Farmers Union applauds ditch mowing legislation signature

The Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) today applauded the signature of Senate File 218 by Governor Mark Dayton that implements a moratorium on the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MNDOT) in enforcing permit requirements for mowing and baling in right of way on trunk highways, except for land that adjoins state land, until April 30th, 2018.

MFU had raised concerns with the new permit system MNDOT had announced in December of 2016. Many farmers saw it as unnecessary, confusing and burdensome.

mowing ditches moratorium

Farmers mowing and baling ditches will continue as is for the next year, thanks to legislation signed by Governor Dayton placing a moratorium on a MN-DOT plan to require permits to mow rights-of-ways next to roads.

“Mowing roadsides has been an important source of forage for farmers, controls weeds, and it improves visibility on highways” said MFU President Gary Wertish. “The legislation will give all parties a chance to get together and address issues and MFU encourages farmers to pay attention to this issue over the interim.

“Make sure to be involved in making your voices heard on this issue” added Wertish.

Under the legislation, MNDOT will recommend to the legislative committees with jurisdiction over transportation, agriculture, and natural resources, that there be an establishment of a permit or notification system to mow or hay in a trunk highway right-of-way. The recommendation must be developed with input from agriculture and environmental groups. The recommendation must contain at least the following elements:

(1) ease of permit application or notification;

(2) frequency of permits or notifications;

(3) priority given to the owner or occupant of private land adjacent to a trunk highway right-of-way;

(4) determination of authority to mow or hay in trunk highway right-of-way in which adjacent land is under the jurisdiction of the state or a political subdivision; and

(5) recognition of the differences in the abundance of wildlife habitat based on geographic distribution throughout the state.

MFU thanks Rep. Chris Swedzinski (R-Ghent) and Sen. Gary Dahms (R-Redwood Falls) for their work as chief authors of this legislation.

Minnesota Farmers Union—Standing for Agriculture, Fighting for Farmers (

Free (State) Park Friday in Minnesota

Entry fees at each Minnesota state park and various recreation areas to be waived the day after Thanksgiving 

Smith and DNR encourage all Minnesotans to get outdoors and explore Minnesota’s parks and trails  

Following the success of last year’s Free Park Friday, Lt. Gov. Tina Smith is encouraging all Minnesotans to include outdoor activity as part of their family festivities over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. As added incentive, Smith announced that entry fees at all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas will be waived on Friday, Nov. 25.

Smith, who has set a goal of visiting all 75 Minnesota state parks and recreation areas, said she intends to work another state park visit into her schedule on Free Park Friday.

“In my travels around Minnesota, I visit Minnesota state parks and recreation areas as often as I can,” she said. “We have one of the finest park and trail systems in the country, and spending time in nature is the best way I know to get some exercise, relax and refresh with family and friends. I want as many Minnesotans as possible to enjoy a free day in the parks after Thanksgiving.”  

state park

Grand Portage State Forest in Minnesota is but one of the 75 state parks that will charge no admission on the day after Thanksgiving this year. (Photo from

This year marks the 125th anniversary of the Minnesota state parks and trails system. The celebration has brought record crowds out to explore Minnesota’s most beautiful locations. Through the end of September, one-day parks and trails permit sales were up 6 percent, year-round permit sales were up 8 percent and overnight stays were up 6 percent over last year, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

“As a way to help celebrate the 125th anniversary of Minnesota state parks and trails, we’re encouraging visitors to see if they can go a total of 125 miles by bike, boot or boat by the end of 2016,” said Erika Rivers, director of the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “Free Park Friday will provide an opportunity to add to your mileage, whether you’re near the end of the challenge or just getting started.”

Those who log 125 miles will receive a limited-edition sticker and can post their photo in an online Finishers Gallery at

Minnesota state parks are open 365 days a year from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and feature more than 1,000 miles of hiking trails through the state’s hardwoods, prairies and pinelands.

In addition to hiking a favorite park, visitors and families can participate in naturalist-led programs, search for wildlife and even participate in the DNR’s “Call of the Wildflowers” geocaching adventure.

To learn more about Minnesota’s 75 state parks and trails and to plan your “Free Park Friday” trip, visit:

For more information, visit

CWD sampling in southeast MN deer harvest

Deer hunters in southeastern Minnesota who harvest a deer during the 3A and 3B firearms deer seasons are encouraged to have their deer sampled for chronic wasting disease (CWD) at one of 30 locations that will be staffed.

Due to the expansion of CWD in Iowa and Wisconsin, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be conducting CWD surveillance in deer areas 339 to 349 throughout the firearm season, an area that includes nearly all the 300 series permit areas. The goal is to collect 3,600 samples. 

“Working with hunters to sample deer for evidence of CWD is our best opportunity for early detection of the disease in Minnesota,” said Lou Cornicelli, wildlife research manager. “Early detection is important from the perspective of limiting disease spread, and we will make the process as quick as possible to get hunters on their way.”


The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will be testing harvested deer this fall for Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD). (photo from

CWD is caused by an abnormal protein called a prion that affects the animal’s brain. The disease is always fatal and can spread from one animal to another. Months to years pass from the time an animal is infected to when it shows signs of the disease. There is no known treatment for the disease, and the prions can persist and remain infectious in the environment. 

Recent research has demonstrated that long-term CWD infections in wild deer have led to measurable reductions in deer populations.

“We take these actions because our only real opportunity to reduce or eliminate disease is to find it right away,” Cornicelli said. “If a disease like CWD becomes established, it will be a problem for future generations.”

The DNR’s CWD management plan calls for surveillance when risk increases. That risk includes positive domestic animals or when the disease is found in adjacent states. 

“Much of the southeast has not been extensively sampled since 2009 and because of the Iowa and Wisconsin infections, it is important to aggressively conduct surveillance,” Cornicelli said. 

To further reduce the risk of CWD entering Minnesota, whole deer carcasses are no longer allowed to be imported into Minnesota from anywhere in North America. This is a new restriction this year in Minnesota. There are no restrictions on carcass movement for deer harvested in Minnesota and moved within the state.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and other public health agencies have concluded there is no known link between CWD and any neurological disease in humans. However, both the CDC and the World Health Organization recommend that no part of a known positive animal should be consumed by humans. Additionally, there is no evidence that CWD can be naturally transmitted to species other ungulates.

Reminders for hunters, and chances to win
Hunters in the permit areas where sampling is taking place are reminded that they will not be able to register deer by phone or the internet during the surveillance period. Deer must be registered in person at a walk-in registration station and hunters are strongly encouraged to allow sampling of their deer. 

Deer must be present at the time of registration. When surveillance quotas are met, the electronic system will be turned back on. Hunters will not be notified of individual results unless their deer is positive. The DNR will release details after deer season that explain overall surveillance results.

CWD sampling only takes a few minutes and is done while the hunter registers their deer. To help encourage samples, Bluffland Whitetails Association has donated a compound bow and a muzzleloader and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association has donated a muzzleloader. Hunters who submit a sample for testing will be entered into a random drawing for one of those items. Also, every hunter who donates a sample will be given a DNR cooperator patch as a small token of appreciation. 

DNR staff will be working at 30 sampling sites from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 5, and Sunday, Nov. 6, and from 9 a.m. to noon on Monday, Nov. 7. A smaller number of stations will be open the second weekend, Saturday, Nov. 12, to Sunday, Nov. 13

Sampling goals will likely not be met during the opening 3A season that runs from Nov. 5 to Nov. 13, so stations will be staffed during the 3B season, which runs from Saturday, Nov. 19 to Sunday, Nov. 27.

Deer check stations where CWD surveillance is occurring are listed on the DNR website at, and hunters are encouraged to check the site for new information.

New hunters to chronic wasting disease might want to take a look at this:

Federal Premium and Pheasants Forever Celebrate 40 Million Rounds

Federal Premium® Ammunition, Pheasants Forever’sOfficial Ammunition Sponsor, has produced more than 40 million shotgun shells in support of the nation’s leading upland habitat conservation organization. These special shells are all sold in boxes marked with the Pheasants Forever logo, as part of an on-box royalty program.

Federal Premium and Pheasants Forever’s on-box royalty program began in 1998 with Federal Premium’s Pheasants Forever-labeled Wing-Shok® shotgun shell boxes. The program evolved in 2010 with the revolutionary Prairie Storm™ specialty pheasant load, and it continued to grow in 2011 with the introduction of Prairie Storm™ FS Steel®. A portion of the proceeds from each Pheasants Forever logoed box sold goes directly to the conservation group’s wildlife habitat efforts, which help pheasant populations and pheasant hunters alike.“Pheasants Forever was the first organization we did logoed ammunition with,” stated Ryan Bronson, Federal Premium’s public policy and conservation manager, “Today we are proud to sell 30 distinct products in Pheasant Forever logoed boxes—17 configurations of Prairie Storm™ and 13 configurations of Wing-Shok® upland loads. Choosing to purchase a box of Federal Premium’s shotgun shells labeled with the Pheasants Forever logo is one more way that hunters can contribute to upland conservation efforts and ensure future generations can enjoy our hunting heritage.”

“Thanks to the Pittman-Robertson tax—an 11 percent excise tax on ammunition and firearms that helps fund wildlife conservation in the United States—it’s safe to say that all ammunition companies understand the link between hunting and conservation. In fact, last year alone the Pittman-Robertson tax produced over $500 million for wildlife conservation,” stated Brad Heidel, director of corporate sales for Pheasants Forever. “What makes Federal Premium® Ammunition stand out is it gives back even more to wildlife conservation through its on-box royalty program with Pheasants Forever.”

About Pheasants Forever

Pheasants Forever, including its quail conservation division, Quail Forever, is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure.


Pheasants Forever is dedicated to the conservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife through habitat improvements, public awareness, education and land management policies and programs.

Stearns County outdoorsman honored for 30 years of conservation efforts

Mel Roehrl and his family (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel Roehrl and his family (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

87-year-old Mel Roehrl’s voice dripped with emotion as he recalled one of the biggest moments of his life. “Honored, humbled, and tearful,” he said. Mel had no idea that work he began almost 30 years ago would result in something that would outlast him, and be here for future generations long after he said goodbye to this life and moved on to the next.

Mel is an outdoorsman, and has a love affair with the outdoors that began at an early age:


His love of hunting led to a greater enjoyment of being outdoors, and that passion for the outdoors has grown and changed over the years too:


Roehrl was a 22-year veteran of the Stearns County Volunteer Fire Department, but had to step away as it began to interfere with his full-time job. However, after some much-needed time at home, Mel began to get restless. An avid hunter since childhood, Roehrl’s ears perked up when he heard about a local meeting involving hunting, and the ringneck pheasant. That combination was all it took to give him some post-volunteer fire department direction. Mel Roehrl met Pheasants Forever for the first time, and the rest was history:


After keeping a promise to his family, Mel needed an outlet for some restless energy, and his love of the outdoors was the perfect catalyst to get him back out into the wilds again:


The Stearns County Pheasants Forever chapter was born, and took off shortly thereafter. Only the ninth chapter in the nation when it was born, the Stearns County Pheasants Forever organization has purchased 34 plots of land with the money it raised, and added more than 4,700 acres to Minnesota’s Wildlife Management Areas and the Waterfowl Production Areas.

For 30 years, Mel worked hard to conserve our natural resources and the outdoors, and did so at an age when most would be content to sit on the sidelines. Pheasants Forever and the Minnesota DNR honored Mel by naming a 300-plus acre Wildlife Management Area after him. Eran Sandquist is the northern Regional Representative for Pheasants Forever, and said Mel is truly deserving of the honor:

Joe Duggan, Pheasants Forever Vice President of Corporate Relations, speaks at the Mel Roehrl WMA dedication (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Joe Duggan, Pheasants Forever Vice President of Corporate Relations, speaks at the Mel Roehrl WMA dedication (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)


Mel was a giant in outdoor conservation for three decades, and Sandquist said the Wildlife Management Area would continue that work for generations to come:


Mel Roehrl and the sign that will bear his name on the Wildlife Management Area, dedicated in his honor on May 8, 2014 (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel Roehrl and the sign that will bear his name on the Wildlife Management Area, dedicated in his honor on May 8, 2014 (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)


After a lifetime of working and playing in the outdoors, Mel came up with his favorite saying, “If you go hunting with your boys, you won’t have to go hunting for your boys.” Mel looked back on a lifetime of being in the outdoors with friends and his family:


The Mel Roehrl Wildlife Management Area will benefit the environment for generations to come (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

The Mel Roehrl Wildlife Management Area will benefit the environment for generations to come (Photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel’s love of the outdoors, perfectly captured on the back of the Wildlife Management Area sign (photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)

Mel’s love of the outdoors, perfectly captured on the back of the Wildlife Management Area sign (photo from Mn Pheasants Forever)