The DNR communications team works with agency experts to develop the weekly questions and provide the answers. This feature addresses current DNR issues, interesting topics, or the most frequently asked questions from around Minnesota.
Q: Some of Minnesota's off-highway vehicle (OHV) trails have been closed due to the spring melt. Where can all-terrain vehicles (ATVs) and other OHV enthusiasts ride their machines until the ground dries out enough to reopen those other trails?
A: There are a number of good options throughout Minnesota that are available and open to OHV riding, not just now but year round. When considering public areas, riders should focus on those places that are located on well-drained sites.
The best options for spring and year-round riding are portions of the Soo Line Trail north and south for ATVs, Tri-County site for ATVs, Appleton riding area for ATVs and off-highway motorcycles, and the Iron Range OHV Recreation Area, which can accommodate ATVs, off-highway motorcycles and off-road vehicles like modified trucks. The Iron Range OHV Recreation Area is located near Gilbert. Another option riders can consider is private land, but before venturing out onto someone else's property, it is imperative that riders get permission. More trail information can be found at www.dnr.state.mn.us/ohv.
Updates regarding seasonal closures and other trail information can be found on the DNR's website at www.dnr.state.mn.us/trailconditions. Online road and trail condition information is updated every Thursday by 2 p.m. For closures and updates, go to "Current Conditions," or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free at 888-646-6367 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. weekdays.
--Mary Straka, DNR Off-Highway Vehicle Program consultant
Q: I understand two peregrine falcons have returned to a nest box on top of the Bremer Bank Building in St. Paul. Is this the same pair that was there last year?
A: Yes, this is the same pair that has been at this box for the last nine years. The male was fledged 18 years ago from a nest near the Minnesota River. His partner is 10 years old and was fledged from a box at the high bridge in St. Paul. This will be their ninth family together, and will add to the 24 chicks they have successfully raised.
This pair is significant because they do not migrate south during the winter in order to maintain this territory. Because of remaining during the winter, the male has lost four of his eight talons to frost bite. This does not seem to hinder his hunting and providing for his family.
Donations to the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff have paid for a live camera inside the box, so now the public can watch them lay their eggs and raise their young in real time at www.dnr.state.mn.us/features/webcams/peregrine.html.
--Lori Naumann, information officer, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program
Q: A recent newspaper article indicated that the timber harvest in Minnesota dropped significantly in recent years. In light of this, how has management of state-owned forests changed?
A: To provide a predictable and sustainable supply of wood from DNR-administered forest lands that help support Minnesota's forest products industry and the state's economy, a DNR goal is to offer for sale at least 800,000 cords of wood per year. State land sustainable harvest levels are based on long-term forest management plans that consider current and desired future forest conditions and the need to provide for a wide range of social, economic and environmental values. (See Page 51 in a pdf file of section three of the DNR's Conservation Agenda Report, by going to http://go.usa.gov/mdf).
While timber harvest has decreased on private lands in recent years, the volume of timber harvested from state lands has increased. During the past five years, an average of 800,000 cords of timber was harvested per year from DNR lands. The previous five years (2002-2006) averaged 700,000 cords harvested per year.
-Gaylord Paulson, DNR timber sales program coordinator
Q: It's not uncommon for lakeshore property owners to return to their cabins in the spring to find damage to their shoreline, retaining walls, docks and boat lifts, and sometimes to the cabins themselves. What causes this?
A: This type of property damage is caused by "ice heaving" or "ice jacking." As ice freezes and thaws, cracks form because of the different contraction rates at the top and bottom of the ice sheet. This is especially true in years when there's a lack of insulating snow cover. When the water rises in the cracks and freezes, the ice sheet expands slightly. Rising air temperatures warms the ice, which causes the additional expansion to exert a tremendous thrust against the shore. This powerful natural force forms a feature along the shoreline known as an ice ridge. These ridges can sometimes reach as high as five feet or more. Additional warming and cooling of an ice sheet can cause additional pushing action that possesses enough power to nudge bridge masonry piers out of plumb and push houses off their foundations.
For more information about ice ridges, go to: http://files.dnr.state.mn.us/publications/waters/shoreline_alterations_ice_ridges.pdf.
Q: I saw a bluebird in my backyard this week. Do I still have time to put up a bluebird house? And which direction should it face?
A: Yes, you still have time to put up a bluebird house. Although many bluebirds are already nesting in Minnesota, it is not too late to provide them with a nest box. Bluebirds that have not nested yet or whose nests might have failed will also use the boxes. The boxes should face an open field with a clear flight path to the box. Bluebirds prefer open, grassy areas where they can easily watch for predators.
- Lori Naumann, information officer, Nongame Wildlife Program