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by Caroline Downs

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Hot off the press, now at the refuge . . .

Posted 5/14/13 (Tue)


The “Des Lacs National Wildlife Refuge Activity Guide” is now available to you, free for the taking.

These brochures were released at the end of April, and the information answers at least a dozen questions I’ve heard over the years about what can and cannot be done on the refuge here.

If you’re relatively new to the area, pick one up at refuge headquarters. All you have to do is drive a mile west of town on the county road through town (or 6th Street), then turn left at the refuge sign. Follow the paved road to the refuge office and visitors’ center, where right inside the front doors you’ll find a rack filled with booklets and brochures about various refuge topics and programs.

These Activity Guides, with a plain brown cover, were placed at eye level on the left side of the display.

If you’ve lived in the Kenmare area all your life, you should still get a copy of this. According to refuge manager Chad Zorn, this is the first printing of this type of brochure that lists both the opportunities for public use on the refuge and the prohibited activities.

I admit, I had trouble with the “prohibited activities” when we first moved here. I was accustomed to public access and use on BLM and U.S. Forest Service land in Wyoming. However, those agencies both manage land for different objectives, including a greater emphasis on recreation, than the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

I had to learn to accept that. Wildlife--migratory waterfowl, in our case here in Kenmare--comes first in the National Wildlife Refuge system. Not camping, hiking, fishing, boating or snowmobiling, like I’d done on public lands in Wyoming.

This brochure spells it all out for anyone who visits or lives around the Des Lacs NWR, though. The five public use areas are described, including the Canada Goose Nature Trail, Tasker’s Coulee, Munch’s Coulee, the Auto Tour Route north and south of Kenmare, and the Boat Dock Day Use/Canoe Use Area.

There’s also the best map I’ve seen of the refuge that shows just where these areas are located, with symbols for the amenities and activities available at each site.

Two pages of the brochure are dedicated to information about the refuge, its facilities and accessibility, along with explanations about common uses of the refuge for hunting, wildlife photography, wildlife observation, and environmental education. The Activity Guide references another pamphlet available at the refuge, “Along the Souris River Loop Bird List,” which I’ve found invaluable through the years to identify birds I’ve seen.

A list of activities prohibited on the refuge is included on the back page of the brochure. You may not agree with all of them, but those are the rules, established by federal mandate.

Several items on this list reflect common sense, like no littering, no trespassing, no possession of fireworks, and no open containers of any alcoholic drinks.

Other prohibited activities are tied directly to the refuge’s priority regarding wildlife. Like many of you, I enjoy camping and horseback riding, and geocaching has become popular, I know. However, if I’m going to do these things, I need to find a location other than the refuge.

We humans do impact the land and its resources, even if we’re just passing through. I’ll admit that while I would love to roll out my sleeping bag in Tasker’s Coulee and watch the stars some summer night, I also appreciate knowing at least a tiny bit of land is protected and left as untouched as possible in 21st century America.

A tiny bit of land that might appeal to the pintail, ruddy duck and blue-winged teal hens nesting here.

Go get yourself a copy of this brochure, so you’ll know where you can sit and watch these ducks raise their broods later.

While you’re waiting for nests to hatch, enjoy the Boat Dock Road, which has opened to the public again. Just be careful where you see areas of washed-out gravel. Repairs are scheduled!