MN DNR reports ruffed grouse counts down from last year

Minnesota’s ruffed grouse spring population counts are down from last year as expected during the declining phase of the species’ 10-year cycle — a predictable pattern recorded for 72 years. Although peaks vary from 8 to 11 years apart, the most recent peak in the cycle occurred in 2017.
Ruffed grouse populations are surveyed by counting the number of male ruffed grouse heard drumming on established routes throughout the state’s forested regions. Drumming is a low sound produced by males as they beat their wings rapidly and in increasing frequency to signal the location of their territory. Drumming displays also attract females that are ready to begin nesting.
The spring drumming counts are an important indicator of the ruffed grouse breeding population. The number of birds present during the fall hunting season also depends upon nesting success and chick survival during the spring and summer.


Additional BWCA closures near US-Canada border

The U.S. Forest Service announced additional closures in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area effective July 18, due to wildfires in Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park that have the potential to spread to the US side of the border.
Recent reconnaissance flights conducted by fire managers have indicated an increase in fire behavior, despite the lighter winds; and fuels in this area are pre-heating and becoming more volatile.
Similar to the closures announced on July 15, this latest BWCAW closure order will remain in effect for at least seven days or until it is safe to open the area again.
This BWCAW Closure Order includes the following entry points:
• Little Indian Sioux River North #14
• Moose / Portage River #16
• Stuart River #19
• Angleworm Lake #20
• South Hegman Lake #77
• Little Vermilion Lake #12
• Lac La Croix Only #12A
• Blandin Trail #11
• Herriman Lake Trail #13
• Sioux-Hustler Trail #15


Prospector picks up $150,000 federal trail grant

The Prospector ATV project picked up another grant, this time through a federal program.
The Recreational Trail Program provides grants using federal monies through state agencies such as the Minnesota DNR.
This is the second time the Prospector project will benefit from an RTP grant.
“We knock on a lot of doors to get funding and this is the second time federal RTP dollars will be used for construction work,” said Prospector trail administrator Ron Potter.
The first phase of the Prospector Loop is nearing completion with around 250 miles of trail connecting the communities of Ely, Babbitt, Embarrass and Tower to the North Shore Trail System.
“After eight years it would be nice to kick back and enjoy what we’ve done so far but we’re full steam ahead on phase two with four trail connections and a bridge over the Beaver River,” said Prospector president Nick Wognum.


BWCA permit holders should plan to pick up permits in-person again starting on Monday

Starting on Monday, July 12, most Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness visitors will need to pick up their wilderness permits in-person.
The Forest Service is phasing out the virtual permit issuance option, with the exception of Sunday sessions for the remainder of the permit season. The virtual option was developed as a temporary modification in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
After this week, permit issuance and Leave No Trace & Tread Lightly education sessions will only be offered on Sundays at 9 a.m. for permit holders who selected the LaCroix District Office or Tofte District Office as their issue stations, due to these offices being closed on Sundays this year. The first Sunday this change will be in effect for is Sunday, July 18.
If you have an upcoming reservation and have already received an email to a virtual session this week, this change does not affect you.


Rock Island Lake fire

PAGAMI COUNTRY - A wildfire was detected Wednesday afternoon one mile southwest of Lake Two in the BWCA. The fire is located west of Rock Island Lake and approximately 16 miles east of Ely. The fire is believed to be caused by a lightning strike. An air tanker and helicopter made 30,000 gallons in water drops on the fire to slow fire spread. All sides of the fire were active, but the water drops were successfully reducing fire activity. The fire is estimated to be 1.5 acres in size. A crew of 10 firefighters was flown into Lake Two to camp and assess access routes and safety zones. Aircraft will continue to make water drops to reduce fire activity. There were no closures as of Thursday afternoon.


Ely’s Hidden Valley mountain bike trails take shape, with fundraising efforts underway to ensure completion

Ely’s Hidden Valley Recreation Area is seeing expanding outdoor recreation opportunities this summer, with the addition of nearly 10 miles of singletrack mountain bike trails slated for completion by October.
The new trail system, designed by Minnesota based Dirt Candy Designs, consists of six loops ranging from beginner to advanced level.
The first loop, a progressive skills loop for riders to practice and hone bike handling techniques, was completed in 2019, just south of the Hidden Valley Chalet.
Since then, the City of Ely has contracted with Kay-Linn Enterprises of Boulder, CO to oversee the project, and signed a lease with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to include the existing Nordic ski trails as well as the new mountain bike loops.


Walz signals support for Ecklund’s measure to strengthen deer farm oversight

In a letter to House and Senate Environment and Agriculture committee chairs, Governor Tim Walz announced his support of a proposal to transfer state oversight of cervid farms from the Board of Animal Health (BAH) to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
The move is one of many steps lawmakers are considering to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) in Minnesota’s wild white-tailed deer population.
State Rep. Rob Ecklund (DFL – International Falls), chief author of a comprehensive package of legislation to address CWD spread in Minnesota, is still advocating to incorporate the solution into a final Environment and Natural Resources budget package.


Don’t be deceived by appearance of green

Persistent dry conditions throughout northern Minnesota will mix with unseasonably warm temperatures, low relative humidity, and gusty winds resulting in near-critical fire weather through the weekend.
Wildfires under these conditions can easily start and spread quickly, especially in the already dry northern forested areas.
The Minnesota Interagency Fire Center urges everyone to be careful with any potential heat source that can cause a spark.
“Minimal precipitation throughout northern Minnesota brought little relief over the spring, and we are entering summer under higher fire danger conditions in northern Minnesota,” said Travis Verdegan, fire behavior specialist Minnesota Interagency Fire Center.
“The appearance of green-up is deceiving as many areas in the north are now two to three inches below average for rainfall.”


SHORE LUNCH “A Bad Day Fishing…”

We all know the adage that “A bad day fishing is better than a good day working!” Well, for a fishing guide, “A bad day fishing is, a bad day fishing!” I know many pieces to the puzzle of where to find your target species of fish and how to make them latch on to your hook, but I don’t know all of them. Sometimes there’s a piece missing and I’m looking all over the table for that last bit of straight edge!
At times, the weather can be a factor. A cold front could come through and the fish shut off. A windy day might keep you from being able to hold to a particular spot. A thunderstorm might keep you from even being on the water. A heavy rain or cold temperatures might just make it too miserable to be out on the water.


Anglers should prepare for cold water during fishing opener

Mother Nature gave Minnesotans extra ice-free days this spring on many of the state’s water bodies, but relatively cool weather since then—including overnight lows in the 30s—means the water temperature may be lower than people expect. As anglers prepare to hit the water for Saturday’s fishing opener, it’s vital they keep this in mind and put their safety first.
“The date on the calendar isn’t helpful in determining the temperature of the water,” said Col. Rodmen Smith, DNR Enforcement Division director. “This year’s opener is later in May than usual, but in many places the water temperature remains dangerously cold. Anglers need to be aware of that fact, and plan accordingly.”


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