“We’re pleased that Tom Heinrich has accepted this new role. He brings a wealth of experience and knowledge from other large walleye lakes in Minnesota and elsewhere, strong scientific skills and an open ability to communicate with and relate to various groups in the public,” said Brad Parsons, central region fisheries manager.
Heinrich begins as Mille Lacs Lake fisheries supervisor on Wednesday, Jan. 24, at the office in Garrison. He will oversee the extensive field operations that happen throughout the course of the year to assess fish populations and harvests; work with fisheries research and other partners to study walleye productivity; study the potential impacts of big fish on young walleye survival; review goals for spawning stock biomass; and coordinate other work needed to answer complex questions about the lake.
“This is an important position because Mille Lacs always has been a vital and popular fishery and there is still a lot to learn about the lake and the changes we are seeing. Adding Tom to the team to perform the detailed, complex work needed will benefit the resource, the DNR and groups with an interest in the lake,” Parsons said.
Heinrich begins his new role as the DNR continues efforts to understand and improve a walleye population in Mille Lacs Lake that has undergone a decline over the past two decades that has coincided with significant aquatic system changes including increased water clarity and decreased walleye productivity; the introduction of zebra mussels, Eurasian watermilfoil and spiny water fleas; a changing zooplankton community that may be altering the aquatic food web; and declines in certain forage species, including tullibee.
Heinrich began his natural resources career in New York as a fisheries technician on eastern Lake Erie and worked in that role from 1984 until 1990, when he accepted a position in Baudette for the Minnesota DNR. In 1991, he became the large lake specialist for Lake of the Woods and has been in that position since.
More information about Mille Lacs Lake can be found on the DNR website at mndnr.gov/millelacslake.
Landowners can generate revenue by allowing public hunting on their private land in 46 Minnesota counties through the Department of Natural Resources Walk-In Access Program. Sign-ups are Monday, Jan. 22, to Friday, April 27.
“This program is a win-win for landowners and hunters,” said Scott Roemhildt, DNR Walk-In Access coordinator. “And what’s more, by signing up for three years, landowners can qualify for habitat enhancement on their Walk-In Access acres.”
For Walk-In Access, eligible parcels must be at least 40 acres and covered by high quality natural vegetation. Landowners are paid by the acre to allow hunting access from Sept. 1 to May 31. Bonuses are paid on parcels that enroll in a three-year contract, are more than 140 acres and are located near a state wildlife management area or federal waterfowl production area.
“This may be an opportune time for landowners to sign up for this program because there is some uncertainty about how it will be funded in the 2018 Farm Bill,” Roemhildt said.
In a change this year, landowners who enroll in a three-year contract also may qualify for up to $20,000 in habitat enhancements on their land for prescribed burning, removing invasive trees and brush, or planting native species.
Walk-In Access parcels are for public hunting only and no motorized vehicles are allowed on conservation land. Bright yellow-green signs identify area boundaries and parking is along roads or in designated parking areas. Recreational use laws provide extra liability protection for acres enrolled in Walk-In Access.
Walk-In Access began in 2011 and has grown to more than 26,700 acres in 2017. The program is currently funded through 2018 with a three-year grant from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under number 69-3A75-16-509. Other funding comes through a surcharge on nonresident hunting licenses, a one-time appropriation from the Minnesota Legislature in 2012 and donations from hunters.
Landowners should contact their local soil and water conservation district office for enrollment information. Details can be found at mndnr.gov/walkin.