REGIONAL— The Department of Natural Resources is out with a new draft statewide deer management plan, and North Country residents will have a chance to weigh in on the effort at upcoming public …
REGIONAL— The Department of Natural Resources is out with a new draft statewide deer management plan, and North Country residents will have a chance to weigh in on the effort at upcoming public meetings set to be held in Mt. Iron and International Falls, starting next Wednesday.
The new draft plan is about 16 months in the making and is designed primarily to improve communication and bolster engagement with the public. The plan also sets a statewide annual whitetail deer harvest goal of 200,000, although DNR officials acknowledge that actual harvests will continue to fluctuate based on the variability of the deer population and weather. Minnesota would be the first state in the country to set a statewide deer harvest goal.
“We want the public to better understand what we do,” said Leslie McInenly, the DNR’s acting wildlife populations and programs manager during a news conference on Monday.
The DNR is putting its new focus on public engagement to work as it plans to hold 35 public comment meetings around the state in April to hear more from the public on the plan. The Tower area meeting is set for Wednesday, April 18, at the Mt. Iron Community Center, while the International Falls area meeting will be held Tuesday, April 24, in Room H124 at Rainy River Community College.
There will be no formal presentation at the meetings. Instead, local wildlife staff will provide handouts explaining the deer plan and process and will talk with attendees individually and in small groups. All meetings are scheduled from 6-8 p.m. and people can arrive anytime during the two-hour time frame.
The DNR will also take online comments through May 9 at mndnr.gov/deerplan. An online questionnaire asks people to indicate their level of satisfaction with the purpose, mission, vision and goals of the plan and provides opportunity for people to give additional feedback on whether the plan reflects the conversation and public input over the last few years.
“We’re setting a course for deer management that encourages more dialogue among stakeholders, the public, and DNR staff,” said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr. “Our ultimate goal is to support our hunting traditions, better engage the public, and to maintain sustainable, healthy deer populations throughout Minnesota.”
The DNR developed the plan with input from DNR staff and an advisory committee made up of stakeholders. “We’re looking at the comment period as the final check on our work,” said McInenly. “We’re hoping folks will look at it, and comment on it.”
Among other things, the plan establishes a number of performance goals, including increasing in-person public contacts related to deer management by 25 percent from 2019-2025. The plan also calls for communicating deer season harvest rules by June 1, and for having at least 75 percent of deer permit areas within their established goal ranges. At the same time, the plan sets a goal of receiving no more than 150 deer damage complaints annually and keeping CWD-positive areas to zero.
You can read the plan at mndnr.gov/deerplan.