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Minnesota DNR responds to Red Lake tribal concerns about Northwest Angle bear management proposal

It is important to understand that the Minnesota DNR is not proposing a new bear hunt on the Northwest Angle.

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Contributed / Minnesota DNR
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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources issued this response late Friday, Feb. 25, to the Red Lake Band of Chippewa’s letter expressing concern about a DNR proposal to establish a new bear management unit specific to the Northwest Angle, which is about 80% tribally owned:

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is considering a proposal to modify existing bear management permit boundaries in the Northwest Angle (NWA). The number of bear hunting licenses available annually for a given area is determined by the population management goals for that bear management unit.

Creating a separate bear management unit for the Northwest Angle would give the DNR more flexibility in setting bear permit quotas for the area and hopefully provide more recreational opportunity, the agency said.

Much of the land that makes up the NWA is part of the Red Lake Nation. Non-Tribal members are not allowed to hunt on Red Lake Nation land (i.e., any change to permit boundaries would apply only on the NWA’s non-Tribal lands). However, recognizing the potential impact of the state’s decisions on resources important to the Red Lake Nation and its members, Minnesota DNR staff have had ongoing conversation with Red Lake Nation’s natural resources staff about the proposed modification to the management unit boundaries. Following that technical coordination with Tribal staff, the DNR held public meetings in Warroad and the NWA, which were announced locally in Roseau and Lake of the Woods counties. On the evening of February 24, Red Lake Nation Chairman Darrell Seki sent a letter to the Minnesota DNR expressing concerns about the proposal itself and the Minnesota DNR’s engagement with Red Lake Nation on the proposal thus far. We take Chairman Seki’s concerns seriously and we will continue engaging with the Tribe on this issue toward a final plan.

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It is important to understand that the Minnesota DNR is not proposing a new bear hunt on the NWA. There has been a bear hunting season in the NWA for decades, but that area is currently part of a larger bear management unit (BMU). The NWA’s landscape, vegetation, and wealth of natural food sources differentiate it from the rest of BMU 12. Therefore, the bear management needs and hunting opportunities are also different on the NWA, compared to elsewhere in BMU 12. Because of this and in response to concerns about problem bears from local residents, the DNR is considering making the NWA a separate BMU. The establishment of a local management unit could enhance DNR’s ability to tailor hunting opportunities to achieve bear management strategies that are specific to the NWA population. The Minnesota DNR has not made a final decision about whether to establish a NWA-specific BMU.

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