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Brad Dokken: Dayton signs outdoors legislation

Brad Dokken

Muzzleloader hunters in Minnesota will be able to use magnifying scopes on their guns, blaze pink will be allowed for hunters in the field, and anglers and deer hunters will pay a few dollars more for their licenses beginning in 2018 under legislation Gov. Mark Dayton signed Tuesday.

Dayton's signing of SF844, the environment and natural resources budget bill, no doubt brings relief to officials at the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, who lobbied for an increase in deer and fishing licenses to replenish a dwindling Game and Fish Fund. Funded primarily by hunting and fishing license dollars, the fund was projected to go into the red by 2019 without the increase, the DNR said.

Since a deficit balance isn't allowed, DNR officials said they would have to cut staff, surveys and other programs that benefit hunting and fishing in the state. The fee increases set to take effect next year should alleviate all or most of the cuts that would have occurred without the additional funding.

Dayton had included the fee hikes in his original budget proposal, but neither the House nor Senate had fishing and hunting license fee increases in their environment and natural resource budget bills.

Neither did the bill that originally came out of conference committee, and Dayton vetoed the legislation. That forced lawmakers back to the drawing board. Sporting groups across the state, along with notables such as fishing legend Al Lindner and others, spoke in favor of the hunting and fishing license fee increases.

There's a good chance that support, which included a letter signed by representatives from 48 hook-and-bullet groups, played a role in restoring the fee increase language to the bill Dayton signed this week.

Here's a look at some of the license fee hikes that will take effect in 2018:

• Resident deer license 18 and older: $34, up from $30.

• Nonresident deer license 18 and older: $180, up from $160.

• Resident annual fishing license 18 and older: $25, up from $22.

• Nonresident annual angling: $46, up from $40.

Beltrami trail plan

The DNR is in the process of reviewing and revising trail designations in Beltrami Island State Forest, and a public meeting on the plan is set for 6 to 8 p.m. June 28 at the DNR Forestry Office, 804 Cherne Drive NW, in Warroad, Minn.

In a news release, Joe Unger, DNR Parks and Trails planner, said the new plan doesn't propose closing any trails and would designate a variety of off-highway vehicle trails, hunter walking trails and minimum maintenance roads.

Among the proposed changes are plans to add more than 25 miles of OHV trail and minimum maintenance roads and more than 10 miles of hunter walking trails. At the same time, 1.3 miles of minimum maintenance roads no longer would be designated for motorized use, resulting in a net increase of 24.1 miles of designated motorized trails and minimum maintenance roads, Unger said.

"Designation ensures the trail will receive funding for maintenance, signage and mapping," Unger said. "Unlike an access route, a designated trail may only be closed through a public process, giving the public the opportunity to weigh in on whether a trail should be closed or stay open." Money for the newly designated OHV trails will come from the dedicated OHV accounts.

The plan stands to be exponentially less controversial than a 2005 proposal that would have severely restricted ATV access in Minnesota's second-largest state forest. That proposal drew more than 2,000 people to a public meeting at The Gardens hockey arena in Warroad.

While the DNR plan adds designated trails, local ATV groups would like to see a .7-mile trail segment not included in the DNR plan open and signed for motorized use.

That likely will be a topic of discussion during the upcoming Warroad meeting.

According to Tony Moe of the Fourtown-Grygla Sportsman's Club, the segment would connect two dead-end trails near Roseau River Dam No. 4 and provide continuous access from Bemis Hill in the northern part of the forest with lands near Fourtown, Minn., several miles to the south.

Club members have said they would like to see a signed, connected trail system from Bemis Hill to the Fourtown area.

Beltrami Island State Forest is designated as "managed," meaning off-highway vehicles can be used on designated forest roads unless signs specifically prohibit their use.

More information on the plan is available at mndnr.gov, by calling Unger at (651) 259-5279 or by sending an email to foresttrailplanning.dnr@state.mn.us.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

(701) 780-1148
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