Published March 12, 2010, 12:00 AM

OUTDOORS NEWS: Bills would delay new boat ramps ... Roosevelt park elk hunt may start in fall ... It's maple syrup time

Two northern Minnesota lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban the Department of Natural Resources from building any new public access areas on lakes and rivers for five years. The bills — introduced by Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Rep. Dave Dill, DFL-Crane Lake — impose a moratorium on new DNR boat ramps until July 1, 2015.

By: Associated Press,

Bills would delay new boat ramps

ST. PAUL — Two northern Minnesota lawmakers have introduced legislation that would ban the Department of Natural Resources from building any new public access areas on lakes and rivers for five years.

The bills — introduced by Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, and Rep. Dave Dill, DFL-Crane Lake — impose a moratorium on new DNR boat ramps until July 1, 2015.

The moratorium was the brainchild of a group of property owners on 450-acre Big Pequaywan Lake north of Duluth who object to a proposed DNR landing on their lake, which has no public access now.

Pequaywan property owners said the new landing would attract boats from lakes and rivers already contaminated with invasive species such as zebra mussels, goby, ruffe, milfoil and the newest invader: fish-killing VHS disease.

The Duluth News Tribune first reported in August that the Pequaywan group was pushing Bakk and Dill, who represent the Pequaywan area, to introduce the moratorium. Supporters said the threat of invasive species trumps the public’s right to access to state-owned waters.

It’s not clear how far the proposal will get in the Legislature, but it is at least likely to get a hearing in the House: Dill chairs the subcommittee that considers new legislation on fishing, boating and the DNR.

DNR officials, who oppose the moratorium, said they are under state mandate to use boat license money to keep building and improving the public’s access for fishing, boating, canoeing and other recreation.

Park elk culling may start in fall

BISMARCK — Volunteer hunters could begin killing elk from an overpopulated herd at North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park beginning this fall, the National Park Service said.

The plan, which is still weeks away from being finalized, would end a lengthy dispute between state officials and the National Park Service about how to deal with the bloated elk herd at the park, which covers about 70,000 acres in western North Dakota’s Badlands.

Volunteers, rather than government-funded sharpshooters, would enter the park, kill the elk and share the meat with food pantries.

“It’s supposed to be a rather quick plan that will achieve results within five years, if not sooner,” Park Superintendent Valerie Naylor said this week.

The ideal elk population at the park is 100 to 400, but the herd has grown to about 950, based on a count last week, said Bill Whitworth, Theodore Roosevelt’s chief of resource management.

Federal law prohibits use of private hunters and firearms in the park, located in western North Dakota’s Badlands. But officials said a change in the law is expected to be published in the Federal Register in about a month.

Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Republican Gov. John Hoeven have pushed the Park Service for several years to allow volunteers to thin the elk herd within park boundaries in North Dakota, saying it would save taxpayers money and quickly take care of the problem.

The Park Service’s plan is similar to one adopted last year that allows volunteer sharpshooters to thin elk herds at Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park.

South Dakota’s Wind Cave National Park also is dealing with an overpopulated elk herd and is relying on hunters outside the park’s boundaries to reduce the elk population.

State parks offer maple syrup demo

ST. PAUL — Several Minnesota state parks are offering a sweet deal as spring approaches this month — maple syruping demonstrations starting Saturday.

Participants of all ages will learn how to tap trees, collect and boil down sap and taste samples. Some events are demonstrations only, while others offer hands-on participation in each step of the process. It usually takes 30 to 40 gallons of sap to get one gallon of syrup.

Experts said the sap runs best when daytime temperatures reach the high 30s to mid-40s but overnight temperatures still fall below freezing. The typical prime season runs from about March 15 to April 20.

The maple syruping programs are free, but a vehicle permit is required to enter state parks, and registration is required for some programs.

Tags: