.

Division directors who will stay in their current roles are Ecological and Water Resources Director Steve Colvin; Enforcement Director Rodmen Smith; Forestry Director Forrest Boe; Operations Services Director Laurie Martinson; and Parks and Trails Director Erika Rivers.

Fish and Wildlife Director Jim Leach has decided to retire later this month after 37 years with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and nearly three years in his current role at the DNR.

Lands and Minerals Director Jess Richards recently was named as an assistant commissioner, which means the DNR will be filling director positions in both the Fish and Wildlife and Lands and Minerals divisions.

Grant Wilson will fill in as interim director of the Fish and Wildlife Division when Leach retires in mid-February, Strommen said. Wilson currently is the division's policy and planning supervisor. Susan Damon will fill in as interim director of the Lands and Minerals Division; she is currently an assistant director of the division.

Strommen said Sherry Enzler, the agency's current general counsel, and Chris Niskanen, the agency's chief communications officer, also will remain with the DNR in their current roles.

-- Minnesota DNR

Did you know?

• A new National Insurance Crime Bureau report ranks Minnesota and Wisconsin as states with some of the highest rates of snowmobile thefts in the country. According to NICB, Minnesota ranks first with nearly 20 percent of the nation's snowmobile thefts, while Wisconsin ranks third, accounting for nearly 8 percent of snowmobile thefts. Minnesota counties with the highest rates of snowmobile theft were Anoka, St. Louis, Hennepin, Pine and Crow Wing.

• If you darkhouse spearfish in North Dakota, you need to register with the Game and Fish Department before hitting the ice. Registration is free and can be done on the Game and Fish website at gf.nd.gov or through any Game and Fish office. All waters open to hook-and-line fishing are open to darkhouse spearing except East Park Lake, West Park Lake and Lake Audubon, McLean County; Heckers Lake, Sheridan County; Larimore Dam, Grand Forks County; McClusky Canal; New Johns Lake, Burleigh County; Red Willow Lake, Griggs County; and Wood Lake, Benson County. For more info, check out the 2018-20 North Dakota Fishing Guide.

• The Great Backyard Bird Count is Feb. 15-18. As part of the event, the public is invited to tally the number of birds and kinds of birds they see for at least 15 minutes on one or more of the count days. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society launched the citizen-science effort in 1998, and participants post their findings online. More info: www.gbbc.birdcount.org.

• The Minnesota DNR has started accepting reservations for Bert's Cabins at Itasca State Park. The 12 cabins near the headwaters of the Mississippi River had been privately owned and operated since 1939. In December 2018, the owners retired and sold the cabins to the DNR. Amenities in the cabins include air conditioning, full kitchens and bathrooms with showers. The cabins will be open seasonally, from May 10 through Nov. 17. Prices range from $125 for a one-bedroom cabin to $220 for a three-bedroom cabin. To reserve a cabin or any of the other overnight facilities at Itasca State Park, go to www.mndnr.gov/reservations or call (866) 857-2757.

-- compiled by Brad Dokken

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