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Field reports: Court ruling upholds DNR’s Mille Lacs Lake management

A panel of Minnesota appellate judges Tuesday upheld procedures that state wildlife officials have been using for years to set fishing regulations on Lake Mille Lacs.

A panel of Minnesota appellate judges Tuesday upheld procedures that state wildlife officials have been using for years to set fishing regulations on Lake Mille Lacs.
A group of resort owners, property owners and anglers last year sued the Department of Natural Resources, accusing the agency of violating the state’s constitution in the way it imposes fishing rules, which have been increasingly controversial in recent years as the central Minnesota lake’s walleye population has fallen.
Specifically, the plaintiffs, calling themselves Save Mille Lacs Sportfishing, said the DNR failed to mention it was taking into account the lake’s fishing heritage as referred to in the Minnesota Hunting and Fishing Heritage Amendment approved by voters in 1998.
On Tuesday, the three-judge panel of the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the DNR was complying with the amendment by following state laws when it sets its rules.
DNR spokesman Chris Niskanen noted that last month that a blue-ribbon panel of walleye experts convened to review the agency’s management of the lake concluded that its science was sound.
“This essentially validates that we’re on the right legal track and we’re on the right biological track,” Niskanen said.
Erik Kaardal, the attorney for the plaintiffs, criticized the court decision and said his clients plan to seek legislation that “will require the DNR to follow the law.”
Scientists aren’t certain of the root causes of walleye declines on Mille Lacs, though a combination of clearer water and warming water temperatures during the past 40 years appears to be a major contributor. Scientists from Minnesota and elsewhere have concluded that human harvest, either by Native American tribal members or non-tribal members, isn’t the cause, but spring netting by tribes remains a contentious issue.
Christensen fundraiser a success
It looks as if Don Christensen of Webster, Wis., will get the chance to have a stem-cell transplant, which he hopes will control the progress of his multiple sclerosis. Supporters of Christensen, an avid hunter and angler, raised $27,800 for him through a Feb. 14 benefit fundraiser at Lipsie Pines Bar and Grill in Spooner, and from earlier donations.
Christensen plans to use the money to get the transplant in mid-April at a clinic in Panama because such a stem-cell transplant is not allowed in the United States under Food and Drug Administration rules. He has estimated that the transplant and required travel will cost about $26,000.
Pheasants Forever chapter recognized
The St. Louis & Carlton County chapter of Pheasants Forever received recognition at the PF State Conference in January for having contributed  more than $100,000 to local habitat and conservation projects.
In addition, chapter member Matt Bremer received Pheasants Forever’s “Longspur Award” for more than 10 years of outstanding service and contributions. Chapter member David Lood was honored as Minnesota Pheasants Forever’s “Volunteer of the Year” for his significant contributions to local youth education and outdoor recreation programs in the community.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press contributed to this report.

Related Topics: ENVIRONMENTFISHINGHUNTING
Sam Cook is a freelance writer for the News Tribune. Reach him at cooksam48@gmail.com or find his Facebook page at facebook.com/sam.cook.5249.
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