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Walk-In Access Enrollment Deadline June 1

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ST PAUL MN - A June 1 deadline is in place for landowners in 21 southwestern Minnesota counties to earn money by allowing public hunting on their private land through the Walk-In Access (WIA) program, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

Privately owned parcels of 40 acres or more, which are already enrolled in a conservation program such as Conservation Reserve Program or Reinvest In Minnesota, may qualify for WIA. River bottoms, wetlands and other high quality habitat will also be considered for the program.

WIA pays landowners by the acre to allow hunting access. Bonuses are added if more than 140 contiguous acres are enrolled, if the land is within one-half mile of existing state or federal hunting land, or if a multi-year agreement is signed. Local Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) offices are handling program details and enrollments.

This is a voluntary program for landowners. Recreational use laws provide extra liability protection for WIA acres.

WIA land is for public hunting only. No target practice, trapping, dog training, camping, horseback riding or fires are allowed. Enrolled acres are for walk-in traffic only; no vehicles are allowed on conservation land. Parking is along roads or in designated parking areas. DNR conservation officers will address trespass and hunting violations.

Once private land is enrolled in the program, bright yellow-green hexagon signs are placed at the property boundaries.

A map of the 21 counties involved in the program and more information on WIA can be found at www.mndnr.gov/walkin or by calling Marybeth Block, DNR Walk-in Access coordinator, at 651-259-5223.

Locations of parcels enrolled for 2012 will be on the website in August. WIA is a partnership between the DNR, SWCD, Board of Soil and Water Resources (BWSR) and U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is funding the first two years of the program.

DNR reminds horseback riders that a Horse Pass is required on state-managed horse trails

As Minnesotans saddle up for the 2012 horseback riding season, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) reminds riders to get a Horse Pass before hitting any state-managed horse trails. Riders without the pass are subject to fines.

The Horse Pass ($5 daily or $21 annually) can be purchased online, by phone, or from the same statewide vendors that sell fishing and hunting licenses. Since 2007, riders age 16 and older have been required to carry a signed pass on lands administered by the DNR, including state trails, Minnesota state parks, state forests and state recreation areas. The DNR manages more than 1,000 miles of horse trails and more than 500 horse campsites.

Funds from Horse Pass sales are used to address equestrian needs in the areas where the pass is required. Over the past five years, the pass has raised about $565,000 for projects such as trail rehabilitation, improved day-use parking areas and electric hookups at horse campsites. The DNR works with an Equestrian Advisory Group to implement the Horse Pass program.

For more information about horseback riding or to buy a Horse Pass, visit mndnr.gov/horseback_riding or call the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or toll-free 888-646-6367 (TTY 651-296-5484) between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

DNR and Minnesota Twins celebrate Earth Week with tree planting at St. Croix State Park

In celebration of Earth Week and as part of the Break a Bat, Plant a Tree partnership, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the Minnesota Twins today planted 20 white and Norway pines 18 to 24 inches tall in St. Croix State Park, where 13,000 acres of trees were damaged during a devastating storm in July 2011. Students from Hinckley Elementary School joined representatives from the DNR and the Twins front office at the ceremonial planting event.

Now in its third year, the partnership between the DNR and the Twins results in the dedication of 100 trees to be planted at Minnesota state parks and trails for every time a Twins pitcher breaks the bat of an opposing player. During the 2011 regular season, Twins pitchers broke a total of 168 bats, which scored the 16,800 trees for Minnesota state parks and trails.

"The Break a Bat, Plant a Tree partnership has been mutually beneficial, and we appreciate the continued commitment from the Minnesota Twins," said Courtland Nelson, director of the Parks and Trails Division. "This year, it is especially gratifying that we are using trees from this partnership to celebrate Earth Week and continue the restoration effort at St. Croix state park. The work we do today will provide lasting benefit for future generations of park visitors and wildlife."

At least 2,000 trees, mostly red and white pine, with some jack and Norway pine, are expected to be planted at St. Croix State Park this year through the partnership. The park already planted 500 Break a Bat trees in campground areas to restore some of what was lost during the July 2011 blowdown.

"While devastating, the blowdown provided a rare opportunity to restore native plant communities to areas of the park that had been altered many years ago," said Forrest Boe, director of the DNR's Forestry Division. "As the extraordinary cleanup effort in the park and adjacent state forest continues and areas of fallen timber are sold, we will work to identify future opportunities for replanting and restoration."

To date, 5,700 acres of fallen timber (100,000 cords of wood) have been sold from the park. The white, jack and Norway pines planted at St. Croix State Park were grown at the Badoura State Forest Nursery. The jack pine was grown from seeds collected at the park following a 2008 blowdown. Seeds from the 2011 blowdown were collected and will be returned to the park for future planting to retain native plant genetics whenever possible.

In addition to St. Croix State Park, recipients of Break a Bat trees from the 2011 season, to be planted in 2012, include Hayes Lake State Park, Itasca State Park and possibly Zippel Bay State Park.

St. Croix State Park receives approximately 188,000 visitors each year. For more information about the park, including a virtual tour (pre-blowdown) and a downloadable brochure with a map showing areas impacted by the July 2011 storm, visit www.mndnr.gov.

DNR receives donation of equipment from Bowfishing Assoc.

A donation from the Land of Lakes Bowfishing Association (LLBA) will help conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) enforce noise levels of generators used during night bowfishing on waterways.

Artificial lights powered by generators are important to bow anglers seeking species such as carp, suckers and bullheads.

The three donated decibel meters valued at $1,250 provide additional resources for conservation officers to enforce noise restrictions on lakes and rivers used by bow anglers.

"The DNR can really use these decibel meters to ensure those living around bodies of water can maintain their privacy while those bow fishing can enjoy their sport," said Capt. Greg Salo, a DNR regional enforcement manager in the Twin Cities. "It's a win-win situation for everyone involved."

Troy Decker, LLBA president, said the donation is an investment in their sport.

"We want everyone to enjoy the waterways in Minnesota," Decker said. "This is a proactive step by our organization to ensure everyone can by making sure generators are in compliance with the law."

The three meters will be calibrated and certified by the state. Conservation officers will be trained how to use them in the field.

"We're extremely pleased to have this relationship with LLBA," Salo said. "Their donation will be a very effective tool for the DNR."

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