DNR to hold public hearings on proposed scientific and natural area changes

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will hold two public hearings to gather input on changes proposed for two scientific and natural areas. The hearings are scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 14, at the Lions Park Community Center, 1104 Lions Park Drive, Elk River. 

Scientific and natural areas are established to protect rare natural resources while allowing for low impact recreational uses such as hiking, birding and nature photography.

From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., DNR staff will describe and seek feedback on a proposal to transfer 5.5 acres of land in the 142-acre Mississippi River Islands SNA to the agency’s Parks and Trails Division. The transfer would allow the agency to better manage what has been an unofficial campsite for paddlers at the west end of Dimmick Island on the Mississippi River State Water Trail.

If the proposal to transfer the parcel on Dimmick Island to DNR Parks and Trails is approved, use of the historical campsite will be allowed to continue. The SNA is in Sherburne and Wright counties along the Mississippi River, beginning about 4 miles east of downtown Monticello.

DNR staff will then discuss a proposal to consider trail use changes within Uncas Dunes SNA, from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. or until all testimony is taken. The proposal would officially limit snowmobile use within Uncas Dunes SNA to Sherburne County Snowmobile Trail #209. The proposed changes also include allowing equestrian use within the SNA along this trail.

These changes aim to recognize and honor public uses that have historically occurred at this site while seeking to minimize impacts to rare plant communities by concentrating these public uses along the trail.

Located in Sherburne County, a few miles west of Zimmerman, Uncas Dunes SNA is surrounded by the Sand Dunes State Forest, which provides opportunities for camping, horseback riding, snowmobiling and more. Sherburne County Snowmobile Trail #209 crosses the northern unit of the SNA and connects portions of a popular horse trail running through the state forest between 237th Avenue Northwest and 253rd Avenue Northwest. Uses within the surrounding state forest would not be impacted by these proposed changes.

At the public hearing, an official will record all testimony. Written statements will be accepted until June 21. Comments may be sent by email to: sna.dnr@state.mn.us (Put the name of the SNA in the subject line). Or they can be sent by U.S. mail to Public Hearing Officer Gina Bonsignore, c/o Scientific and Natural Areas Program, Minnesota DNR, 1200 Warner Road, St. Paul, MN 55106. Specify the name of the SNA referenced in the comments.

Minnesota’s 162 scientific and natural areas are state lands preserving Minnesota’s ecological and geological diversity. They protect natural features of exceptional scientific or educational value, and are open to the public for activities such as hiking, wildlife watching and nature photography. Some SNAs may allow hunting or other activities. For more information, visit the scientific and natural areas webpage.