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Field Reports: Merriam to leave DNR

Commissioner Gene Merriam announced Thursday that he will leave the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources when his term ends next month. "When Governor Pawlenty asked me to take this position four years ago, we agreed on the need to reconnect...

Commissioner Gene Merriam announced Thursday that he will leave the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources when his term ends next month.

"When Governor Pawlenty asked me to take this position four years ago, we agreed on the need to reconnect the DNR with our hunting and fishing stakeholders," Merriam said in a DNR news release. "It was a top priority. I think that has been accomplished."

During Merriam's tenure, the DNR secured as much bonding money for wildlife management areas in the past four years as in the previous 30 years combined. The DNR also initiated a program for large-scale conservation easements that will keep private timberlands productive, protect forest habitat, and preserve public hunting and other recreational opportunities.

Christmas Bird Counts scheduled

Fifty to 60 birders are expected to take part in Duluth's annual Christmas Bird Count, which will be Saturday in a 15-mile diameter circle centered at Hawk Ridge, according to a news release from the Duluth Audubon Society.

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The group's goal is to identify as many species as possible. Anyone is welcome all or part of the day. Those who are less experienced are teamed with those more experienced.

If you have not participated in the CBC before and would like to take part, call Jim Lind at 834-3199 or e-mail him at jslind@frontiernet.net .

Feeder-watchers also will be an important part of the effort. If you live within the count area and would like to count birds you see at your feeder or in your yard on Saturday, just call in what you see Saturday to 728-0105 between 5-7 p.m.

For background on the Christmas Bird Count, go to www.audubon.org/bird/cbc/ cbc.html.

Several other Christmas Bird Counts will take place around Northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin in coming days. For a complete listing of Minnesota counts, go to www.rohair.com . Click on "Minnesota Christmas Bird Count," and then "Calendar."

Two counts will take place in northwestern Wisconsin. For Saturday's count in the Cable-Hayward area, call Cully Shelton at the Cable Natural History Museum, (715) 798-3890.

The Solon Springs count, sponsored by the Friends of the Bird Sanctuary, also will be Saturday. Meet at 8 a.m. at the Solon Springs Community Center. For information, call (715) 378-2923.

Bue joins Pheasants Forever

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David Bue of Knife River has been named director of development for Pheasants Forever, a conservation group based in St. Paul, according to a news release from the organization.

Bue, formerly a district president for Wells Fargo Bank in Northeastern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin, will assist Pheasants Forever in its first comprehensive fundraising campaign.

City changes ski hotline, closes trail

* The Duluth Parks and Recreation Department has announced a new cross-country ski trail hot line number. It's 730-4321. As of Thursday, trails remained closed until enough snow is received for grooming. The hot line will be in effect once grooming begins.

* The city announced Thursday that the Lester-Amity Hiking Trail is closed until further notice because of bridge repairs.

DNR offers ice-fishing podcast

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has released a 30-minute podcast about ice-fishing titled "Winter Panfishing." The show was recorded in an MP3 format or a podcast that can be downloaded from the DNR's Web site and listened to on a computer or portable audio device. The winter show features ice fishing expert Terry Tuma and DNR ice safety specialist Tim Smalley. To listen to the program, click on the DNR podcasts link at www.dnr.state.mn.us .

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