Minnesota Issues

Letter to Commissioner Landwehr Regarding Drones


August 25, 2015                                   


TO: Tom Landwehr, Minnesota DNR Commissioner

FROM: Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

SUBJ: Drone Regulation

Dear Commissioner Landwehr,

We write as avid hunters, anglers and outdoor enthusiasts on behalf of the Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA), a group formed with the goal of protecting our nation’s wild public lands, waters and wildlife for current and future generations of hunters, anglers and other outdoorsmen and women.

We seek to maintain high quality habitat and hunting-angling experiences, as well as a strong code of fair-chase ethics. BHA members share the values of solitude, tradition and challenge when it comes to the outdoors and want to ensure that our public lands and sporting traditions are preserved for future generations.

As you are likely aware, during the last couple years the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or “drones,” has skyrocketed. And, like ATVs and game cameras before them, they have become part of the discussion about fair-chase. Today off-the-shelf drones are available for as little as $100, and for around $1,000 you can purchase sophisticated models with GPS guidance and cameras that send video back to the ground. Consumers are buying thousands of them a year.[2]

Imagine somewhere in Minnesota: A man wakes in a cabin and begins the day by firing up his favorite new accessory—a drone. He uses a smartphone to fly the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle over nearby woods and fields, searching for a trophy white-tailed deer. A camera mounted on the UAV sends live images to the smartphone. Once he locates the buck he wants, he grabs his rifle and, using the smartphone to monitor the live image from the hovering drone, stalks into position for a shot.[4] To prevent just such a scenario from unfolding, in 2014 alone 10 states passed drone-use regulations, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.[6]

Land Tawney, BHA’s executive director, sees a future where unscrupulous profiteers use evolving drone technology to take the hunt out of hunting. “Our largest concern is the erosion of fair-chase principles,” Tawney says. “Whether drones are used for scouting to find animals or, in a worst-case scenario, where they’re used to pinpoint a particular animal for a hunter to kill, it’s a problem. As drones become more and more accessible and cheaper for people to use, I think there will be a certain element that starts to use them to hunt,” Tawney said. “We’d rather get out in front of that.”[8]

More than 1 million drones of all kinds are expected to be sold in the United States during 2015, compared to 430,000 in 2014 and 120,000 in 2013, according to the Consumer Electronics Association. U.S. pilots reported more than 650 drone sightings during 2015, as of Aug. 9, well over double the 238 total for all of 2014, the FAA said.[10]

Undeveloped, School Trust Lands best benefit our children’s futures

The Following Op-Ed Recently appeared in the Duluth News Tribune: 4/5/15

Recently there have been renewed efforts at trading State School Trust Lands, totaling about 30,000 acres in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, for federal public lands in the surrounding Superior National Forest. Hunters and anglers are skeptical about this proposed trade for many reasons, but perhaps our No. 1 concern can be summed up in the words of Rep. David Dill, DFL-Crane Lake. He said of a similar proposed land swap in 2012: “We should mine, log and lease the hell out of that land.”

There are some 2.5 million acres in Minnesota known as School Trust Lands, with 83,000 acres located in the BWCAW. Revenue from timber, mining, leases, etc., that these lands generate are put into the state’s Permanent School Trust Fund. The trust fund generates $26 million to $30 million per year for schools.

MN BHA Calls for Elk Herd Expansion

Walter Conibear Elk BCDear LCCMR Members:

Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) are a grassroots group of sportsmen and women who are united by a passion to protect and conserve the public lands, forests,  prairies, streams, lakes and game that support our hunting and angling traditions. 

We seek to maintain high-quality habitat and hunting experiences, as well as a strong code of fair chase ethics. BHA members share the values of solitude, tradition, challenge, freedom, health, and family, and want to ensure that our public lands and wildlife are preserved for future generations of hunters and others.

And we would like to express our support for the University of Minnesota and Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa proposal to conduct a feasibility study for the restoration of elk to eastern Minnesota. As you know, Minnesota’s native elk were originally distributed over most of the state, but were extirpated by the early l900s.[1] Their current numbers and range in Minnesota are only a fraction of historic levels.

SPORTSMAN’S VIEW: Sportsmen not buying PolyMet’s sulfide mining whitewashing

Minnesota fishingThe following Op-Ed was published by the Duluth Tribune here.

A PolyMet Mining board member opined recently in the News Tribune about the company’s proposed sulfide mining operation in Northeastern Minnesota. Not unexpectedly, his Dec. 29 commentary, headlined, “Mineral mining industry merits our appreciation,” made sulfide mining sound like a benign extension of the iron ore and taconite mining that has gone on in our state for generations. But what would you expect from a PolyMet board member?

He conveniently forgot to warn us about acid-mine drainage, for starters. Acid-mine drainage is what results from bringing sulfur-bearing minerals into contact with the atmosphere. Sulfuric acid is created. There are 1,500-year-old, Roman-era hard-rock mines in Europe that are still producing acid-mine drainage pollution today.

In addition in northern Minnesota, where surface water and groundwater mix so readily, PolyMet’s initial Draft Environmental Impact Statement predicted its West Pit would fill with water and overflow into the Partridge River (in the Lake Superior watershed) after the mine’s closure, according to Conservation Minnesota.

Minnesota BHA Comments on Elk Management Plan

elk hunt 2011 010 2TO: Dept. of Natural Resources (DNR) Big-Game Program Coordinator, Leslie McInenly

September 10, 2014

Dear Leslie:

Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA) are a grassroots group of sportsmen and women who are united by a passion to protect and conserve the public lands, forests, mountains, prairies, streams, lakes and game that support our hunting and angling traditions. 

BHA was founded around an Oregon campfire in 2004 by seven sportsmen and women and now has members in all 50 states, with 17 chapters across the country and Canada, including Minnesota, New York and Pennsylvania, and just about every Western state. Partly as a result of our western roots, we know that when a hunter dreams of a trophy elk thoughts run to frozen mornings deep in the Rocky Mountains. Minnesota seldom comes to mind, but that could (and should) change.[1] As you know, Minnesota’s native elk were originally distributed over most of the state, but were extirpated by the early l900s.[2]

Local view: Keep public land for recreation


northern bwca

 Help BHA keep public lands public.

By David Lien

Duluth News Tribune: 7/17/14

In 1887 Theodore Roosevelt founded the Boone and Crockett Club with fellow sportsmen. The group later became Roosevelt’s brain trust of “hunter-conservationists” during his presidential crusade to preserve habitat for elk, deer, buffalo and other species among America’s vast wild places and wide-open spaces. Roosevelt’s work as a “conservation president” was one of many ways he left lasting imprints on the nation.

However, today, Roosevelt’s public-lands legacy is being put at risk. Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a budget engineered by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., that supports selling “unneeded acreage” of federal land on the open market.

Hunters, anglers, and other outdoorsmen and outdoors-women are intimately familiar with our public lands. We know that the possible sale or transfer of federal public lands used for hunting, fishing, camping and hiking will only serve to enrich a few at the expense of many and eliminate access to our public lands and waters. These are lands set aside “for the greatest good of the greatest number for the longest time,” as Gifford Pinchot, first director of the United States Forest Service (appointed by Teddy Roosevelt), said.

Minnesota BHA Op-Ed: Sulfide Mining Bad For Watersheds and Local Economies

BWCAThe following is an Op-Ed that was originally published in the Grand Rapids Herald-Review on 5/13/14.

In 1909 President Theodore Roosevelt established the Superior National Forest, which today encompasses some 3 million acres including 445,000 acres of surface water.[1] In total, Minnesota claims 10,000—some even say 14,000—lakes. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that anglers spent $2.4 billion in Minnesota in 2011 supporting 35,000 state jobs.[2] Water, wetlands, rivers, lakes and streams are nearly synonymous with our state, particularly in northeastern Minnesota. What a special inheritance!

In the words of Minnesota DNR Commissioner, Tom Landwehr: “The canoe paddle in your hands dips into glassy water near Ely. A loon call breaks the quiet. Seeing the sunrise through aspen trees, your canoe loaded with fishing and camping gear, you realize … We are blessed in Minnesota to have an abundance of natural resources. Minnesotans love them as do our visitors. So do our children when we explore our state with family, and so do anglers.”[3]

MN BHA Comments on Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline

April 4, 2014                                         

BWCA-northernTO: Larry Hartman, Environmental Review Manager, EERA Minnesota Department of Commerce (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

FROM: Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers

SUBJ: Enbridge Sandpiper Pipeline Comments-PUC Docket Number (13-474)


Dear State Agency Leaders:

Minnesota Backcountry Hunters & Anglers (BHA)—The Sportsman's Voice for Our Wild Public Lands, Waters and Wildlife—are a grassroots group of sportsmen and women who are united by a passion to protect and conserve the public lands, forests, mountains, prairies, streams, and lakes that support our hunting and angling traditions.

Nationally, BHA has members in all 50 states and seeks to ensure America’s outdoor heritage in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of clean water and wildlands. Founded in 2004, BHA is a 501c3 non-profit organization that works to conserve big, natural habitat and healthy rivers and streams. We work so our kids and grandkids are able to enjoy the high-quality hunting and fishing we cherish (www.backcountryhunters.org).

Sportsmen against sulfide mining

northern bwcaThe following op-ed originaly appeared in the Grand Rapids Herald Review on February 4, 2014.

PolyMet is one of several companies considering sulfide mining operations in northeastern Minnesota. During recent public meetings in Duluth, Aurora, and St. Paul on the PolyMet Mining NorthMet Project Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS), mining companies sent busloads of sulfide mining supporters to make a show of force, but most of the substantive testimony came from mine opponents.

Hunters and anglers are particularly concerned about the impacts of sulfide mining. “I’m an outdoorsman, and I’m concerned about water quality,” said Jim Juntti of Barnum. “I asked them what the plan is if something happens and that (tailings basin) opens up and things go bad … They didn’t really have an answer for me.” The Minnesota DNR Division of Fish and Wildlife said the project will definitely affect fish and wildlife, noting that “this increase in risk to water quality and fish habitat is a significant impact of the project.”

That’s because when sulfides interact with oxygen (in our air) and water (in rain or snowmelt, for example), they create sulfuric acid—the same caustic substance used in car batteries. A common term for this pollution is Acid Mine Drainage (AMD), which will continue as long as sulfides, water, and air mix. No new technologies have emerged that can stop the chemical reaction once it begins. Sulfide mining in water-intensive areas has never been done without contaminating waterways and watersheds.

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Backcountry Hunters & Anglers seeks to ensure North America's outdoor heritage of hunting and fishing in a natural setting, through education and work on behalf of wild public lands and waters.

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