May 2006

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.






When buying firewood for fireplaces or campfires people may be asked how many cords of wood they need. What is a cord?

A cord is the standard measure for a stack of wood, bark and air eight feet long by four feet wide by four feet high, or 128 cubic feet. Because the long logs are too big to fit in a fireplace or fire pit, sellers may offer cords already cut and split. The legal standard for a cord of cut, split and ranked wood is 120 cubic feet, since the smaller pieces of wood are stacked tightly together, and contain less air space than a stack of logs. Woodpiles of differing sizes commonly have different names in the firewood business, such as: rick cord, face cord, fireplace cord or short cord. For example, if someone buys a rick cord or fireplace cord he or she is often buying a unit of wood only one-third the amount of wood found in a full-size cord. To determine the volume of wood in a stack, multiply the dimensions - width by height by length - and compare that to the 120 cubic feet for a full, split and stacked cord. This will give you a good estimate of how the seller's unit of wood measures against a full cord.

Keith Jacobson, DNR Forest Utilization & Marketing Program coordinator


For the first time in about seven years, anglers will be able to fish Upper Red Lake for walleye. What should anglers know before tossing their lines in the water?

Special regulations are in place to manage the harvest. All walleye between 17 and 26 inches must be released immediately, so anglers will need to measure their fish. The daily bag limit and possession limit for Red Lake walleye is two, and only one of those can exceed 26 inches. New northern pike regulations on the lake allow anglers to keep three pike, including one over 40 inches. All northern between 26 and 40 inches must be released. When fishing Red Lake anglers should remember that the western side of Upper Red Lake and all of Lower Red Lake are closed to non-band members. Those who choose to fish near the line should be aware of their exact location and are advised to maintain a safe buffer to avoid inadvertently crossing the Reservation line. A beacon will guide anglers back to public boat landings. The 48,000 acres available for sport fishing on Upper Red Lake is larger than most inland waters in Minnesota.

Gary Barnard, DNR Area Fisheries manager, Bemidji


How important is the spring run-off to Minnesota's ground water supply?

Snowmelt and rainfall during the spring months are the sources of major replenishment for the entire hydrologic system in Minnesota, including ground water. While a great deal of the spring run-off melts into lakes and rivers, some of it infiltrates the soil into two principal zones: saturated and unsaturated. The saturated zone is where aquifers are found. Water stored as ground water flows into rivers and lakes through springs and seeps, helping to maintain their levels. Most of the summer precipitation is taken up by growing vegetation or is evaporated. Ground water pumped from aquifers supplies 75 percent of Minnesota's drinking water and nearly 90 percent of the water used for agricultural irrigation.

Sarah Tufford, DNR ground water & climatology section administrator


Loons are nesting now and, as a result, can be especially vulnerable at this time of the year. What should anglers and boaters know as they take to the lakes?

Loons began nesting in early May. Like many wildlife, loons are very sensitive to disturbance. Boats, including canoes, passing too closely to a nest may cause the adults to abandon their nest. This exposes the eggs to predators like raccoons and gulls. The two most traumatic times of the year for loons are Memorial Day Weekend, when the adults are sitting on their nests, and the Fourth of July, when the adults are with their young. Thus, boaters can help the long-term survival of Minnesota's state bird by avoiding nesting sites and looking for loons while out fishing or boating. Loons that nest in a less disturbed area show a significantly higher hatching success rates. Minnesota's loon population is about 12,000 and appears stable.

Carrol Henderson, DNR Nongame Wildlife Program, supervisor


It's that time of year when turtles are trying to cross the road. Why? Is there anything we can do to help them cross safely?

The turtles we see crossing roads are typically painted and snapping turtles. Both species spend most of their time in lakes, ponds, and wetlands, but lay their eggs in nests dug in dry, sandy and warm soils. Since many roads are built skirting water bodies, our roads often separate a turtle's home from its nesting area. If the turtle can find the right type of soil near their home water body, they will use it. However, they may often travel great distances to find a suitable nesting spot. And so, the turtle may have to cross the road to get to the other side to lay its eggs. If you see a turtle crossing the road, you can help it cross safely. Watch for traffic. Pick up the turtle by the back of its shell - never pick up a turtle by its tail. And move the turtle in the direction it is heading. The painted and snapping turtles lay their clutch of eggs in June; the eggs typically hatch in late August. That means there will be even more turtles - quarter-sized hatchlings - crossing the road again, trying to get home.

Richard Baker, DNR zoologist


DNR Question of the Week Archive