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Tonight's Post Bulletin newspaper
04-12-2018, 05:28 PM
Post: #1
Tonight's Post Bulletin newspaper
LANESBORO — What Tom Landwehr’s message came down to Tuesday was money.

The Department of Natural Resources commissioner, along with the DNR fisheries chief and heads of two conservation groups, came to the Lanesboro trout hatchery to highlight the need for $5 million. That money would replace a major building that has rusting I-beams, get rid of radon, improve raceways where trout live, make the facilities more energy-efficient and reduce the chance it will get flooded again by nearby Duschee Creek.

The hatchery’s woes, in turn, illustrate the needs of 14 other hatcheries, many for warm-water species, as well as the needs at other DNR facilities.

Here’s how Landwehr said to follow the dollars:

The $5 million for Lanesboro is needed to continue raising the brown and rainbow trout that are stocked into 100 streams, many in the southeast, and 200 lakes, mostly in northern Minnesota.

Anglers spend more money across the state to catch those fish. The Lanesboro/Preston area is one that greatly benefits from trout angler dollars.

Those dollars, in turn, mean tens of millions of dollars in taxes to the state.

The $5 million is part of a $130 million request the DNR is making to the Minnesota Legislature this year to begin repairing and upgrading its $3 billion in facilities, Landwehr said. It’s only part of what’s needed. To do all the work needed to bring all DNR parks, campgrounds, roads, hatcheries, offices and other facilities to acceptable levels would require $130 million each year for a decade, he said.

Until maybe 30 years ago, the DNR would have talked more about the need for the hatchery for fishing alone, said Don Pereira, DNR fisheries chief. But then, natural resources agencies across the country began to have to show how their budgets helped local and state budgets, he said. “We need to justify our existence economically,” he said.

His $32 million budget helps support the state’s fishing industry that accounts for $4.2 billion in direct and indirect benefits, he said.

Lanesboro raises about 400,000 brown trout fingerlings. A few go across the state, but “most of them stay here” in the southeast, said Pat Schmidt, who recently retired as head of the hatchery. In addition, the hatchery raises about 350,000 keeper-sized rainbow trout for streams and lakes across the state. The pond at Foster Arend Park in Rochester gets its trout from Lanesboro, he said.

John Lenczewski, executive director of Minnesota Trout Unlimited, said his group works to improve habitat to lessen need for stocking, but that work isn’t enough to supply all the trout people want. While many outdoors pursuits in Minnesota are lagging, the number of trout stamps sold is rising, he said.

The department also believes those fish can be important to getting younger people away from electronic devices and into the outdoors, Pereira said.

Hard-core trout anglers tend to fish on streams where fish are all wild; stocking would be a waste of money in those streams. But beginners often go to state parks and lakes that are more convenient to fish. Those waters, however, can’t produce enough trout or don’t have places for spawning, so stocking is needed, he said. At times, “it’s wall-to-wall on some lakes in the metro area,” he said.

Being exposed to stocked fish often gets anglers to go to wild trout waters, he said.

“It’s all about getting more people out,” Landwehr said.

John Weiss, now retired, has covered the outdoors for the Post Bulletin for more than 40 years. He is the author of “Back Roads: The Best of the Best by Post-Bulletin Columnist John Weiss,” published in 2017.

The hardest thing in life is knowing which bridge to cross and which one to burn.
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