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Outdoors Notebook: Multi-partner study including North Dakota universities cites grassland benefits

Annual beekeeping revenue increased by $7,525 per 10 square kilometers – about 3.9 square miles – in healthy grassland ecosystems.

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Grassland conservation is a win-win-win for the birds, the bees and the people of the Dakotas, said Clint Otto, a U.S. Geological Survey scientist and the study’s lead author.
Contributed / North Dakota Game and Fish Department
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Study cites grassland benefits

GRAND FORKS – Grassland conservation in the Dakotas generates millions of dollars in annual revenue for beekeepers while improving the abundance of sensitive bird species, according to a recently published study.

Scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, UND and North Dakota State University quantified the economic benefit of grasslands to beekeepers in North and South Dakota. They found that annual beekeeping revenue increased by $7,525 per 10 square kilometers – about 3.9 square miles – in healthy grassland ecosystems. They also looked at the non-market value of grasslands to migratory birds and found that bird populations increased in grasslands by 2% to 7% per 10 square kilometers.

“Our study shows that grassland conservation is a win-win-win for the birds, the bees and the people of the Dakotas,” said Clint Otto, a USGS scientist and the study’s lead author. “These findings highlight the critical importance of grasslands to society and can help inform land-use policy.”

The new study is published in the journal Ecological Economics. More information on land-use changes in the Prairie Pothole Region is available on the USGS Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center website at usgs.gov/centers/northern-prairie-wildlife-research-center.

– Herald staff report

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USDA awards $829K for N.D. recreation

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Agriculture has awarded $829,000 from the Great American Outdoors Act to improve outdoor recreation opportunities on the Maah Daah Hey Trail and perform maintenance to improve access to national grasslands in North Dakota.

U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., announced the funding Wednesday, June 8. According to a news release from Cramer’s office, the grants will fund the following projects:

  • $650,000 for Civilian Conservation Corps Campground updates near the Maah Daah Hey Trail, Theodore Roosevelt National Park and the Bakken Oil Formation. This project will update the campground to accommodate increased visitation and create dedicated loops for equestrians, tent and RV users for the premier campground associated with the Maah Dah Hey Trail. The project also will expand the main trailhead, create a dedicated equestrian trailhead, improve parking, install a pressurized water system and upgrade the pavilion and picnic tables to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards. The grant is estimated to address $128,000 in deferred maintenance needs.
  • $164,000 for reconditioning, spot surfacing and replacing culverts on seven roads to improve access to the Dakota Prairie National Grasslands. The road improvements will improve safety and better accommodate the increased use by permittees, local residents and recreationists that support the local economies. This grant is estimated to address $315,000 in deferred maintenance needs.
  • $15,000 for the Maah Daah Hey Trail Reroute and Trailhead. The project will reroute the trail and improve the trailhead to improve safety and visitor experience. Trail users are accessing the trail by parking on the shoulder of the road in a county right-of-way. The Maah Daah Hey Trail crosses road 742-2 on the crest of a hill, creating unsafe conditions not only for the user but also for the traveling public. The grant is estimated to address $12,000 in deferred maintenance needs.

– Herald staff report

NWTF grant to benefit N.D. turkey study

GRAND FORKS – Turkey research in North Dakota will benefit from a grant the National Wild Turkey Federation announced this week that will provide more than $360,000 in funding for seven new research projects in six states.

According to Susan Felege, a professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management in UND’s Biology Department, the university is partnering with the North Dakota Game and Fish Department on a study to estimate the survival and productivity of nuisance wild turkeys transferred from problem areas, mainly in western North Dakota, to other parts of the state with suitable wildlife habitat.

Game and Fish traps and relocates about 200 problem turkeys each year to wildlife management areas across the state with turkey habitat, Felege said. The upcoming study will explore nesting activities, mortality causes and infection and exposure rates of translocated turkeys compared with control birds in the project area, the NWTF said in a news release announcing the grants.

The most common areas for complaints in North Dakota include areas south of Medora, the Killdeer Mountains, Grassy Butte, Williston and Riverdale, Felege said. Urban areas such as Fargo and Jamestown also sometimes have challenges with turkeys, she said.

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The final award letter has not been issued, Felege says, but she anticipates project partners will receive about $97,000 in financial support from the NWTF to expand a GPS-tagging effort supported through a Wildlife Restoration Program (Pittman-Robertson) grant.

Tagging will begin this coming winter and occur for at least the next two seasons, she said.

Other states receiving NWTF grants include Texas, South Dakota, Mississippi and South Carolina, the NWTF said.

– Brad Dokken

Bihrle wins national photo award

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North Dakota photographer Craig Bihrle's self-portrait of him landing a northern pike in January 2021 won first place in the "People" category of the Outdoor Writers Association of America's 2022 photo contest.
Contributed / Craig Bihrle

BISMARCK – Craig Birhle, a longtime photographer and communications supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department who retired in June 2020, recently won first place in the “People” category of the 2022 Outdoor Writers Association of America’s photo contest.

Bihrle’s winning entry is a self-portrait of him landing a northern pike through the ice. To take the photo, Bihrle says he set up a GoPro camera on a tripod and had it running on continuous drive, which he turned on as he was fighting the pike.

He was fishing alone on Lake Helen in Kidder County on Jan. 12, 2021, when he caught the fish and took the award-winning photo.

“I've had a few placewinners in this contest over the years, but never a first place, and it might be the first North Dakota photo to come in first in a category,” Bihrle said in an email.

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One of the three judges in the category had this to say about Bihrle’s winning entry:

“Good composition, exposure, saturation … could compete in the ‘Action’ category as well.”

The same photo received honorable mention in the “Recreation” category of the North Dakota Governor’s photo contest, said Bihrle, who worked for the Game and Fish Department for 33½ years.

“Contests are very subjective and judging criteria vary based on the category definition,” he said. “That’s the nature of contests.”

– Brad Dokken 

Leave baby animals alone, watch for deer

BISMARCK – As it does every year about this time, the North Dakota Game and Fish Department is asking people to leave baby animals alone and be on the lookout for deer along roadways when driving.

It’s common for well-intentioned people to want to pick up and rescue what appear to be orphaned baby animals. Whether it is a fawn, duckling, cottontail rabbit or a songbird, it is better to leave them alone, Game and Fish says.

Often, young animals are not abandoned or deserted, and the mother is probably nearby. Young wildlife are purposely secluded by adults to protect them from predators.

Anytime a young wild animal has human contact, its chance of survival decreases significantly. It’s illegal to take wild animals home, and captive animals later returned to the wild will struggle to survive without possessing learned survival skills.

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, which can lead to a potentially dangerous situation.

In addition, motorists should watch for deer along roadways. During the next several weeks, young animals are dispersing from home ranges, and with deer more active during this time, the potential for car‑deer collisions increases.

– N.D. Game and Fish Department

Did you know?

  • The U.S. Department of the Interior has awarded more than $2.3 million to North Dakota from the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund for outdoor recreation projects across the state, according to a news release from the office of U.S. Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D. The funds are authorized by Congress through the LWCF, and the state of North Dakota then allocates the grant funds to support local public parks projects, conservation efforts and expanded outdoor recreation access across the state. The North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department administers LWCF funds in the state.
  • Mitch Estabrook of Bismarck recently landed the new North Dakota state record fish in the “buffalo species” category. Estabrooks used archery equipment to take the 60-pound, 8-ounce buffalo Friday, May 6, on Heart Butte Reservoir, also known as Lake Tschida. The previous archery gear-record buffalo weighed 57 pounds, 8 ounces, and was taken May 5, 2017, also from Heart Butte Reservoir, by Derek Larson of Mandan.
  • Four northeast Minnesota state parks – Split Rock Lighthouse, Bear Head Lake, Fall Lake and Tettegouche – were listed among the Top 10 camping destinations in the Midwest by popular camping app The Dyrt. Other parks making the list of top Midwest camping destinations were Wyalusing and Devil’s Lake state parks in Wisconsin, Hocking Hills State Park in Ohio, Turkey Run State Park and Sun Outdoors Lake Rudolph in Indiana and Mackinaw Mill Creek in Michigan. Split Rock Lighthouse State Park was ranked No. 1, with Bear Head Lake State Park at No. 2, Fall Lake State Park at No. 6 and Tettechouche at No. 7. Cottonwood Campground in Theodore Roosevelt National Park was the only North Dakota site listed among The Dyrt’s Top 10 camping destinations in the Great Plains region.  
  • U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland this week issued a secretary’s order to phase out single-use plastic products on Department of Interior-managed lands by 2032. The order also directs the department to identify nonhazardous, environmentally preferable alternatives to single-use plastic products, such as compostable or biodegradable materials, or 100% recycled materials. Single-use plastic products include plastic and polystyrene food and beverage containers, bottles, straws, cups, cutlery and disposable plastic bags that are designed for or intended to be used once and discarded.

– compiled by Brad Dokken

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