Meet Paul Blomgren

My name is Paul Blomgren. I grew up in West St. Paul, MN, but I have been on Birch Lake since I was lucky enough to marry into the Harrington family in 2000. Our house in Hackensack is on Murray Ave. My wife Lynne, a past BLA President, and I spend time up here throughout the year with our son (James – 14 years) and daughter (Mimi – 10 years).  I love to fish bass and can frequently be seen in Miller-Turtle-Mud-Back-Entire (ask me about that sometime…) Bay in smaller Birch Lake.  I can be identified by the (stylish?) gaiter covering my face, and I would love for you to say ‘hi’ if you see me! 
I have previously served in this role, but I am more excited than ever to take over after the tremendous momentum Mark Glende created. We are going to miss his amazing creative energy. One of his many legacies is that the membership has grown to 193 at last count!! That is absolutely amazing.  Thank you, Mark!      
My favorite aspect of the Association is the sense of community it creates. The more members we have, the stronger a community we foster. So, the mission I ask you to join me in is: 
Spread the word. Ask one neighbor if they are a Birch Lake Association member.  If they aren’t, direct them to http://www.mybirchlake.org/
I look forward to working with you over the next two years and I hope to see you on OUR Birch Lake or Poquet Lake! 
 

Paul Blomgren – President, Birch Lake Association

BLA 35th Annual Meeting a great success

Thank you, Birch Lake Association members for making our 35th Annual Meeting a tremendous success. We had a record turnout! The food was fantastic, the generously donated prizes were greatly appreciated. While Mark Glende passed on the baton to Paul Blomgren, we would be amiss if we didn't once again give our grateful accolades Mark. 

With a sunny outlook here are a few words from our new president:

I wanted to quickly introduce myself and express how excited I am to be serving you as President of the Birch Lake Association!                                                                                           
My name is Paul Blomgren. I grew up in West St. Paul, MN, but I have been on Birch Lake since I was lucky enough to marry into the Harrington family in 2000. Our house in Hackensack is on Murray Ave. My wife Lynne, a past BLA President, and I spend time up here throughout the year with our son (James – 14 years) and daughter (Mimi – 10 years).  I love to fish bass and can frequently be seen in Miller-Turtle-Mud-Back-Entire (ask me about that sometime…) Bay in smaller Birch Lake.  I can be identified by the (stylish?) gaiter covering my face, and I would love for you to say ‘hi’ if you see me! 
I have previously served in this role, but I am more excited than ever to take over after the tremendous momentum Mark Glende created. We are going to miss his amazing creative energy. One of his many legacies is that the membership has grown to 193 at last count!! That is absolutely amazing. Thank you, Mark!! 
My favorite aspect of the Association is the sense of community it creates. The more members we have, the stronger a community we foster. So, the mission I ask you to join me in is: 
Spread the word. Ask one neighbor if they are a Birch Lake Association member.  If they aren’t, direct them to http://www.mybirchlake.org/
I look forward to working with you over the next two years and I hope to see you on OUR Birch Lake or Poquet Lake! 
Paul Blomgren – President, Birch Lake Association

 

Critical Information - Omnibus Environment Bill to affect our Lakes and Rivers

Information on the Senate and House committees Omnibus bills affecting funding for AIS and transparency and input by citizens in water decision-making to protect our heritage. Follow this link for more information and your input. https://www3.thedatabank.com/dpg/529/pm.asp?id=61997&nav=1&aacwc=374565293685566973961997201162152 or directly to take action http://www.congressweb.com/mlra/20.

Legendary Gustavus men's hockey coach Don Roberts dies at 83

Don and Nancy and their four children camped at Nies Campground on Birch Lake one summer around 1970. They found their "perfect" lot to buy across Big Birch. Two years later Don spent a week alone at his lot digging an outhouse. It just so happened his next door neighbor had chosen to honeymoon that same week on their lot. They felt well chaperoned and never let Don forget it! Don's family spent many summers and frequent weekends in winter enjoying the fishing and other water activities on Birch. He joined the BLA in the early 70s. And like many Birch Lake families, his children have continued the membership and enjoy our lake as seasonal residents.  He frequently had former hockey players visit - many of whom he had coached during his 35 years of coaching at Gustavus. Don's obituary can be found here. 

Public Meeting June 30, 2016 Presenting the Quality of the Waters

You are invited to attend a public meeting to be held June 30, 2016, from 9:30 am to 11:30 am at Hope Lutheran Church in Walker to present the findings of a study conducted over the past four years on the quality of the waters of the Leech Lake River watershed.
 
Strategies in a soon-to-be-released plan by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to protect the future quality of waters in the region will be previewed. “While the results of the study show the waters in the watershed to be of high quality, there are some areas of possible concern for the future if we’re not vigilant in protecting our waters,” said Lindsey Ketchel, executive director of the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation. “We cannot take for granted that our waters will stay clean in the future when there are continued projections for population growth in the region and climate changes looming on the horizon.”
 
In 2012, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) along with local partners Cass County Environmental Services, Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation (LLAWF), Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe (LLBO)-Division of Resource Management, DNR, US Forest Service and the Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District launched a four-year study called the Leech Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection Study (WRAPS). “This watershed is one of the 80 major watersheds in Minnesota being assessed on a 10-year rotational basis as a result of the 2008 Clean Water Land and Legacy amendment, “said Phil Votruba, MPCA project manager. “The study will culminate in the Leech Lake River WRAPS plan, to be released for public comment mid-summer, that details strategies and responsibilities to keep the waters of the region healthy for future generations to enjoy. With final approval later this year, the plan’s strategies will be incorporated into the Cass and Hubbard County Water Plans to insure the counties and their partners in water quality protection are eligible for funds to implement protection projects prioritized in the plan. “
 
The Leech Lake River watershed covers 855,000 acres in Cass County, eastern Hubbard County, and a small portion of Beltrami County. The watershed includes priority waters such as the Necktie and Kabekona rivers and Garfield, Kabekona, and Benedict lakes in Hubbard County; and the Leech Lake River, Boy River and chain of 20+ lakes along the river, Leech Lake, the Woman Lake chain, and more than 30 other priority lakes in Cass County. This watershed’s land area ultimately drains to Leech Lake and from there to the Mississippi River and on to the Gulf of Mexico. Over 165,000 acres (20%) of the watershed is surface water. “This watershed contains some of highest value waters in Minnesota,” said Ketchel. “Our waters are essential to our health and quality of life, our recreation, abundant fish and wildlife habitat, and the economic sustainability of our communities.”
 
From 2012 to 2015, streams in the watershed were monitored for chemical and biological activity plus historical and current lake water quality data was collected and analyzed from lake associations, the LLBO, and local and state agencies. When the monitoring was completed, professionals and citizens participated in meetings to review the results and prioritize strategies for protecting the waters of the Leech Lake River watershed. The draft plan is being written by the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation and MPCA using the data gathered and input received throughout the four-year project; Cass County is the fiscal agent for the study.
 
The general water quality protection strategies in the plan, by resource category, include: continued forestry management to “keep forests forested” to prevent runoff to streams and lakes; replacing and resizing road culverts for proper water management; land conservation; vigilance and modification of local land use controls; livestock management; sediment and nutrient management; shoreland stewardship; continued water quality monitoring; groundwater protection; urban stormwater management; no net loss of wetlands; and protection of unique cultural resources. “Protecting our water quality will require the involvement of the whole community,” said Ketchel. “The public meeting will be an opportunity to hear about the results of the WRAPS study and strategies for future protection of water quality and the role that all sectors of the community can play in the implementation of the WRAPS plan.”
 
For more information on the WRAPS Project, contact Phil Votruba, MPCA, at phil.votruba@state.mn.us, 218-316-3901 or Lindsey Ketchel, Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation, at llawf@tds.net, 218-675-5773.

Governor Dayton Proclaims: Clean. Drain. Dry. Day!

At the stroke of midnight on Saturday, May 14th, Governor Mark Dayton will cast his line, proclaim Clean Drain Dry Day, signaling the start to a time-honored tradition, the Minnesota Fishing Opener!

With over 1.6 million anglers hitting the water, fishing opener is the perfect opportunity to educate anglers on the importance of invasive species prevention.  Clean Drain Dry Day recognizes county partners, lake associations and the many advocates united under a common theme working to ensure clean water and a vibrant outdoor economy. 

Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates (MLR) recognizes that vibrant communities rely on healthy natural resources and citizens engaged in the fight against invasive species.  MLR Executive Director Jeff Forester said:  “By presenting the Clean Drain Dry Proclamation at the 2016 Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener, all outdoor recreational users are reminded to take action and become part of the solution for protecting our lakes and rivers.”

Working with county agencies, lake associations and civic groups, Wildlife Forever coordinates community outreach and education throughout the state promoting conservation and stopping the spread of invasive species. 

“We can’t fight AIS alone. Clean Drain Dry unites everyone in prevention and I’m happy that Governor Dayton acknowledges the partner accomplishments in preventing the spread” said Pat Conzemius, Conservation Director of Wildlife Forever.  “We are thankful for Minnesota Lakes and Rivers and hundreds of local lake associations working to keep invasive species out of Minnesota's lakes.”

Minnesota is home to some of America’s finest fishing and boating waters. Clean Drain Dry is simple and easy to do and, as the national prevention message, visitors from other states are likely to have seen the message and know how to help. Visual reminders are posted throughout the state on highway billboards, at gas stations, boat ramps, bait shops, social media and on mobile devices.  

Do your part this fishing and boating season: Clean. Drain. Dry. all boats, trailers and gear.

Thank you. Thank you for your advocacy. Thank you for your support. Thank you for your work to protect our public waters

If you have any questions or comments, please call me directly or email me using the information below. It is only by hearing from our members that we can understand and act on the issues important to you. And click the Facebook and Twitter links below - I post articles, announcements, and updates through those social media sites almost daily. It is a great way to keep in touch.

 

Sincerely,

Jeff Forester
Executive Director
Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates (MLR)
jeff@mnlakesandrivers.org
Cell:  612-961-6144

Minnesota Lakes & Rivers

The Minnesota 2016 Legislative Session is a little more than half over. This Legislative Session is short, just 10 weeks and it is an election year, which further complicates the process. Still, there are some important bills moving and Minnesota Lakes and Rivers has been very, very busy.  Here is where we stand as of April 18th. The session ends on May 23rd. 

We wanted to keep you up to speed with a number of legislative issues that have emerged. Please make use of the links provided in blue text which will take you to more information, or the MLR Citizens Action Network, (CAN) where you can take action on these issues. Non-resident members will find links to local media outlets where you can draft a letter to the editor on these issues.

Property Taxes: It is time to reform the State Business Property Tax, on cabins and Commercial/Industrial property. Language is alive in both the House and Senate that would reform the state business tax on cabins. This is a state property tax levied on cabins ($43 annually) that returns no revenue to local communities.

In addition, this session Senator Rod Skoe has introduced SF 3492 which would eliminate the non-commercial seasonal residential property tax classification (cabins), thereby removing them from the state general tax. MLR applauds this philosophically, having long advocated that a “home is a home,” but much will depend on the tax ramifications. We are working with research at the legislature to learn the full impacts.

Aquatic Invasive Species: 

DNR Policy Bill: HF 2866/SF 2793:

  • Creates a two year Lake Minnetonka Pilot Study, allowing the commissioner to issue an additional permit to service providers to remove and then return to Lake Minnetonka water-related equipment with zebra mussels attached after the equipment has been seasonally stored, serviced, or repaired. This should create efficiencies for marina owners, and savings for boat owners without increasing the risk of AIS spread.

  • Clarifies that boats transported on a conveyance between adjacent water bodies must meet the same "Clean, drain, and dispose" standards that apply to watercraft transported on a trailer.

  • The bill establishes civil penalties for those who refuse to comply with a decontamination order.

  • The bill adds "micro algae,” to the list of designated aquatic invasive species - an important change given the discovery of the first infestation of starry stonewort in Lake Koronis in the summer of 2015.

  • Restoring the MN DNR Grant programs for invasive plant management and inspectors. Last Fall the MN DNR announced that they were cutting all public AIS education grants, all AIS inspection grants, and reducing Invasive Plant Management grants to $200,000 from $675,000 last year. Lake Associations spend millions annually out of their own pockets to fund lake protection and improvement for a range of activities including fish stocking, aquatic invasive weed management, putting out navigational buoys, inspection programs to help contain AIS spread and education programs for everything from shoreline management to storm water runoff management. They do this in support of a public asset, Minnesota's lakes and rivers. It is short sighted that the MN DNR, instead of truly partnering and applauding these efforts that benefit so many, and partnering to enhance and encourage local efforts, chooses instead to abuse this generosity and push ever more of the cost for lake management to these civic minded volunteers.
     
  • Remove the Sales Tax for Lake Treatments of Aquatic Invasive Species - Every summer lakeshore residents and cabin owners put out the call for donations to treat their area lakes for Eurasian Water-milfoil, curly leaf pond weed and other invasive non-native aquatic plants. This work, and expense, helps keep the lakes open for use by everyone in the state, improves aquatic habitats by increasing native plant growth, and lowers the risk that these noxious plants will be carried to another lake on a boat or trailer. MLR will push to remove the sales tax for these efforts, allowing tens of thousands more dollars to go towards this work statewide.

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Sales Tax on Vacation Home Rental

The internet is driving a growing market in vacation home rentals. Some are businesses and others are families who occasionally rent out a cabin in an effort to help pay property tax bills and other expenses. Some resort owners have complained of an uneven playing field since sales taxes and health requirements for the lodging industry do not apply to these types of transactions.

Rep. Steve Drazkowski has introduced HF 3660 which allows a property owner to rent out a second home or cabin for fourteen days without having to pay sales and lodging taxes on the transactions. MLR, working with the Congress of Minnesota Resorts, has advocated that the legitimate property owners who rents out their property occasionally should have that right protected, but when the property is being run as a business, the taxes and regulations that apply to other lodging industry sectors should apply.

And while it seems unlikely that action will be taken on HF 3660 this session, the discussion will continue. MLR Executive Director Jeff Forester welcomes your views on this emerging issue.

Muskie Stocking: 

On Thursday, October 29th, 2015, a public meeting was held in Fergus Falls to discuss the DNR’s plan to plant muskies in Otter Tail County lakes.  This plan has been in the proposal stage for more than two years.  A number Lake associations and municipalities in Otter Tail County have passed resolutions against the DNR muskie stocking plan citing impacts to fisheries, waterfowl and recreational use as well as fears of increased risk of aquatic invasive species spread.

Supporters of muskie stocking point out that muskie fishing is a growing sport, and extends the fishing season into late Fall, and so extends the resort season as well, adding revenue. Muskies are stocked at very low density, a cornerstone of the claim that they have no significant impacts on other fish populations.

In response to the organized opposition, the MN DNR made the decision to delay stocking until after the Legislative Session.

Senator Ingebritsen (SF 3059) and Rep. Anderson (HF 3207) have introduced legislation that would either block muskie stocking into the proposed lakes (HF 3207), or would end the expansion of muskie into any additional lakes or rivers (SF 3059). The House has included their muskie language in its Game and Fish bill, HF 2844 (Hackbarth).  Both bills have generated significant controversy and it is unclear if either of these proposals will make it through the legislative process and arrive on Governor Dayton’s desk.

What is clear is that no matter the outcome from this session, the controversy will continue. Otter Tail County lake associations are working to expand an advocacy base to oppose muskie stocking in Minnesota, and Muskie’s Inc., a national proponent of muskie fishing, is ramping up its advocacy efforts as well. But most importantly, it is clear that a large segment of the population, including Legislators, has lost confidence in both MN DNR science and the public input process.

There is a need to do conclusive science on the impacts of muskie stocking. Without conclusive science that is above accusations of bias, there can be no resolution. Additionally, without a civic governance process that builds trust between all stakeholders, the legislative push and pull surrounding muskies will continue.

Thank you. Thank you for your advocacy. Thank you for your support. 

If you have any questions or comments, please call me directly or email me using the information below. It is only by hearing from our members that we can understand and act on the issues important to you. And click the Facebook and Twitter links below - I post articles, announcements and updates through those social media sites almost daily. It is a great way to keep in touch.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jeff Forester
Executive Director
Minnesota Lakes and Rivers Advocates (MLR)
jeff@mnlakesandrivers.org
Cell:  612-961-6144