DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr will appoint assistant commissioner Erika Rivers director of the Parks and Trails Division when its current director, Courtland Nelson, retires in April, the agency said Monday.
Rivers, 41, was appointed assistant commissioner by Landwehr in 2011 and currently supervises three DNR divisions: parks and trails, fish and wildlife, and enforcement.
“I asked Erika to make this move because I believe she is uniquely positioned to continue moving the Parks and Trails Division toward realizing its vision of creating unforgettable experiences that inspire people to pass along the love for the outdoors to current and future generations,’” Landwehr said. “Erika has proven herself a strong leader during her three years in the commissioner’s office.”
As assistant commissioner, Rivers oversaw development of strategic plans, development planning for the Fort Snelling Upper Post, Lake Vermilion State Park and La Salle Lake State Recreation Area, and the initiation of Phase II of off-highway vehicle system planning.
Rivers will oversee a $103 million annual budget and a staff of 1,200 full- and part-time employees. State parks and trails host more than 9 million visitors each year and help support Minnesota’s $11.9 billion tourism industry. The division manages:
76 state parks and recreation areas.
62 state forest campgrounds and day use areas.
Thousands of miles of state trails: forest (390), horse (1,000), ski (730), off-highway vehicle (1,000), snowmobile (950), water trails (4,530).
1,500 public water access sites.
350 fishing piers.
“It has been my privilege to serve in the commissioner’s office under Commissioner Landwehr for the past three years,” Rivers said. “I am honored and excited to be returning to the Parks and Trails Division to lead the talented staff and important work that’s being done there to connect people to the outdoors and Minnesota’s natural and cultural resources.”
Rivers holds a doctorate in conservation biology from the University of Minnesota.
The Minnesota DNR said the state's three-day opening weekend firearms deer harvest was down 8 percent from 2012, citing strong winds in parts of the state as a possible explanation.
Minnesota hunters harvested 77,008 deer during the period.
“Last year, opening weekend weather was almost ideal and the state’s corn harvest was virtually complete, Leslie McInenly, DNR big game program leader, said. “So given Saturday’s roaring winds of up to 30 miles per hour, which tends to restrict deer movement, and more available deer refuge areas due to pockets of standing corn, the harvest is about what you’d expect.”
In some areas, she said, about a quarter of the corn crop was not yet harvested.
Also from the DNR:
The DNR had sold 445,385 firearms deer licenses as of Monday, about 1,000 fewer than last year but roughly 10,000 more than 2011.
Around the state, opening day hunting conditions included snow in the north and gusty winds and overcast skies most everywhere, turning nicer on Sunday. The harvest was down 19 percent in the northeast, 4 percent in the southeast and 6 percent for the remainder of the state. Because hunters have 48 hours to register a harvested deer, final opening weekend numbers for 2013 will be greater than those reported today.
With improving weather conditions this week, the DNR still expects the final 2013 harvest to be similar to last year when about 185,000 deer were taken.
The firearms season continues through Sunday for all but northeast Minnesota, which extends until Nov. 24. There is also a late southeast firearms season that runs Nov. 23-Dec. 1.
The DNR reminds hunters who harvest a deer to tag it at the kill site. Also, hunters are required to register their deer within 48 hours after harvest and before processing.
Waterfowl Production Areas in Minnesota will be open to hunters when the state's pheasant season begins Saturday at 9 a.m.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued the announcement Friday afternoon, making about 300,000 acres of pheasant lands available to hunters. The lands had been considered off-limits during the government shutdown.
In its announcement, the service said:
"It has been determined that allowing public access to Waterfowl Production Areas (WPAs) will not incur further government expenditure or obligation and is allowable under a government shutdown. Therefore, effective immediately, all WPAs will reopen to public use.
"As the shutdown continues, if the Service determines that maintaining the WPAs in open status, individually or cumulatively, would likely cause Service expenditures or obligations to be made in violation of the Anti-Deficiency Act, the Service will close public access.''
It's interesting that purchasers of Minnesota cabins or lakeshore homes often make decisions whether to buy or not — and what to buy — based on the lot and structure, and less so on the lake.
But in fact, consideration of a lake's particulars is crucial, not only to understanding which fish and other critters live in it, but also to appreciate whether the new property might rise in value over time, or, conversely, fall in value.
The state's problems with invasive species such as Asian carp and zebra mussels make the point. Both potentially affect rivers and lakes, sometimes in ways that are not yet fully understood. Lakeshore buyers should understand this, and investigate its possible consequences on the lake for recreation, including fishing.
A step in the direction of becoming better educated is available at the DNR State Fair Building this year, where fish tanks display typical waters and fish species from different parts of the state.
These include a northern Minnesota lake tank, a central Minnesota tank, a southwestern Minnesota tank, and tanks each from southeastern Minnesota trout streams and warm-cool water large rivers, such as the Mississippi.
Each plays host to a variety of fish, some of which overlap in waters throughout the state. But some others don't.
To my mind, understanding these lake and river types, and basing lake home or cabin purchase decisions on these understandings, should be the first consideration made by prospective buyers, and lot size and type, and structure size and type, should follow.