This is the fourth story in our occasional blog series that’s intended to give people a little more information on those folks who are leaders of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. Ross Hedin is the president of MWA’s Rum River Chapter.

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Ross Hedin (l) is president of MWA’s Rum River Chapter.

Please describe your involvement with MWA.
I attended my first MWA banquet in 1984 and have been a member ever since. I got more involved when I helped to reorganize the Hill River Chapter in Hill City in 1995. I was chapter secretary for nine years and chapter president for three years. We held 12 banquets and the chapter disbanded in 2006. I founded the Rum River Chapter in the Anoka/Ramsey/Andover area in 2008. I have been the chapter president since its inception. We are holding our 8th annual banquet this spring.

Why did you get involved with MWA?
My dad was a founding member of the Hill River Chapter and I attended their banquets. That is how I learned about MWA and its mission. I could see the landscape was changing dramatically in the areas I hunted, habitat loss was increasing, and duck numbers were in flux. I wanted to do something to help reverse those trends so future generations could enjoy waterfowl hunting like I have.

In your view, what’s the most important aspect of MWA?
The work the association does to restore, enhance, preserve, and protect wetland habitat. Without habitat there will be no ducks.

What are your main hobbies?
I hunt ducks and geese, grouse, and pheasants and do a lot of fishing, primarily for walleyes, panfish, and stream trout. I help coach my son’s youth sports teams. I am also part of a group that does World War 2 Reenacting/Living History.

Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Golden Valley and raised in Minneapolis until my family moved to Grand Rapids when I was 15 years old. I currently live in Ramsey with my wife and three children.

When it comes to conservation, what’s your priority?
Saving wetland habitat from the plow and development has to be the top priority. Our state is still losing wetlands at an alarming rate. The apathy this problem receives from most people is shameful.

If you could hunt anything anywhere in the world, what would you hunt and where would you go?
I have been saying for many years that the first fall that I am retired from working I want to follow the migration and hunt waterfowl all the way down the Mississippi Flyway. If I am able to do that I would be very happy.

What’s your favorite species of duck?
The wood duck. The drakes are so colorful. They fly like fighter jets and are delicious eating.

Do you have a favorite movie?
Field Of Dreams, with Animal House a very close second.

What’s something about you that would surprise people?
I played Minnesota Amateur Baseball for 18 years after graduating from high school and my team from Bovey won the Class C State Championship in 1990.

Not long ago, we wrote about this year’s class of inductees into the Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is Saturday night, Feb. 6. But before that ceremony and conservation awards banquet is our annual Minnesota Waterfowl Symposium.

The symposium will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ramada Mall of America in Bloomington.

MWA Logo copy

Here are the details of the symposium:

• Conference room and information desk open at 8:30 a.m.

• From 9 to 9:30 a.m., Tom Cooper (migratory bird program chief for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Midwest Region) and Paul Telander (Minnesota DNR Wildlife Section chief) will welcome attendees and provide opening remarks.

• From 9:30 to 10 a.m., Tom Will, of the USFWS, will discuss the Migratory Bird Treaty Centennial.

• From 10 to 10:30 a.m., Joel Huener (manager at the Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area) will talk about open-water hunting in Minnesota.

• From 10:45 to 11:15 a.m., Erik Hildebrand (Minnesota DNR wildlife health specialist) will talk about avian influenza and what it means for hunters.

• From 11:15 to 11:30 a.m., there will be an introduction to the Minnesota Decoy Collectors Association show.

Throughout the morning, there will be opportunities for questions and answers with the presenters. There will be a lunch break from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

• From 1 to 1:30 p.m., Christine Herwig (Minnesota DNR nongame wildlife specialist) will talk about the success story that is trumpeter swans in Minnesota.

• From 1:30 to 2 p.m., Bruce Davis (Minnesota DNR wildlife researcher) will discuss waterfowl banding in Minnesota.

• From 2 to 2:30 p.m., Michael Bourdaghs (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency research scientist) will update the status of wetland quality in Minnesota.

• From 2:45 to 3:15 p.m., Steve Cordts (Minnesota DNR waterfowl staff specialist) will discuss the results of the recent Minnesota waterfowl hunter survey.

• From 3:15 to 3:45 p.m., Col. Rodmen Smith (DNR Enforcement Division director) will offer his views on DNR law enforcement.

• From 3:45 to 4:15 p.m., Tom Landwehr (Minnesota DNR commissioner) will take part in a question and answer session with attendees.

• From 4:15 to 5 p.m., attendees can visit demonstration and information booths.

We’re excited to announce the 2016 inductees to the Minnesota Waterfowl Hall of Fame.
By way of background, we inducted the first class into the hall in 2010, so this marks the seventh round of inductions. We’ll make the inductions, like we do every year, during our annual state conservation awards banquet, which is set this year for Saturday, Feb. 6. More details, including how to attend, are here.
IMG_9198 1Here are this year’s Hall of Fame inductees:

Tim Bremicker
Tim Bremicker worked for about four decades for the Minnesota DNR and was instrumental in waterfowl habitat restoration almost immediately after taking on area manager responsibility in Cold Spring in 1975. He also worked on the 1985 federal farm bill, the original Reinvest in Minnesota program, and the Wetland Conservation Act. He was intimately involved in development of Adaptive Harvest Management, and has been recognized on a number of occasions for his commitment to waterfowl and conservation.

Greg Berg
Greg Berg’s initial foray into waterfowl conservation led to him chairing his local Ducks Unlimited chapter banquet for nine consecutive years. He joined the Minnesota Waterfowl Association staff in 1984 as its lead fund-raiser, and two years later was promoted and became the group’s executive director. He also was a key player in establishing and growing Woodie Camp, and continues to volunteer as a shooting instructor at the camp when his schedule permits. Today, he is owner and president of Custom Art Concepts, which supplies outdoor-themed products designed for conservation organization fund-raising.

Carstens Industries
Carstens Industries, Inc., has been manufacturing top-of-the-line, hand-crafted fiberglass duck boats for more than 40 years. Waterfowling runs in the Carstens’ family’s blood, and they’ve put that experience and knowledge to use in manufacturing a product that has become a staple in duck camps across the state – including their own.

Bud Grant
Perhaps best known as the long-time coach of the Minnesota Vikings, Bud Grant also has been active in fishing, hunting, and conservation for his entire life. Over the years, he has used his notoriety to bring attention to a variety of outdoor-related issues. He played key roles in passage of the Right to Hunt and Fish, as well as the passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which voters approved in 2008.

Oscar Quam
Oscar Quam was a farmer who was particularly interested in ducks. He operated the Quam Hunting Club on an island near his family farm from 1910 until the early 1940s. He then made ducks decoys and calls, and taught calling through his “School of Duckology.” He passed away in 1969.

Jerry Raedeke
A renowned wildlife artist, Jerry Raedeke has donated thousands of wildlife prints that have raised millions of dollars for conservation in Minnesota and beyond. A Lutheran pastor in the Worthington area, he turned his attention to wildlife art following his retirement. He sold his first wildlife paintings when he was 11 years old, and over the years has worked on a variety of projects, including being commissioned to paint the famous Budweiser Clydesdales in a wildlife setting.

Doug Smith
If you’ve been reading outdoor-related stories for long, you’ve probably read the work of Doug Smith, who recently retired from the Minneapolis Star Tribune. He covered state and federal agencies, conservation groups and politicians, shedding light on conservation efforts during the past 20 years.

The Minnesota DNR announced today that it has promoted Rodmen Smith to the position of director of the Enforcement Division. The DNR’s press release is below. We wish Smith the best in his new role.

Here’s the DNR’s release:

DNR names Rodmen Smith Enforcement Division director

(Released January 6, 2016)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources announced today that Lt. Col. Rodmen Smith, assistant director and 19-year veteran of the department, will be the next director of the agency’s Enforcement Division.

Enforcement

Rodmen Smith, Chief of Enforcement, Colonel of Enforcement

“Rodmen brings a wealth of on-the-job knowledge and experience to the position, and understands first-hand the challenges facing natural resources law enforcement,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “I’m looking forward to working with Rodmen to enhance the division’s communications and public outreach and accelerate our efforts to diversify the department and solidify our reputation as a top-shelf natural resources agency.”

As division director Smith, 44, will oversee a $38 million annual budget and a staff of 250 employees, more than 200 of whom are licensed conservation officers. The division is responsible for enforcing the state’s laws related to game and fish; public lands, waters and natural resources; units of the outdoor recreation system and outdoor recreation-related public safety.

Smith began his career with the DNR in 1997 as a conservation officer. He was assigned to patrol areas in central and northern Minnesota, and later became a district supervisor, a regional Enforcement Division director and then the division’s operations manager. In 2011 he was promoted to the division’s assistant director where his job responsibilities included the division’s budgeting, policy formation and legislative liaison.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and speech communication from St. Cloud State University and a master’s degree in public administration from Minnesota State University, Mankato. Smith is a graduate of Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command, the Harvard Kennedy School of Strategic Management of Regulatory and Enforcement Agencies program and the National Association of Conservation Law Enforcement Leadership Academy.

“I see three immediate priorities for the division,” Smith said. “We need to continue to improve our service to Minnesota citizens. We need to recruit and hire new officers who not only exceed our high standards, but more accurately reflect the diverse community we serve. And we need to continue to provide field staff with the best training and tools to do their job safely, effectively and efficiently.”

Smith assumes the position of Minnesota’s chief conservation officer immediately. He replaces Col. Ken Soring, who retired in December after more than 35 years with the DNR.

Smith and his wife Kimberly have two daughters: Kenley (11), Gracie (7) and a yellow lab named Finn.

This the third story in an occasional blog series that’s intended to allow people to learn a little bit more about some of the leaders of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. Mark Evers is currently an MWA vice president.

Please describe your involvement with MWA.
I have been involved with MWA as the Shetek Prairie Chapter president for over 10 years and have also served on the Board of Directors as a past secretary and currently as a vice president.

SD 2010

Why did you get involved with MWA?
We were a former Ducks Unlimited chapter and liked the idea of Minnesota dollars for Minnesota ducks.  We felt like we could control our project dollars better and create more habitat locally. The Conservation Partners Legacy grants have been a great resource to do some bigger local projects with a generous 10:1 match.

In your view, what’s the most important aspect of MWA?
Keeping habitat dollars right here in Minnesota and the youth education programs such as Woodie Camp, Advanced Woodie Camp and the Young Waterfowlers Program.

What are your main hobbies?
My hobbies include hunting a variety of species – not only waterfowl but also pheasants, turkeys and deer.  I enjoy putting in yearly food plots, checking trail cameras, scouting, collecting decoys and wildlife art and working with my dogs.  I also enjoy family time with my wife of over 12 years and continuing the hunting tradition with my 9-year-old son Barrett, who was able to harvest his first duck on Youth Waterfowl Day this past September.

Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born and raised on the family farm near Windom, Minn., and currently live on an acreage near Walnut Grove, Minn.

When it comes to conservation, what’s your priority?
I’ll always argue that hunters are truly one of the best conservationists, which some people will never understand.  My concern and priority is the constant changing and declining landscape, whether it be water quality or loss of habitat.  There will always be a need to support organizations such as MWA to help protect our natural resources.

If you could hunt anything anywhere in the world, what would you hunt and where would you go?
I guess on the top of my wish list is an African Safari with chances at kudu, gemsbok, springbok, impala and eland.  I also wish to hunt waterfowl in Canada, Devil’s Lake, a layout hunt on the Mississippi River pools, and still wish I could say I’ve dropped a duck or two on Heron Lake near my family’s farm.

What’s your favorite species of duck?
Favorite duck – tough call.  I’ve really gotten into the divers the past few years while hunting in South Dakota, but always appreciate the beauty of a drake wood duck or the bold lines of the drake mallard.

Do you have a favorite movie? 
Any of the James Bond, Star Wars, Batman, or Spiderman.

What’s something about you that would surprise people?
I’ve been a chiropractor for 20 years cracking backs, but I still dislike knuckle cracking.

It’s not even Christmas yet, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already has proposed a liberal season framework for the 2016 season. The early announcement is the result of a new process the federal agency is using.

digitalmedia.fws.gov

Image courtesy of USFWS

Not surprisingly, the federal agency is proposing another liberal season framework, which, in Minnesota, would mean 60 days and six ducks.

In the past, the framework-setting process hasn’t been complete until the middle of the summer, leaving little time for biologists and others to comment on the proposed rules, and little time for states to finalize their seasons and print regulations.

If all goes according to plan, the USFWS will finalize the 2016 regulations at the end of February, 2016, and the Minnesota DNR will finalize the season for the state shortly thereafter. We’ll have to wait and see whether the DNR continues to create a waterfowl regulations supplement, or whether the regs are now included in the larger hunting and trapping regulations booklet.

If you want to comment on the proposed 2016 frameworks, you can. Just follow this link and scroll down to Page 2 for instructions.

This the second story in an occasional blog series that’s intended to allow people to learn a little bit more about some of the leaders of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. John Molkenbur has been involved with MWA for several decades now.

1. Please describe your involvement with MWA.
I went to my first MWA fundraiser at Medina Ballroom in the mid-1970s and joined the St. Croix MWA chapter in mid-80s. I was a member of that chapter’s board. The St.Croix chapter folded in 2010, so I started a new chapter, East Metro, four years ago.

Johns close up pic

2. Why did you get involved with MWA?
The Ducks Unlimited chapter I co-founded made a lot of money, but the money went to the national office. We couldn’t get $500 to build wood duck houses with the kids.

3. In your view, what’s the most important aspect of MWA?
The money stays right here in Minnesota. MWA does a lot with the kids, and they are our future.

4. What are your main hobbies?
Non-profits. I love to put on banquets. There were some years I had the house full of banquet items for  different non-profits. Luckily my wife was understanding. One year alone I did a DU banquet, MWA banquet, Delta Waterfowl banquet, Duck &Goose Callers banquet, and had items for muscular dystrophy. You couldn’t watch TV in the basement because it was full of items that were all tagged and bagged for the different banquets.

5. Where were you born? Where do you live now?
White Bear Lake. I’ve lived and worked here all my life. I am blessed with that.

6. When it comes to conservation, what’s your priority?
Our youth. I have a burning feeling that in 20 years there will be no more waterfowl hunting, or not much of any hunting. It will be like the passenger pigeon gone extinct.

7. If you could hunt anything anywhere in the world, what would you hunt and where would you go?
Argentina. They are experiencing ducks like what North America had in the 1940s and 1950s.

8. What’s your favorite species of duck?
How can you not say bluebills? The sounds in early morning light when you hear 30 fighter jets buzzing your decoys and watch as they do several more fly by’s before they come to the gun.

9. Do you have a favorite movie?
Animal House for comedy and Walt Disney’s ” Those Amazing Callaways.” This movie got me fired up about Canada geese when I was young. It stars Brian Keith as a person who was a goose guide but decided to make a goose refuge in his hometown. It’s a great show.

10. What’s something about you that would surprise people?
I represent the Upper Midwest for USS JFK Museum. We are trying to get the USS John F. Kennedy Aircraft Carrier as a museum in Rhode Island. There are already some ships there, but they need an aircraft carrier and the Kennedy is a natural choice since it will be only 50 miles from Boston. We have been fundraising for 5 years. The Navy gave the go-ahead but we need to build a huge pier to withstand hurricanes and inclement weather. This will cost millions.
The USS John F. Kennedy was in service from 1968 to 2008.I was stationed aboard her from 1970 to 1974 and made the second, third, and fourth cruise of her esteemed life. Our early cruises were supposed to go to Vietnam, but we ended up for a year off the coast of Israel for the Syrian/Jordanian war and then we went right back the next year for the Yom Kippur war.
Aircraft carriers are powerful deterrents to war, and the bad guys know it. Go Navy!!!!

This the first in an occasional blog series that’s intended to allow people to learn a little bit more about some of the leaders of the Minnesota Waterfowl Association. We figured we would start with MWA President Mark McNamara.

1. Please describe your involvement with MWA.
Currently I am the President of MWA and a member of the Wright Sherburne Chapter.

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Mark McNamara

2. Why did you get involved with MWA?
My father was an active hunter, especially for waterfowl, which got me interested. He also was very knowledgeable about waterfowl and waterfowl habitat and taught me the value of wetlands and wetland habitat. He was a lifelong member of MWA.

3. In your view, what’s the most important aspect of MWA?
Local dollars for local projects. In short, all the money stays in the state. Also, MWA is the only organization that is willing to take on legislative issues.

4. What are your main hobbies?
Like most in MWA, I enjoy hunting, fishing, bird watching, cross country skiing, bicycling, reading, and high blood pressure. (Basically anything outdoors)

5. Where were you born? Where do you live now?
I was born in Hastings and currently live in Monticello.

6. When it comes to conservation, what’s your priority?
Land acquisitions and habitat preservation/restoration, especially wetland habitat. I believe the preservation and restoration of block areas of habitat with wetland complexes is a priority of mine. I also believe we must come up with better incentives/disincentives to encourage habitat preservation/restoration on private land.

7. If you could hunt anything anywhere in the world, what would you hunt and where would you go?
I would like to try hunting sea ducks, maybe Nova Scotia.

8. What’s your favorite species of duck?
Dabbler – pintails. Diver – Harlequin ducks.

9. Do you have a favorite movie?
The Sting or Dances with Wolves

10. What’s something about you that would surprise people?
I have a wicked sense of humor.

We’re at about the halfway point of a public input period for a variety of DNR proposals, including one that would require hunters to use nontoxic shot on wildlife management areas in southern and western Minnesota. Following is the DNR’s news release regarding the proposals, as well as information about how to comment.

LCCs -- Prairie Wetland_Glacial Ridge, MN (USFWS)

Photo courtesy of USFWS

Input sought on proposed hunting rule changes, including non-toxic shot on WMAs

Small-game hunters and others can give input starting Tuesday, Oct. 13, on proposed rules that include requiring the use of non-toxic shot on wildlife management areas (WMAs) in Minnesota’s farmland zone.
“The non-toxic shot rule would apply to hunters using shotguns with shot, not to hunters using single-projectile ammunition, such as rifles or shotguns with slugs,” said Jason Abraham, furbearer and regulations specialist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. “We’re trying to reduce the amount of lead deposited on public land, especially wetlands.”

The non-toxic shot proposal is one of several proposed rule changes, which also include hunting game on certain refuges, use of non-toxic shot for rails and snipe statewide, and adjustments to small game possession limits.

The non-toxic shot requirement would affect hunters using shotguns to hunt wild turkey, pheasants and other small game species on WMAs in the farmland zone. Hunters currently need to use non-toxic shot for hunting waterfowl. It would not affect private land, state forest and county forest land. The farmland zone includes the far western and southern portion of the state. The forest zone makes up the northeastern part of the state and would not be affected by this proposed rule change.

“Requiring non-toxic shot on farmland zone WMAs will reduce the amount of lead deposited in or near wetlands on public lands. These are places with heavy hunting pressure,” Abraham said. “Also, federal lands already have this requirement, so our proposal makes the regulations simpler for hunters in WMAs, which are often bordered by federal land.”

The proposal would allow steel or other alternatives to lead that are approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Other proposals
“Many of the rule changes included in this package have been discussed and supported at past public input meetings and are currently in effect as temporary rules,” Abraham said. “Other proposals have not been in effect and we’re encouraging hunters to learn more about the rule proposals and provide input.”
Specifically, provisions being proposed in this rule package include:

  • Require non-toxic shot on wildlife management areas in the farmland zone, beginning in 2018.
  • Make minimum archery draw weight requirements for hunting big game and wild turkey consistent with statute by no longer requiring a draw weight of 40 pounds or more.
  • During the youth deer season, allow youth to harvest a deer of either sex.
  • Clarify requirements for registering and identifying bear bait stations.
  • Make the possession limit for migratory waterfowl, coots, gallinules, rails and snipe consistent with federal regulations for migratory game bird species by making the possession limit three times the daily limit instead of two times the limit.
  • Increase the ruffed and spruce grouse possession limit from 10 to 15.
  • Increase the sharp-tailed grouse possession limit from six to nine.
  • Increase the gray partridge possession limit from 10 to 15.
  • Increase the cottontail rabbit and snowshoe hare possession limit from 20 to 30.
  • Decrease the jack rabbit possession limit from 20 to three, with not more than one jack rabbit taken per day.
  • Increase the combined gray and fox squirrel possession limit from 14 to 21.
  • Modify the prairie chicken season to improve hunting opportunity by making the season nine days instead of five and moving the season to the last Saturday in September.
  • Modify the opening-day shooting hours for waterfowl hunting by removing the requirement that shooting hours begin at 9 a.m. Instead, shooting hours will be one-half hour before sunrise, to sunset.
  • Allow open water hunting for migratory waterfowl, coots, gallinules, rails and snipe in limited areas in the state.
  • Require non-toxic shot when hunting snipe or rails.
  • Increase the dove season by 10 days for consistency with federal regulations.
  • Standardize common crow hunting dates by making the dates March1-31; Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, and Dec. 15 to Jan. 15.

More information about specific rules proposed and the rules process is available online on the wildlife rules input page. The DNR will accept written comments about the proposed rule changes for at least 60 days beginning Oct. 13. Comments may be submitted to DNR Wildlife, Box 20 Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, 500 Lafayette Road, St. Paul, MN 55155-4020 or by email at jason.abraham@dnr.state.mn.us.

Like many other conservation groups, the Minnesota Waterfowl Association has been supportive of Gov. Mark Dayton’s Buffer Initiative. Not only will it be a boon to clean water, but it also will benefit a wide variety of wildlife species, including waterfowl.

Following is a DNR news release that provides an update on the Buffer Initiative.

(Released October 28, 2015)

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is providing a timeline and other details about its production of maps for the state’s new law requiring vegetative buffers around bodies of water. The information is available at the DNR’s buffer law Web page.

“We understand people have questions about the buffer initiative,” said Dave Leuthe, DNR project manager. “This information explains the process the DNR will use for the mapping project, the timeline in which maps will be developed, and opportunities for local governments and the public to engage in the process.”

Gov. Mark Dayton’s landmark buffer initiative was signed into law earlier this year. The law will establish new perennial vegetation buffers of up to 50 feet along rivers, streams and ditches to help filter out phosphorus, nitrogen and sediment.

The DNR is responsible for producing maps of public waters and ditch systems that require buffers under the new law. Local governments will provide information on ditches, which the DNR will integrate with information on public waters to develop preliminary buffer maps. The DNR is scheduled to produce final maps by July 2016, using a four-phase approach:

  • Phase I – This fall, the DNR will use existing digital data to identify public waters that require a buffer (50-foot average width) and provide the information to local governments for review.
  • Phase II – Beginning this fall and continuing through winter, the DNR will coordinate with counties and watershed districts to transfer local information on ditches, within the benefited areas of public drainage systems, into digital data. This will be used by the DNR to help identify ditches that require a one-rod (16.5-foot) buffer.
  • Phase III – In late winter 2016, the DNR will use the combined public water and ditch system data to produce preliminary buffer maps. Local governments such as cities, townships and soil and water conservation districts, will review the maps, take input from landowners, and provide comments to the DNR.
  • Phase IV – In summer 2016, the DNR will deliver integrated buffer maps to the Board of Water and Soil Resources, local soil and water conservation districts, and other local governments. The Board of Water and Soil Resources is responsible for the implementation process.

There will be public engagement opportunities when the preliminary maps are available. The maps will help landowners identify whether they need to create a buffer and, if so, whether they need a 16.5-foot or 50-foot average buffer width.

Local soil and water conservation districts will work directly with landowners and help them use the maps to create the right size buffer, or help the landowner select an alternative water quality practice in lieu of a buffer.

Go to the buffer page to learn more about how the DNR is producing maps for the governor’s buffer initiative.