Deer Farms: DNR officials complained in 2017 about a perceived lack of cooperation from the state Board of Animal Health in fighting an outbreak of chronic wasting disease (CWD) in wild deer. Questions have been raised about whether the board is too cozy with deer farmers to regulate penned herds in a manner that protects the state’s priceless natural bounty of whitetails. Some answers may be forthcoming in late March or early April when the Office of the Legislative Auditor in St. Paul reports on its review of the agency.

Deer plan: Minnesota’s first comprehensive plan ever for managing white-tailed deer will be written in a matter of weeks, crystallizing ideas about herd management and data-gathering that have been bounced around in public meetings for many months. With the pending Deer Plan, the DNR is trying to answer critics in the deer hunting community who have demanded improvements to deer management and full access to information the agency uses when deciding harvest strategies and when taking other actions. The initial draft for public review should be out late this month or in early February.

Fish bags: The DNR will be talking to stakeholders this year to gauge interest and support for a possible reduction to the statewide walleye bag limit, which now stands at six fish on inland waters. The general possession rule is not more than one walleye over 20 inches. (Special regulations and lower limits apply to certain lakes and rivers). The walleye bag limit is a touchy issue in a state where walleyes are the most sought-after fish. It’s an issue that could take years to play out and there’s also desire by serious sunfish anglers in lowering the statewide possession limit on bluegills.

Go Loons: Organizers of a new nonprofit loon foundation in Crosslake, Minn., will be stirring up interest in 2018 and raising money to advance their plan to build the first National Loon Center. The idea, still conceptual, is to secure a shoreland site on federal land on the Whitefish Chain of Lakes in Crow Wing County. Five million dollars is the rough estimate of what is needed to get the eco-tourism project off the ground and more funds would be needed to keep it going.

Tony Kennedy