The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is trying to spread the word about climate change and used Lake Osakis as an example.

In a news release issued as part of Climate Week, the DNR noted that Minnesota’s climate is becoming warmer and wetter, which have shortened lake ice seasons.

“Lake Osakis — an average-sized lake in central Minnesota — now has ‘ice out’ more than a week earlier now than it did in the 1940s,” DNR officials noted. “Early ice-out dates negatively affect a variety of winter recreation opportunities, such as ice fishing and cross-country skiing.”

In the past 20 years, the ice has left the lake in March or April every year but two — May 5, 2018 and May 13, 2013.

Taking action

DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen said the DNR is taking action to identify climate-related changes, understand the impacts of the changes on the state’s natural resources and recreation, mitigate the impacts as much as possible, and adapt to those impacts that cannot be avoided.

The actions range from measuring changes to alerting Minnesotans to the effects of climate change, to planting tree species that will survive better in a warmer climate, to installing renewable energy options, like solar panels, at state parks and DNR buildings.

“We want people to know that Minnesota’s climate is already changing and will continue to do so,” Strommen said. “Across state government, we are working together and with our partners to reduce our contributions to those changes and adapt to the changing climate and reduce negative impacts to Minnesota’s resources and people.”

The DNR recently created a new website describing how Minnesota’s climate is changing, the impacts to natural resources and recreation, and what DNR is doing to address it.

The DNR is part of a group of state agencies working on climate change adaptation and mitigation. It also collaborates with other partners, such as universities, federal agencies, local governments, and tribes, on climate change issues.

Impacts of climate change

Data from the State Climatology Office indicate Minnesota’s temperatures are increasing – especially in winter – and large, more frequent extreme precipitation events are occurring. Minnesota has warmed 2.9 degrees between 1895 and 2017, while receiving an average of 3.4 inches more precipitation annually.

Climate changes are already impacting Minnesota’s wildlife, plants, waters, historic resources, infrastructure, and available outdoor recreation activities, according to the DNR.

With warmer winters and more precipitation, rough fish are gaining a foothold in waters that provide important duck habitat. Rough fish degrade water quality, reducing the food available to migrating ducks.

A lot of work ahead

Strommen said there is still a lot of work ahead for the DNR. The agency has made climate change a key priority and intends to work closely with stakeholders, other government agencies, and all Minnesotans to address climate change.

“We know that, by working closely with Minnesotans, we can better adapt to this significant challenge,” Strommen said. “We all have a stake in the future of our natural resources and recreation opportunities. By learning, adjusting, and doing our part individually, we can help Minnesota’s public lands, and the people who enjoy them, address and adapt to climate change.’’