Though a deal cut in the last legislative session by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature appropriated $20 million to purchase land on Lake Vermilion in northern Minnesota for a new state park, the Department of Natural Resources has yet to agree on a purchase price for the 3,000 acres with its owner, U.S. Steel.
DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten said Friday the agency is ready to implement a public comment process that will precede construction of the park. But that effort is on hold while the agency continues talks to purchase the land.
"We have enough money to do the acquisition,'' Holsten said. "We just haven't come together on a final price yet.''
Holsten said the state is attempting to conclude the deal "as soon as possible.'' His staff has been in discussions by conference call with U.S. Steel officials in Pennsylvania.
"A lot of [the holdup] is just coordinating with the right people,'' Holsten said.
Duck conditions vary widely
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) waterfowl survey pilots reported that much of the nation's prairie pothole region (primarily the Dakotas and eastern Montana) was in drought this spring, particularly North Dakota. Pilots rated the area fair to poor for duck nesting. An exception: southeastern South Dakota and areas of western South Dakota.
The Canadian parklands, meanwhile, were drier this spring than in 2007. This area nevertheless was classified as fair to good, with some areas called excellent. In the northern boreal forest, increased waterfowl production should occur, the pilots reported, noting sufficient habitat and the presence of additional birds that had overflown the drier prairie potholes.
State and federal biologists and flyway representatives will use this information in July to help formulate upcoming fall hunting seasons.
Optimism for July 4th weekend fishing
Fishing generally is good on Minnesota's major walleye lakes heading into the July 4th weekend. Recent (relatively) stable weather has helped. Mille Lacs walleyes are on the flats, with fish still also being taken on rock piles, particularly at night, with bobbers. On Leech Lake, walleye fishing is improved (with excellent bass angling available). Lake of the Woods walleye reports are upbeat on both the U.S. and Canadian sides. Rainy Lake is also fishing well.
State environment plan
A Statewide Conservation and Preservation Plan group, led by the University of Minnesota's Institute on the Environment, will give the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR) its assessment and recommendations for the state's environmental and natural resources from 8:45-11:45 a.m. July 8 at the State Office Building in the Capitol complex in St. Paul.
DNR park workers recognized
The DNR on Friday recognized employees and volunteers who helped during and after the major flood in August that significantly damaged Whitewater State Park in southeastern Minnesota.
Park workers who organized the nighttime evacuation of campers at the park, who rescued campers and who have helped rebuild the park -- including its fisheries and the Root River Trail -- were honored.
First duck stamp sold
Think the federal duck stamp program isn't important? It is, particularly to Minnesotans -- a state that has produced more winners of the annual federal duck stamp contest than any other.
Friday, at the Bass Pro store in Hanover, Md., Minnesota artist Joe Hautman, winner of the 2008-09 federal duck stamp contest, joined Dale Hall, USFWS director, for the annual "first day of sale'' ceremony celebrating the federal duck stamp.
In 1934, the first federal duck stamp was sold to Ding Darling, who not only designed the first federal duck stamp but was director of the U.S. Biological Survey (now the USFWS). Since then, the first federal duck stamp of the year has always been sold to the USFWS director.
Duck stamp funds recently helped purchase 18,000 acres of wetlands and uplands at Glacial Ridge National Wildlife Refuge in northern Minnesota.
Did you know?
Lefty Kreh, the famed fly fisherman, writer, fly-fishing instructor and onetime Baltimore Sun outdoors columnist, will publish a memoir this summer (Skyhorse Publishing, $24.95), titled, "My Life was THIS BIG.''
Below is an excerpt, recalling when Kreh first met Ted Williams, the Hall of Fame baseball player who in retirement fashioned himself as one of the best saltwater fly fishermen in the world (he was in fact pretty good):
Now, I just met this guy thirty seconds ago. He turns to me (after casting the entire length of his fly line on a dock) and says, "What the hell do you think of that?''
Like I said earlier, I try never to embarrass anyone through fly casting. It's unproductive, unprofessional and it's just not nice. But ... with this competitive, combative Ted Williams, I knew I had another exception.
I assessed his casting, which was chock full of wasted movement. "It's OK,'' I said, "as long as you don't get sick.''
He narrowed his eyes and said, "What the hell are you talking about?''
I said, "You sure do have to move around a lot to get your line out.''
Then I walked to the end of the dock. Picked the line up, made one back cast, one forward cast, and threw the same amount of line that Williams had thrown out with about one-tenth the effort.