NDGF director highlights bills

The recently completed North Dakota legislative session was “pretty good” from the vantage point of the North Dakota Game and Fish Department, Terry Steinwand, department director said.

Speaking Monday night during the District 7 Game and Fish Advisory Board meeting in Bismarck, Steinwand said this year’s session featured “substantially less” hunting-, fishing- or trapping-related bills. Most sessions, lawmakers introduce about 35 bills that potentially affect the department, Steinwand said; this session, only 21 such bills were introduced.

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Monday night’s Bismarck meeting also was live-streamed on the Game and Fish website for anyone wanting to attend virtually.

Among the session highlights from a Game and Fish perspective was HB 1017, the department’s budget bill, which appropriates just over $92 million to the department for the biennium beginning July 1. Gov. Doug Burgum signed the bill last week, Steinwand said.

Another significant piece of legislation signed into law was SB 2144, which gives landowners the option of posting their land through an electronic database. Land posted electronically will be listed on the Game and Fish website, Steinwand said, or via a downloadable app, making it easier for hunters to see whether land is open to hunting.

Another part of the bill addresses criminal trespass for anyone who’s not a licensed hunter or angler. In those situations, law enforcement officers have the discretion to cite trespassers with charges ranging from noncriminal offenses up to Class A misdemeanors, depending on the severity of the violation.

“The hunting portion is simple,” Steinwand said. “It gives landowners another option to post. It doesn’t mandate they have to post electronically but they can. Or they don’t have to post at all.”

In a news release, the governor’s office said the bill makes North Dakota the first state in the country to allow electronic posting of private land.

“It was the first time in my tenure as director that I actually saw private landowners, for the most part, and sporting groups come together and agree on something,” Steinwand said. “And this was agreement. Was it total agreement? Probably not. I’d hate to call it a compromise, it was a collaborative solution; that’s basically what it was.”

A related bill, SB 2036, calls for continuing a two-year pilot study of an electronic land access database through 2022 and expanding it to all 53 North Dakota counties. A pilot study during the 2020-21 hunting season gave landowners in Ramsey, Richland and Slope counties the option of posting their land electronically.

Also signed into law were bills allowing the Game and Fish Department to keep an electronic database of fines and citations instead of a written log, legislation requiring landowner permission for anyone putting a trail camera on private land, a bill allowing nonresidents with land enrolled in the department’s Private Land Open to Sportsmen (PLOTS) program to hunt their land during the first week of pheasant season – all PLOTS land previously was closed to nonresidents during the first week of season – and legislation that allows hunters who haven’t completed safety training to buy a second apprentice license, which traditionally is a one-time offering.

– Brad Dokken

NDGF to mail archery tags

Archery deer hunters in North Dakota no longer will be able to buy a bow license and get the tag at the same time when buying their license through vendors across the state, a Game and Fish Department official said.

Casey Anderson, assistant wildlife chief for Game and Fish in Bismarck, said the option, which was available during the 2020-21 archery deer season, resulted in “some issues.”

“Vendors can still sell them, but the North Dakota Game and Fish Department will send (the tags) out of the Bismarck office,” Anderson said Monday night during the Game and Fish Department’s District 7 Advisory Board meeting in Bismarck. “So, you won’t be able to buy your tag and go hunting that afternoon.”

Depending on the speed of mail delivery, it could take anywhere from three days to a week or more for the licenses to arrive, he said. With the change, bowhunters will just have to plan ahead, Anderson said.

As with other licenses, archery tags also will be sold online.

– Brad Dokken

Removing lake plants could require permit

Lakeshore property owners in Minnesota may need a permit to remove aquatic plants, the Department of Natural Resources said. Aquatic plants provide food and shelter for fish, ducks and other wildlife, the DNR said. They also stabilize the lake bottom, which helps maintain water clarity, and protect shorelines from erosion by absorbing energy from waves and ice.

Additionally, the DNR frequently receives questions about devices that generate water current to wash muck and plants away. They have various trade names, but the DNR refers to these devices generically as hydraulic jets. Even though you can buy one in Minnesota, they cannot be used in any way that disturbs the bottom of the lake or uproots plants.

Specific regulations govern what situations require permits for aquatic plant removal. Regulations and a guide to aquatic plants can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov.

– Herald staff report

DNR answers fishing questions

With Minnesota’s general fishing opener set for Saturday, May 15, anglers with fishing questions can find answers on the DNR’s fishing page at mndnr.gov/fishing. The page answers questions such as: What species can I fish for? What kind of bait is legal? What kind of fish can I keep?

The pag also provides a mobile-friendly destination for information on when, where and how to fish. Users will find links to LakeFinder, which provides maps and detailed information on lakes throughout the state, and the new StreamFinder tool that provides a description, species list, regulations and access information for trout streams throughout Minnesota.

The DNR fishing page also includes an online version of Minnesota fishing regulations plus an online version of the 2021 Minnesota Fishing Regulations booklet, which is available in print anywhere DNR licenses are sold.

– Herald staff report

Renew watercraft registration online

Minnesota boaters who need to renew their watercraft registrations should do so either online or at their local deputy registrar's office rather than by mail, the DNR said. As a result of COVID-19 and an increase in volume, the DNR License Center currently is taking up to nine weeks to process mail-in boat registration renewals, the agency said. Additional staff have been pulled in to process renewals and help with the backlog.

Boaters who renew online can print out the confirmation page to use as their temporary permit. They also can write down the temporary authorization number from the confirmation page. The registration card and expiration decals then will arrive by mail.

To renew online, visit the DNR's online license sales web page, click on “Get Started” and follow the prompts. To renew in person, visit a deputy registrar. Deputy registrar locations are available on the Minnesota Department of Public Safety website.

– Herald staff report

Take a Mom Fishing weekend set

Looking for a creative Mother's Day gift? How about treating Mom to a day of fishing? Take A Mom Fishing weekend is May 8-9, a time when Minnesota moms can fish without a license! Even if Mom isn't an angler, we bet she'd love spending the day enjoying the beauty of Minnesota's outdoors and maybe snapping a selfie or two with the fam.

Info: go.usa.gov/xHQXR.

– Herald staff report

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