DNR: Better MN wildlife and more park visits in 2015

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A record number of people visited Minnesota state parks in 2015, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. 

The DNR says overnight stays in parks went up 11 percent and daily permit sales went up 17 percent from 2014. According to the Pioneer Press, thats almost 310,000 daily park permits sold last year.

Several factors may have contributed. The DNR told the Pioneer Press more people may have visited because of the mild weather and the increase in public outreach programs.

DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr and Lt. Governor Tina Smith encouraged Minnesotans to get active and visit parks on Black Friday. That day – called Free Park Friday – all 76 state parks were open and free to enter.

The DNR also launched an app called Parkfinder that helps visitors learn about the parks.

Improved wildlife

In addition to getting more people outdoors, the DNR says they made big strides in improving Minnesota's wildlife.

The DNR completed a barrier that separates waters in southwestern Minnesota from the Missouri River Basin and prevents invasive carp from getting in.

Officials say there are more fishing opportunities. Upper Red Lake's walleye population has improved, meaning there will be less regulation. Minnesota Public Radio reports the limit increased from two walleye to three. The DNR also had a record number of people buy trout and salmon stamps.

On land, the DNR says the deer harvest has increased by 14 percent. And bison were released in Minneopa State Park. Prior to the release, wild bison had not been seen in Minnesota since 1880.

The DNR also upgraded their wildfire fighting equipment. They replaced two firefighting aircraft with four faster planes and two single engine air tankers.

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