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DNR proposes management plan

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wants to designate 11,099 acres in Beltrami Island State Forest as Non-Motorized Access Areas - large forested areas where hunting and trapping is allowed, but motorized vehicles are not.

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources wants to designate 11,099 acres in Beltrami Island State Forest as Non-Motorized Access Areas - large forested areas where hunting and trapping is allowed, but motorized vehicles are not.

DNR released on its Web site Thursday a revised set of maps for its proposed road, trail and other route designations in Beltrami Island State Forest.

Thursday's designation marks the latest step in DNR's effort to manage Beltrami State Forest.

DNR originally was mandated by the state Legislature to reclassify all of Minnesota's 54 state forests as either "limited" or "closed" to motorized use. In winter 2004-05, DNR proposed reclassifying Beltrami as "limited," which would have greatly restricted motorized access within the forest.

That sparked a public outcry from residents of northwestern Minnesota, home of Arctic Cat and Polaris Industries, two of the nation's largest snowmobile and all-terrain vehicle manufacturers.

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The new proposal is the result of more than a year of public comment gathering and study by the Beltrami Island Road and Trail Project Team. It includes representatives from DNR, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and county commissioners from Roseau, Lake of the Woods and Beltrami counties.

The agency is inviting public comment until March 1 on the latest proposal, according to Mary Broten, Thief River Falls Area Trails and Waterways Supervisor and chair of the Beltrami Island Road and Trail Project Team.

"The team has spent the better part of a year creating a revised proposal for Beltrami Island that responds to the public comments received to date," Broten said Thursday. "The planning team has been very thoughtful in its consideration of public comments - often visiting field sites where more information was needed to make decisions. The team and cooperating agencies now encourage people to review and submit comments on the proposal so the work team can continue to incorporate that input."

The public comment period has been open since November 2004.

Broten said the team will meet again after March 1 to review comments and possibly to revise the plan based on those comments.

The plan then will be forwarded to DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten, who could sign the designation order by mid-March.

"These four areas have some unique characteristics," Broten said. "They provide a quiet experience."

The areas are:

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-- Bemis East and Bemis West Non-Motorized Access Area, located north of the Thompson State Forest Road and includes developed recreational facilities near Bemis Hill. Bemis East contains 4,921 acres. Bemis West contains 1,980 acres.

The existing Bemis Hill State Forest Road and a large gravel pit split this area into East and West sections. The Bemis Hill State Forest Road is not part of the NMAA and will continue to be open to motor vehicle use.

-- Hansen Creek Non-Motorized Access Area, located west of Dick's Parkway State Forest Road, north of Hansen Creek and south of Highwood West State Forest Road. It contains 2,957 acres. The non-motorized area does not affect snowmobile use in the area, either on the existing designated trail or off-trail snowmobile use.

-- Manweiler Dam Non-Motorized Access Area. This area includes old growth forest stand and is adjacent to wildlife impoundments. It contains 1,242 acres.

The working draft maps include proposed areas closed to motorized use, existing and new walking/non-motorized trails, ATV trails, proactive closures of some routes, and minimum maintenance roads. The team and others also identified additional needs to accommodate forest users, such as potential parking areas and support facilities. Here is how to find the DNR classification proposal and maps:

The DNR classification proposal, road and trail designation plan, and related maps are on the DNR Web site at www.dnr.state.mn.us . Click on the OHV riding button on the right-hand side of the home page to navigate to the OHV plans and proposals section of the Web site.

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