DNR unveils new habitat license plate

Better late than never, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Thursday unveiled its latest critical habitat license plate for vehicles, the new design emblazoned with pollinators.

The pollinator plates were originally proposed in 2017. But the same state computer system malfunctions that caused Minnesota driver's license backups – the Minnesota License and Registration System – also delayed the new license plates, DNR officials said. The $73 million failed computer system couldn’t produce the new, six-number plates.

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MNLARS has since been replaced, and the new plates are now available wherever residents renew their plates or tabs, online or in person.

The winning license plate design, by artist Timothy Turenne, depicts the state butterfly – the monarch – and rusty patched bumblebee, recently designated as the state bee. Pollinators, including the two species featured on the license plate, have been generally declining across the U.S. because of habitat loss and likely issues with pesticides.

Vehicle owners who want the new plates pay an extra fee of $30 per year, with the money going to critical habitat acquisition projects through the Reinvest in Minnesota program. In 2019, the plates generated $5.3 million to help buy and manage critical habitats for all types of species.

“Many Minnesotans share a commitment to maintaining healthy populations of bees, butterflies and other native pollinators,” DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said in a statement Thursday. “This beautiful new critical habitat license plate is an opportunity to show your support for pollinators while providing important funding to preserve habitats.”

The new pollinator plates join a host of others on Minnesota vehicles that help wildlife, including chickadees, loons, moose and lady's slipper flowers. The state also offers habitat plates for deer hunters, turkey hunters, pheasant hunters, anglers and state park fans.

– John Myers, Forum News Service

Grant to benefit threatened Minnesota turtles

Wood turtles and ornate box turtles in Minnesota will benefit from about $7.4 million in federal grants for vulnerable wildlife species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week.

The wood turtle is a state-listed species in Minnesota, Michigan, Iowa and Wisconsin and is undergoing review for potential listing by the FWS under the Endangered Species Act.

Both turtles are threatened by habitat degradation and fragmentation, vehicle collisions, nest depredation and collection for the pet trade, the FWS said in announcing the grants. The Minnesota DNR can mitigate these threats by creating nesting and foraging habitat, installing barriers to reduce road mortality, and identifying potential locations for new restoration efforts.

Also receiving grants were agencies in Arizona, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, South Carolina, Washington, Wisconsin and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. The agencies will split the $7.4 million to implement 17 conservation projects that span 28 states and four commonwealths, the FWS said.

– Herald staff report

Did you know?

  • Lou Cornicelli, a longtime DNR wildlife researcher and big game program consultant who left the agency in August 2020, has joined Southwick Associates as a senior analyst. Cornicelli has 28 years of experience working for state fish and wildlife agencies, including nearly two decades with the DNR. Southwick Associates is a market research and economics firm, specializing in the hunting, shooting, sportfishing and other outdoor recreation markets. In his new position, Cornicelli will help manage statistical and survey-based projects and work with clients to find solutions to challenging problems, Southwick said in a news release. Cornicelli’s email address is Lou@southwickassociates.com.

  • Minnesota residents interested in serving on the statewide Aquatic Invasive Species Advisory Committee may submit applications online until 4:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 22. The DNR’s AIS Advisory Committee is a core element of the agency’s partnership approach to addressing aquatic invasive species. The DNR is seeking three new members to join the 15-member committee, with term lengths of three years. The committee meets eight times a year, either online or in a central Minnesota location. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, meetings currently use an online format. More info: Heidi Wolf, (651) 259-5152, heidi.wolf@state.mn.us.

  • The DNR’s wildlife research staff have taken a fresh look at the last 36 years of winter weather data to update the winter severity index maps and criteria for mild, moderate and severe winters. A new webpage explores how winter influences deer survival and how a wide variety of other factors such as habitat, food availability and timing of spring green-up can compound or buffer the impacts of a severe winter. More info: mndnr.gov.

  • It’s been a warmer-than-normal January, and recent reports of vehicles breaking through the ice underscore the need for ice anglers and others to check ice thickness, the DNR said. Because conditions can vary widely even on the same body of water, the DNR recommends people check ice thickness at least every 150 feet. The DNR’s ice safety page has more safety tips and ice-thickness recommendations.

  • Clean up before you leave the ice. That’s the message from the North Dakota Game and Fish Department for anglers after they’re done fishing. That applies not only to trash, but fish, as well, the department said. It is illegal to leave fish, including minnows used for bait, behind on the ice. According to state fishing regulations, when a fish is caught, anglers must either immediately release the fish unharmed or reduce it to their daily possession. Filleting fish on the ice is allowed in North Dakota, as long as fish entrails and other parts are removed from the ice and properly disposed of at home.

  • Anglers fishing deep water should keep the fish they catch, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department says. Catch-and-release fishing, no matter the time of year, is discouraged for fish caught in 30 feet or more of water, because fish reeled in from those depths have a greater chance of dying if released. Fish caught in deep water likely won’t survive because of the extreme change in water pressure, which causes the swim bladder to expand. Other internal injuries, such as rupturing of organs and bleeding, are also likely for fish caught from deep waters. Anglers fishing water 30 feet or deeper should move shallower once they reach their limit to avoid killing more than their limit of fish, the department said.

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  • The annual Great Backyard Bird Count is set for Feb. 12-15, which is President’s Day weekend in the U.S. The global event is co-sponsored by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Birds Canada, and Audubon. More info: www.birdcount.org.

  • The National Rifle Association said this week it has signed a 10-year agreement with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to assist in recruiting, educating and retaining sportsmen and women through the NRA’s hunter education and outreach programs.

– compiled by Brad Dokken