December 2004

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.






Trespassing is one of the biggest issues DNR conservation officers must deal with during the winter months. What should people remember as they ride their snowmobiles?

Winter is a great time to enjoy Minnesota's wonderful natural resources, and snowmobiles present the opportunities to see places you might not otherwise get to see. However, it is important to remember to respect the private and public property that snowmobile clubs have obtained to create the extensive system of trails Minnesota has to offer. Cutting corners, taking shortcuts across fields, hill climbing or operating on private property outside road ditch right-of-ways are all examples of trespassing situations that have resulted in the closing of miles of snowmobile trails every season. In addition to respecting private and public property, safety is another important reason to stay on trails marked for snowmobile use.

Dave Rodahl, DNR Recreational Vehicle Coordinator


Where does the balsam fir boughs used to make holiday wreaths and garland come from?

The specialty forest products industry uses many of the natural resources found in Minnesota's forests, such as pinecones, mosses and birch twigs, to make everything from decorative items to medicinal and herbal products. One of the most important specialty products is the balsam bough. Approximately 4,000 tons of boughs are harvested annually from Minnesota forests, and each ton makes roughly 400 wreaths. However, the number of holiday wreaths and garland made per ton varies depending on the size of each item. Most of the boughs used by Minnesota's special forest products industry are harvested from public and private lands across the northern part of the state. Itasca, St. Louis, Aitkin and Cass counties support more half of the total bough harvest in Minnesota. The state's balsam bough industry has annual retail sales topping $20 million.

Keith Jacobson, DNR Forest Utilization & Marketing Program Coordinator


There's not much snow on the ground in Minnesota. Are we destined for "brown" Christmas?

The chances of Minnesotans enjoying a white Christmas vary from place to place. A white Christmas is loosely defined as having one inch of snow on the ground on Christmas Day. The best chances of having a white Christmas is almost guaranteed in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and most of the Arrowhead region. The farther south and west you go the odds decrease, and tip more in favor of a "brown" Christmas. For example, in far southwest Minnesota the chances of a white Christmas are a little better than 60 percent. In 101 years of snow depth measurements in Twin Cities, a white Christmas happens about 72 percent of the time. From 1903 to 2003 there were 29 years with either "zero" or a "trace" of snow. The last time the Twin Cities saw a "brown " Christmas was in 2002. The deepest snow cover on Dec. 25 was in 1983 with a hefty 20 inches in the Twin Cities, 21 inches in International Falls and 28 inches in Duluth. To find out the probability of a white Christmas in your area, log on to Historical Chances of a White Christmas .

Pete Boulay, DNR Climatologist


Once the snow on the ground begins to accumulate there will be a mad dash to get the snowmobiles out and hit the trails. This year, snowmobilers need to be aware of a new metal traction device (stud) law. How will this affect them?

Snowmobiles equipped with studs are welcome in Minnesota. However, sleds with metal traction devices may not be operated on paved public trails. In some cases, metal studs may be used on locally managed and state trails. Non-metal plastic or nylon studs are not restricted. A person caught operating a snowmobile with metal traction devices on any paved trail faces fines up to $600. Studs that have been cut off must be shorter than the track. The law restricting metal studs on paved trails was passed in response to concern about damage to roads, bridge decks, paved trails and private driveways crossed by snowmobiles with studs. Public paved trails account for less than two percent of Minnesota's extensive snowmobile trail system. Snowmobile trails designed to accommodate metal traction devices are located near many paved trails. Additional information can be found on the DNR's Web site - Snowmobiling .

Tim Smalley, DNR Boat & Water Safety Specialist


DNR Question of the Week Archive