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Hunters, hikers and others who bring their smartphones into Minnesota state forests soon won’t have much of an excuse if they get lost.

The Minnesota DNR has released the first six of 59 state forest “geoPDF” maps that people can download to a smartphone. Then, while in the woods, they can track their location as a blue dot on their screen.

“This feature lets people know exactly where they are in a state forest,” said Laura Duffey, state forest map project coordinator. “No more getting lost.”

The maps are designed to work on or off trail through satellite connections, typically even when the smartphone doesn’t have cell coverage.

The DNR maps are more detailed and contain more information than other maps people might already have on their phones, Duffey said. The DNR maps may include campgrounds, day-use areas with swimming beaches and boat launches, trail locations and type as well as land ownership.

“You’ll know if you’re on state land vs. tribal land vs. private land,” Duffey said. That’s important for hunters and trappers, she said, because each type of land has different rules.

Meadow Kouffeld, regional biologist for the Ruffed Grouse Society in Minnesota, warned that hunters should be careful about relying too much on technology to find their way in the woods. But the maps sound useful, she said, especially if they distinguish land ownership.

“It’ll make the woods more accessible, that’s for sure,” she said.

The DNR expects maps for all 59 state forests to be complete within five years.

So far, available maps include: Paul Bunyan State Forest in Cass and Hubbard counties; Badoura State Forest in Cass and Hubbard counties; St. Croix State Forest in Pine County; Huntersville State Forest in Cass, Hubbard and Wadena counties; Lyons State Forest in Wadena County, and Chengwatana State Forest in Pine and Chisago counties. It cost the state $15,800 per map to produce the first six maps, but officials expect future maps will cost less.

Free GeoPDF maps can be downloaded atdnr.state.mn.us/state_forests/maps-launch.html. Users will be required to download one of several map-reading applications to use them. The DNR will also have updated paper maps available for free at local DNR offices or by contacting info.dnr@state.mn.us or calling 888-646-6367.

@pamlouwagie 612-673-7102