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OUTDOOR NOTES: N.D. duck survey reveals extent of habitat loss

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outdoors Grand Forks, 58203
Grand Forks Herald
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The numbers are still being crunched, but the North Dakota Game and Fish Department has completed its annual spring survey of breeding ducks and water conditions.

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Mike Johnson, migratory game bird management supervisor for Game and Fish in Bismarck, said he hesitates to make projections on this year’s waterfowl outlook until all of the numbers are in, but the loss of habitat was readily apparent as land goes out of the Conservation Reserve Program, and grasslands are plowed and converted to cropland.

Game and Fish crews conducted the survey the week of May 12.

“The landscape has really taken a huge hit with the loss of CRP,” Johnson said. “Fall plowing, lots of erosion, lots of wetland drainage. It was pretty significant.

“Grass is gone, and native prairie is being turned upside down.”

The impact on waterfowl production is inevitable.

“If we’re still attracting large numbers of birds, production can’t be as good as it has been because the nesting cover just isn’t there,” Johnson said. “It’s only going to get worse as far as we can tell.”

Game and Fish personnel conduct the survey by running eight north-to-south routes across the state from Canada to the South Dakota border. Survey crews then count every duck and every wetland they can see from the road. The survey, which covers 1,816 miles, has been conducted since 1948 and is the longest continuously running waterfowl survey in the world, Johnson said.

— Brad Dokken

Delta Duck Cam back on the prairie

Conservation group Delta Waterfowl again this spring has installed a small video camera next to a duck nest on the North Dakota prairie.

The first star of the Delta Duck Cam this spring is Blue-Winged Teal 007, named because her nest was the seventh found in the field in north-central North Dakota. She began incubating 12 eggs on May 21, which should hatch this coming week — if a predator doesn’t find them first.

 Technicians will keep close watch on the camera, and move it to a new nest when the eggs hatch — or are destroyed by predators.

“We’re very excited to be bringing back our Duck Cam for the second year,” said Joel Brice, Delta Waterfowl vice president of conservation and hunter recruitment. “It gives us the opportunity to once again open a window few folks get to see that is critical to duck production and the birds hunters pursue each fall.”

The Delta Duck Cam stream will remain live throughout the nesting season, which should carry into mid-July.

Last spring, Delta installed the camera next to four duck nests at different times during the breeding season. As the events unfolded, a pintail hatched seven ducklings, followed by a raccoon destroying a gadwall nest, a successful mallard hatch and finally, a skunk raiding a gadwall.

You can watch for updates on Delta’s Facebook page and Twitter feed or visit deltaduckcam.com to watch the streaming camera feed live anytime.

— Delta Waterfowl

Report offers sage grouse strategies

A new report from the conservation group Backcountry Hunters and Anglers shows planning can benefit severely threatened sage grouse habitat in the western U.S. without sacrificing energy development.

The report, “Conserving Greater Sage-Grouse: A Sportsmen’s Priority,” precedes this week’s annual meeting of the Western Governors’ Association. The report concludes that conserving the greater sage-grouse is crucial for Western states’ wildlife-based recreation and economies and also will provide much-needed certainty and stability to the oil and gas industry.

 “Hunters across the West are heartbroken at the prospect of losing sage grouse as part of America’s hunting heritage,” Land Tawney, executive director of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers, said in a statement. “It’s not too late to conserve sage grouse and their native habitats they and many other species depend on. But we only have this one chance to get this right.”

Using the state of Wyoming’s sage-grouse plan as a case study, the report shows that while oil and gas development can have serious impacts on the sage grouse and its habitat, proactive plans that limit development in core habitat areas and encourage development in the most appropriate places represent a win-win for sportsmen and the oil and gas industry.

With these findings in mind, BHA is calling on other Western states to look to Wyoming as a model and adopt proactive measures to protect the greater sage-grouse, and avoid its listing under the Endangered Species Act.

“Not only do sportsmen enjoy hunting sage grouse, but their sagebrush habitat is critical to big game species like mule deer, pronghorn and elk,” Tawney said.

Info: backcountryhunters.org.

— Herald staff report

DNR to consider rec rule changes

For the first time in a long time, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is reviewing recreation rules at state parks, recreation areas, trails and forests and invites public comments until 4:30 p.m. July 25.

“Some of the current rules are more than 30 years old,” said Erika Rivers, director of the Parks and Trails Division. “It’s time to give them a fresh look, put them in plain language and weed out obsolete references.”

Rule changes to be considered include:

  •  Extending state park and recreation area hours of operation.
  •  Allowing camping in undeveloped parts of state parks and recreation areas.
  •  Prohibiting wildlife feeding.
  •  Clarifying the activities permitted at state recreation areas.
  •  Other topics of interest or concern to Minnesota citizens.

Info: mndnr.gov or Rebecca Wooden, (651) 259-5584 or by email at recreationrules.dnr@state.mn.us.

— Minnesota DNR

Did you know?

  •  The Bass Federation and FLW, the world’s largest tournament fishing organization, have partnered to present the 2014 North Dakota State High School Fishing Championship on June 15 at Mitchell Lake in Wing, N.D. The event is open to any two-person high school fishing team in the state, and participants must be in grades 9 through 12. Takeoff will be at 5:45 a.m. and weigh-in at 3 p.m.; teams can register until the morning of the event. Info: highschoolfishing.org.
  •  Law enforcement officers across the U.S. are gearing up for Operation Dry Water — the country’s boating under the influence awareness and enforcement campaign. The nationwide event will take place June 27-29, and law enforcement officers at local, state and federal levels will be on heightened alert for those violating boating under the influence laws. In 2013, officers contacted 144,044 recreational boaters and made 290 BUI arrests during the three-day weekend. Info: operationdrywater.org.
  •  All-Terrain Vehicle Safety Week in Minnesota begins today and continues through June 15. Info: http://bitly.com/1p2EIjH.
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