Achievements include milestones that set the stage for transformative work in the future
(Minnesota) — December 27th, 2023 — The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has released a year-end list of some of its major accomplishments in 2023 .
From supporting the return of rare species and connecting more people to the outdoors, to conserving and managing the state’s natural resources and providing for commercial uses of natural resources in ways that create a sustainable quality of life in Minnesota, the DNR made significant advances toward the mission and priorities laid out in the agency’s strategic plan .
“I am so proud of all that Minnesota DNR accomplished in 2023 and how that work benefits conservation and outdoor recreation in Minnesota as well as the health of people, the environment and the economy,” DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said. “These accomplishments illustrate the scope, breadth, and depth of the DNR’s work on behalf of Minnesotans.”
To support the DNR’s work in 2023 and beyond, the transformative Get Out MORE (Modernize Outdoor Recreation) initiative was included in Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan’s 2023 One Minnesota Budget. The $150 million will enhance access and welcome new users to the outdoors, revitalize camping and related infrastructure, enhance fishing opportunities, modernize boating access, and restore streams and modernize water-related infrastructure.
The expansion of the DNR’s all-terrain track chair program is just one example of the type of accessibility improvements the DNR will be able to make with Get Out MORE funding. As of fall 2023, there were 13 all-terrain track chairs available at state parks across Minnesota. The funding will also help bolster projects like this year’s replacement of the Drayton Dam with a rock arch rapids. The Drayton Dam was the last and largest of the Red River’s low head dams and the removal and replacement work allows fish passage, addresses public safety concerns, and enhances water recreation activities. This historic milestone represents 30 years of work by the DNR and its partners.
Fragmentation of rivers has played a key role in the decline of many native species, including the once-extirpated Red River Lake Sturgeon. Improved passage is a major step for the health of the fish population in Red River and for the DNR’s lake sturgeon recovery program. Habitat work to support the future success of rare species also happened on many of Minnesota’s other public waters and lands. This year, the DNR stocked heritage native brook trout fingerlings in 14 southeastern Minnesota streams and reintroduced Dakota skipper butterflies to the prairie at Glacial Lakes State Park in partnership with the Minnesota Zoo.
Also in 2023, the DNR embarked on an effort to update the management plans of five of the eight major units within the DNR’s Wildlife Management Area system. Plans for Mille Lacs, Red Lake and Whitewater WMAs were updated and plans for Carlos Avery and Lac Qui Parle will be completed in 2024. The Adopt-A-WMA Program also benefited from renewed interest in the DNR’s southern region this year, with a 65% increase in agreements with volunteers who committed to assisting with maintenance of certain WMAs. In Brown and Nobles counties alone, 80 WMAs were adopted, totaling 11,623 acres.
To mitigate and adapt to climate change, the DNR planted 2,000 bur oaks in Nerstrand-Big Woods State Park to help address the effects of increased rainfall events caused by climate change; partnered with the Nature Conservancy to address and remove hazard trees at Finland State Forest; and replaced aging, failing culverts and bridges at stream-road crossings with an updated design that fosters natural systems.
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