Statewide: February 14, 2011 Archive
Officials with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will hold a public meeting tonight in Pine Island to discuss Chronic Wasting Disease in wild deer.
Officials will answer questions from landowners about the agency's efforts to manage the disease, commonly known as CWD. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Pine Island High School cafeteria.
Lou Cornicelli, big game coordinator for the DNR, said department staff will update residents on the latest CWD information but will not issue hunting permits to individual landowners at the meeting.
"We're not going to be issuing shooting permits because they take time because you have to explain laws and what they can and can't do," Cornicelli said. "We'll have a mechanism to get names and follow up with those folks really quickly."
DNR officials have been issuing special hunting permits to some southeastern Minnesota landowners as part of the special harvest to test for the disease. As of Feb. 10, the DNR had issued 125 permits and tested 41 deer, all of which tested negative for the disease.
The permits allow landowners to shoot as many whitetail deer as they want on their property. They also allow landowners to authorize other individuals to hunt on their land.
DNR officials are removing lymph nodes from the deer carcasses to test for CWD. If the tests come back negative, hunters can keep the deer and process the meat. If they're positive, the DNR will dispose of the carcass.
A deer-feeding ban also begins Monday to reduce the spread from deer-to-deer, according to Cornicelli. CWD doesn't pose a risk to humans, but the disease is progressively fatal for deer, elk and moose.
By Stephanie Hemphill
Minnesotans voted to tax themselves to improve parks and trails, part of the Legacy Amendment of 2008. But Minnesota is changing demographically, with newcomers from places less connected to the outdoors, and kids who are more comfortable with video games than camping.
Given that somewhat contradictory picture, a citizen's group has spent 18 months preparing a plan for the future of Minnesota's parks and trails.
The plan identifies four major strategies -- connecting people with the outdoors, acquiring land and creating new opportunities for park use, investing in existing facilities and coordinating all levels of government and nonprofit groups.
Courtland Nelson, director of parks and trails for the state Department of Natural Resources, expects better coordination among the four categories of Legacy Amendment funding: clean water, habitat, parks and trails, and arts and culture.
"It makes all the sense in the world, if we're doing some component of land protection within a state park, that should have an opportunity to be evaluated by the Lessard-Sams Council," said Nelson, who is guiding the planning process. "Similarly, we have a number of public programming issues that could be enhanced by arts and culture investment."
The DNR is ramping up its public relations efforts.The agency hired Chris Niskanen, an outdoor writer for the Star-Tribune, to head its communication office, and brought on Bob Lessard, a long-time crusader for the Legacy Amendment, to work with conservation groups "to ensure that the agency is listening and responding to their ideas and concerns."
In addition, the DNR named Erica Rivers Assistant Commissioner for Customer Relations and Outreach. Rivers was most recently project manager for the Lake Vermilion State Park development.
The agency is updating web pages to make them user-friendly, and posting an interactive display at key locations like the airport and the Mall of America. All in an effort to keep Minnesotans active in the outdoors.
Reporter Stephanie Hemphill covers the environment for MPR News.