Henry of Lake of the Woods Tourism testifies at Senate hearing

Joe Henry, executive director of Lake of the Woods Tourism, testified Tuesday, June 15, before a Senate panel during a hearing on “The State of Outdoor Tourism, Recreation and Ecotourism.”

The U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation’s subcommittee on Tourism, Trade and Export Promotion conducted the hearing. Testifying remotely, Henry addressed issues relating to tourism and outdoor recreation throughout Minnesota, according to a news release from Lake of the Woods Tourism.

“Outdoor tourism and the recreation industry, including the impacts of COVID-19 on businesses and communities have created both challenges and opportunities for the industry,” Henry said. “Many outdoor recreation destinations and companies are booming. Others are not. There are inherent challenges throughout the state and many cases in the country, however, that need addressing.”

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Among the challenges Henry cited was the situation facing businesses on the Northwest Angle, which has been cut off from the rest of the U.S. by road since the U.S.-Canada border closed to nonessential travel in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. He mentioned the Remote Recreational Small Business Interruption Program Act, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith, both D-Minn., which would provide forgivable loans to small businesses in exclaves of the contiguous U.S. near the Canadian border, such as the Northwest Angle.

Opening the 40 miles of road through Canada for visitors and seasonal property owners to reach the Northwest Angle is a priority, Henry said, along with securing a forgivable loan program.

“As America is coming out of the pandemic and things are starting to open up again, resorts and businesses up at the Northwest Angle are once again ‘cut off’ from their customers,” Henry said. “They are now facing their second summer of little to no business and their customers not being able to reach them. Customers can travel across the big lake via boat staying in Minnesota waters; however, (traveling) 40 miles across a huge lake with waves reaching over 8 feet tall at times, is unrealistic for most. There are many scary stories where various groups including families with young children have had close calls.”

Also testifying during Tuesday’s hearing were Colin Robertson, administrator of Nevada’s Division of Outdoor Recreation; Glenn Hughes, president of the American Sportfishing Association; and Zachary Hartman, chief policy officer of Ducks Unlimited.

For more information on the hearing, including a link to the video recording, click here. For a transcript of Henry’s testimony, as prepared, click here.

– Herald staff report

N.D. wildfires up from 2020

Widespread drought conditions have led to a drastic increase in wildfires this year in North Dakota when compared with last year. According to data collected by the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and North Dakota Forest Service, nearly 1,400 fires have scorched more than 100,000 acres across the state since January, the equivalent of about 156 square miles.

By comparison, about 921 fires last year burned 11,956 acres, most of which were human-caused. This year, however, North Dakota, feeling the effects of a devastating drought cycle, has experienced some of the driest winter and spring months in 127 years of recordkeeping. Limited moisture along with warm temperatures have increased the intensity and size of wildfires this year, according to State Forester Tom Claeys.

“This year, it’s imperative that we all know how to mitigate against wildfires, especially as we make plans to enjoy the summer months by recreating outside with friends and family,” Claeys said. “With Independence Day right around the corner, we need to raise awareness now to reduce wildfire risk. We all can do our part to practice fire safety and protect property and lives.”

Some fire tips from the North Dakota Forest Service include:

  • Avoid or postpone burning.

  • Make sure to dispose of cigarettes properly.

  • Use caution with outdoor equipment. While pulling a camper, boat or trailer, remember to cross your tow chains and never park on tall, dry grass.

  • If you are in an area that allows recreational fires, never leave them unattended and be sure to put them out completely.

  • Remember to follow all burn bans. Additionally, fires should not be started on days with a Red Flag Warning, which is when warm temperatures, low humidity and stronger winds are forecasted to combine to produce an increased risk of fire danger.

More info: ndresponse.gov.

– Herald staff report

CRP sign-ups now underway

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has evaluated the Conservation Reserve Program, and landowners who enroll will receive higher payment rates and new incentives as part of a renewed focus on CRP’s role in improving soil health and water quality, creating wildlife habitat and sequestering carbon.

Farmers and landowners now can apply at USDA Service Centers to enroll in various programs:

  • Continuous CRP Signup 55 (any previously unapproved contracts) with an application deadline of Aug. 6.

  • General CRP Signup 56 with an application deadline of July 23.

  • Soil Health and Income Protection Program acres are still available in Prairie Pothole Region states; deadline is July 16.

– Herald staff report

Clay target tourneys underway

High school athletes and teams representing schools from across the country are participating in state tournaments and championship events hosted by the USA Clay Target League again this month. Overall, 47 events that collectively total 62 days of individual and team competition are being held in June across the country.

The events include the Minnesota Trap Shooting Championship in Alexandria Minn., which began Monday, June 14, and continues through Tuesday, June 22. The Minnesota event is the world’s largest clay target shooting sport event with over 6,500 student athletes participating over the course of the nine-day competition. The 2021 National Championship set for July 7-11 in Mason, Mich., will feature more than 3,000 student athletes from more than 240 high school teams that will compete for the national title.

With over 38,000 participating athletes in the 2020-2021 school year, the USA Clay Target League is the largest youth clay target shooting sport program in the nation. The League offers trap, skeet, sporting clays and five-stand leagues to secondary and postsecondary schools across the country. The league is the only 100% school-approved clay target shooting sport program in America.

More info: usaclaytargetchampionship.com.

– Herald staff report

Did you know?

  • Henry Drewes, Northwest Region fisheries manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Bemidji since 1998, is retiring in early August after a 35-year career in fisheries.

  • North Dakota state law requires that 12- to 15-year-olds who want to operate a boat or personal watercraft by themselves with at least a 10-horsepower motor must pass the state’s boating basics course. The course is available for home-study from the Game and Fish Department’s Bismarck office at 100 N. Bismarck Expressway. Two commercial providers also offer the course online, and links to those sites are found on the department’s website at gf.nd.gov.

  • The Minnesota DNR has named conservation officer Hannah Mishler as the department’s Conservation Officer of the Year, an annual award given to an officer for outstanding overall career performance. Mishler, who is stationed in Bemidji, has been a conservation officer since 2014. She and her K9 partner, Storm, are part of the Enforcement Division’s K9 Unit, and Mishler also routinely assists with teaching new conservation officers during training academies at Camp Ripley near Little Falls, Minn. She also is an arson investigator and devotes time to helping other law enforcement personnel as part of the Enforcement Division’s peer support team.

  • Baby animals should be left alone, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department said in an annual reminder. The only time a baby animal should be picked up is if it is in an unnatural situation, such as a young songbird found on a doorstep. In that case, the young bird can be moved to the closest suitable habitat. People should also steer clear of adult wildlife, such as deer or moose that might wander into urban areas. Crowding stresses animals and can lead to a potentially dangerous situation. Motorists also should watch for deer along roadways this time of year as young animals disperse from their home ranges and become more active.

– compiled by Brad Dokken

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