DNR news releases, Aug. 18, 2014

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MINNESOTA DNR NEWS #62                                                                               Aug. 18, 2014
All news releases are available in the DNR’s website newsroom at www.mndnr.gov/news.
Follow the DNR on Twitter @mndnr.

In search of nature’s undertakers
Nice Ride Bemidji offers bike rentals at Lake Bemidji State Park
Applications open for $8 million in Conservation Partners grants
DNR seeks designs for Minnesota’s 2015 pheasant stamp
Youth can get 3 free months of Outdoor News
Question of the week: old-growth forests



In search of nature’s undertakers
by Harland Hiemstra, DNR information officer

Chris Smith is on a hunt for buried treasure.

A short hike off a road in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, near Zimmerman, he drops to his knees next to a hole in the ground that’s been covered with chicken wire, plywood, and a concrete weight. As he removes the makeshift cover, a sickeningly sweet stench wafts out. Smith, a nongame wildlife biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, wrinkles his nose as he reaches into a buried five-gallon plastic bucket and pulls out the deflated carcasses of two very dead, very rotten rats.

Secured from a local reptile food vendor and aged several days in the back of his work truck, the pungent rodents are bait for the objects of Smith’s search: the American burying beetle, a federally listed endangered species that used to be found across the eastern half of the country. Now it’s known to survive in only five states. Black and orange and sometimes nearly 2 inches long, it hasn’t been seen in Minnesota since the late 1960s.

The ripe carrion Smith buried the day before in what’s known as a “pitfall trap” attracts a variety of burying beetles from anywhere within about a half-mile radius. He sifts through a shallow layer of sand at the bottom of the bucket, removing beetles one by one, calling off their scientific names so that his colleague, Erica Hoaglund, can enter the information into an electronic tablet. “Nicrophorus tomentosus, Nicrophorus orbicollis, marginatus, another tomentosus...” 

The burying beetles often are found in even numbers – an adult male and an adult female -- due to a type of hands-on parenting that’s rare in the insect world. The parents work together to bury the dead animal to get it away from competing scavengers. They chew up a portion of the carcass and form it into a large ball to make a nest for the larvae, which they feed by regurgitating chewed-up, liquefied flesh – much as bird parents feed their chicks.

Why, one might ask, spend time and money studying a critter seemingly made to tickle a person’s gag reflex? Because, as disgusting as they may seem, detritivores such as burying beetles –- nature’s undertakers – play an important role in an ecosystem, breaking down dead animals to recycle nutrients and energy. And it’s that ecosystem and its health that’s really the main point of concern.

“The biggest reason to study the entire ecosystem as opposed to just charismatic mega-fauna is to understand how ecosystems function, and how all the parts work together,” Hoaglund says. “What we want to preserve and protect is these ecosystems, not just a particular species.”

If an organism goes extinct, more may be lost than just that particular species. One theory regarding the American burying beetle, for instance, surmises that its decline is at least partially tied to the extinction of the passenger pigeon, which may have been just the right size to serve as a host, and it existed in large numbers, making it a readily available food source. In another example of ecological interdependence close to home for Minnesotans, the red parasol moss last year was added to the state’s list of endangered species because it grows only in old moose dung, and moose populations are declining.

Hoaglund explains ecosystem diversity by referring to a ladder: lose one or two rungs, and the ladder still might be serviceable. Lose a few more, and the ladder will fall apart. The biological equivalent is the extinction of too many species and ecological collapse.

“Even if you don’t value the creepy crawly things, something you do value may depend on them,” Hoaglund says. “Flowers need insects for pollination; songbirds rely on bugs for food.”

So far Smith and Hoaglund haven’t turned up any American burying beetles at any of the pitfall traps they’ve buried around the Sherburne refuge and the adjacent Sand Dunes State Forest. They may, however, have found a species of burying beetle never before reported in Minnesota at another central Minnesota survey site at Camp Ripley, near Little Falls; the discovery is pending positive identification. Their work also is providing information on what other types of burying beetles are present in the area, baseline information that would be needed should it be decided to try re-introducing the rare bugs into Minnesota, as has been done in a few other states. 

Both Hoaglund and Smith work for the DNR’s Nongame Wildlife Program, which aims to protect, maintain, enhance, and restore native nongame wildlife resources, helping more than 700 species of Minnesota wildlife thrive. It is funded largely by donations, especially those made when Minnesotans file their state income taxes and voluntarily contribute to the program by checking a special donation box, a feature often referred to as the “chickadee check-off.” More information about the DNR Nongame Wildlife Program can be found at www.mndnr.gov/nongame.


PHOTO ATTACHED. Caption: DNR Nongame Wildlife Specialist Chris Smith demonstrates the use of an identification chart to determine what types of burying beetles have been found in a trap set out in the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge.

DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                        Aug. 18, 2014

Nice Ride Bemidji offers bike rentals at Lake Bemidji State Park

Lake Bemidji State Park has opened a Nice Ride station, located near the park office building.

It’s a pilot project designed to increase biking in Bemidji by both residents and visitors. There are 200 bikes available for residents and visitors to rent in Bemidji, including 10 bikes at the station at the park.

“Lake Bemidji State Park is the perfect place to host a Nice Ride Bemidji station,” said Pete Harrison, park manager. “It contains more than 6 miles of trail within the park, connects with the trail system around Lake Bemidji, and is the northernmost trailhead for the Paul Bunyan State Trail, which travels more than 115 miles all the way to Crow Wing State Park.”

Nice Ride Bemidji is a standard rental service offering bike rentals at a flat fee by the hour, day or week. The station offers visitors staying at the park another option for travelling into town or around the lake. They can also plan an entire weekend around riding the Bemidji area trails.

Normal rental rates for the bikes are $6 per hour, $20 per half day, $25 per day or $80 per week.

“We often receive requests for bike rentals,” Harrison said, “so it just makes sense to have a station at the park that can accommodate our customer requests. This also gave us the opportunity to get involved early with an incredible community program that promotes active living and outdoor recreation.”

Park visitors can reserve bikes online using personal computers, tablets or smartphone devices at http://bemidji.niceridemn.org/rent_a_bike/. The park office is unable to make reservations for customers, but the campground and visitor center do have Wi-Fi connections.

For more information on the Nice Ride Bemidji program, visit http://bemidji.niceridemn.org/.

For more information about the park, including a map and virtual tour, visit www.mndnr.gov/lakebemidji.



DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   Aug. 18, 2014

Applications open for $8 million in Conservation Partners grants

Groups that want to restore, protect or enhance public land can apply for Conservation Partners Legacy (CPL) grants that help pay for work on Minnesota prairies, forests, wetlands, or on habitat for fish and wildlife.

Nonprofit organizations and government entities are eligible to submit applications now until 4:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19, on the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources website at www.mndnr.gov/cpl.

Projects must be on public land or land permanently protected by conservation easements. Applicants may request up to $400,000 with a total project cost not exceeding $575,000. Projects must also have 10 percent of the funding come from a source outside a state agency.

Three types of CPL grants
In its first five years of funding, more than $21 million has been granted through the CPL program for habitat projects throughout Minnesota.

Three types of CPL grants available are under this year’s allocation of $8 million. Nearly $3.3 million is available for the traditional grant cycle and $1 million is available for the expedited conservation projects (ECP) grant cycle. ECP is open through May or until all funds are awarded. New this year is the metro grant cycle, in which $3.75 million is available for projects located in the seven-county metro area or within the city limits of Duluth, St. Cloud and Rochester.

Information about the three grants can be found at www.mndnr.gov/cpl. Potential applicants are encouraged to review the request for proposals and the how to apply tab at the website, which guides users through the application process.

Questions can be directed to: Jessica Lee, DNR CPL grant program coordinator, jessica.lee@state.mn.us or 651-259-5233, or Kelly Pharis, DNR natural resource grants specialist, kelly.pharis@state.mn.us or 651-259-5174.



DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                  Aug. 18, 2014

DNR seeks designs for Minnesota’s 2015 pheasant stamp

Wildlife artists can submit entries for the 2015 Minnesota Pheasant Stamp from Monday,
Sept. 8, to 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 19.

The pheasant stamp is sold along with hunting and fishing licenses or as a collectable. Revenue from stamp sales is dedicated to pheasant management-related activities.

“We appreciate the talent and commitment of the artists who submit entries to the contest,” said Steve Merchant, wildlife populations and regulations manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “Their work is part of our hunting heritage, and valued by collectors.”

The contest offers no prizes and is open to Minnesota residents only. Artists are not allowed to use any photographic product as part of their finished entries. Winning artists usually issue limited edition prints of the artwork and retain proceeds. Judging will take place at 2 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 25, at DNR headquarters in St. Paul.

Artists who want to submit entries should closely read contest criteria and guidelines for submitting work, available from the DNR Information Center, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155, and online at www.mndnr.gov/contests.


DNR NEWS – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                 Aug. 18, 2014

Youth can get 3 free months of Outdoor News

Youth ages 11-17 who successfully complete their firearms safety certification can get a complimentary three-month subscription to Minnesota Outdoor News.

The offer ends Sunday, Nov. 30 and firearms safety classes have been filling up. To be eligible for this offer, a youth must have completed their firearms safety certification in 2014. Those of any age who have completed advanced hunter education this year can also get a complimentary subscription. Forms can be found at www.mndnr.gov/outdoornews.

More information on firearms safety certification and available classes can be found at www.mndnr.gov/safety/firearms.



Question of the week

Q: What are the characteristics of old-growth forests, and where in Minnesota can you find them?

A: While the characteristics can vary depending on the type of forest, old-growth forests are generally at least 120 years old, having never been significantly disturbed by logging, fire or storms during that time. These forests have a mix of young, old and middle aged trees, and many include very large trees that can measure 2 to 3 feet across. Old-growth forests typically contain large dead standing trees, small gaps in the overhead canopy and lots of woody debris on the forest floor.

Today, less than 4 percent of Minnesota’s old-growth forests remain, but there are some great examples protected in our state parks and scientific and natural areas (SNA’s). For example, Spring Beauty Northern Hardwoods SNA, Tettegouche State Park and Itasca State Park all contain stands of old-growth forest. More information and places to visit are available on DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/forests_types/oldgrowth.

Jon Nelson, DNR forest policy and planning supervisor

This email was sent to editor@woodsnews.com on behalf of: Minnesota Department of Natural Resources · 500 Lafayette Road · Saint Paul, MN 55155 · 1-888-MINNDNR  

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