Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Visits Regional Office
By Valerie Rose Redmond
The first in a series of brown bag seminars, presented by the Wildlife and Sport Fish Restoration Program in celebration of its 75th anniversary, took place on October 24 at the Regional Office. Casey Nelson and Nancy Stewart, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, addressed regional office employees about the Minnesota’s Public Water Access and Aquatic Invasive Species Programs.
The Minnesota DNR, as well as the other seven states in the region, interface regularly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as both federal and state organizations have a vested interest in getting people out onto the water and giving them access to our water resources.
While this year celebrates the Pittman-Roberts Act, the WSFR program is also celebrating the success of the Dingell - Johnson Act (also known as the Sport Fish Restoration Act and Wallop-Breaux Act), which is specifically for sport fish restoration activities.
Public access and programs like the Clean Vessel Act and Boating Infrastructure Grant, (both of which fall under the Fish Restoration Act) are programs that are funded by the excise tax on fishing equipment and marine gas sales. Boating access is one component of that, which Nelson addressed at length. “For about the last 29 years we have received funding specific to boat access,” she said, “And what we've really done with this funding is we've made sure that it augments and enhances our program.”
There is an array of funding utilization and implementation among the eight states in the region. Some concentrate on operational maintenance, while others focus on salaries for crews. What the Minnesota DNR does is acquire land and develop on existing land. And they've been very successful in their efforts, having acquired over the last 29 years, 469 public water access sites and over 1050 acres of lakeshore land through WSFR funding, despite the rise in lake shore property values. They have also developed over 650 public water access sites.
“I am very pleased with the successful partnership that the Service has had with the Minnesota DNR and our other state partners,” said Service WSFR Chief Jim Hodgson. “Project implementation and success is a critical component in our cycle of success.”
Stewart had an array of expertise, but concentrated her presentation on the Aquatic Invasive Species Program (AIS). The AIS program helps to limit the spread and dangerous effects of species that are not native to Minnesota, such as zebra mussels and New Zealand mudsnails. Both can have adverse impacts on economy, humans and/or the environment.
Afterwards, Regional Director Tom Melius and class participants went outside to see one of the portable Aquatic Invasive Species Decontamination Units. Inspectors Nate Beaver and Tyler Richter demonstrated the watercraft inspection process and the decontamination unit, which is used as a tool for preventing the spread of AIS.