Yearly Archives: 2013

YMCA Camp Widjiwagan: Generations of Exploration

YMCA Camp Widjiwagan: Generations of Exploration

On the pine-covered shores of Burntside Lake’s North Arm twenty miles northeast of Ely, Camp Widjiwagan has been a launching point for teenagers to explore wilderness since 1929. Today, some families are sending their fourth generation of campers to Widji, where the fundamental experience hasn’t changed much since their grandparents’ days. The camp still uses…

Helping Northern Forests Survive the Heat

On the front page of October 20 Sunday Star Tribune, an article “Saving the Great North Woods” addresses many climate-related issues and their implications to the future of the Quetico Superior biomes. Star Tribune Online includes a few short videos that further clarify what is happening and what efforts are being made to measure changes…

Moose Calves Dying at an Alarming Rate

In one of the most innovative moose research studies ever, in May of 2013, 49 moose calves in northeast Minnesota were fitted with GPS transmitting collars. Just four months later at least 35 are dead. This is significantly outside of the norm. Worldwide studies indicate that on average, in areas where predators are present, a…

Eye to the Skies – the Raptor Migration is On

The Hawk Ridge Bird Observatory in Duluth held their annual Hawk Weekend Festival last weekend, and the results of their daily bird counts are coming in. The migration begins in mid-August with American kestrels, sharp-shinned hawks and broad-winged hawks, and continues into December with red-tailed and rough-legged hawks, northern goshawks and eagles. Peak migration at…

Fond du Lac Band Suspends Moose Hunt

As has been reported in Wilderness News Online, the moose population in northeast Minnesota has dropped from 8,800 moose in 2006 to 2,760 in last winter’s survey. Even more alarming is a 35% decline in just the last year. As a result, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources suspended moose hunting for the 2013 season.…

Campsite Reservations Coming to Voyageurs National Park

Starting in 2014, it will be possible to reserve some campsites in Voyageurs National Park. Previously, all sites in the park were available on a first-come, first-serve basis. The new system is the result of a three-year public engagement process. Reservations for all campsites in the park will be phased in over the next few…

Islands on Two Northern Minnesota Lakes Acquired by Public Agencies

Islands on Lake Vermilion and Burntside Lake will be protected from development after being purchased by the U.S. Forest Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, respectively. The Trust for Public Land (TPL) recently helped acquire and transfer to government ownership Wolf Island on Vermilion and Gaul Island on Burntside. Fifty-eight-acre Wolf Island has…

Forest Service Fighting Two Small Fires in Boundary Waters

Two small fires are burning in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, and are being intensively managed by Superior National Forest crews. The fires have not yet resulted in the closure of any entry points, but some campsites are affected. The larger of the fires has burned about 100 acres near the South Arm of…

Release Date Set for Revised PolyMet Environmental Review

Starting late this fall, the public will have a chance to review and comment on the amended environmental review for the first proposed copper-nickel mine in northern Minnesota. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has announced that the Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for PolyMet will be released on November 22. A public comment…

MN DNR Updates Endangered and Threatened Species Lists

For the first time since 1996, the Minnesota DNR has updated the list of endangered and threatened animals and plants in the state, adding over 180 species. Listed species are categorized as either endangered, threatened or of special concern. The list is based on scientific field studies and public hearings held over the past year.…

Wolf Hunt Quota Lowered Due to Population Decline

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources will allow 180 less wolves to be killed during the 2013 hunting season than last year. The new quota was announced after the DNR said earlier this month that Minnesota’s wolf population had declined by about 25 percent in the past five years. “The changes are a management response…

Camp Manito-wish—Where Kids Try it, Change it, and Try Again

Camp Manito-wish—Where Kids Try it, Change it, and Try Again

By Alissa Johnson When a group of campers from Camp Manito-wish YMCA approaches its first campsite in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness or Quetico Provincial Park, the counselors ask the group to pause on the water. They’ll float in their canoes and talk through everything that’s going to happen on land: how they’ll unload…

Wolf Numbers Decline, Range Increases in Minnesota

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says the first survey of the state’s wolf population since last fall’s inaugural hunting season shows the population remains strong. Estimates of wolf numbers have declined by 710 since the last survey, in 2008. Despite the smaller numbers, the DNR says the population remains strong and the area of…

Popular Ely Bear Researcher Denied Permit

Bear feeding at the North American Bear Center in Ely. Photo by Michael Lore via Flickr. Lynn Rogers, who has studied black bears in northern Minnesota for 46 years, was recently denied a new research permit by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. In a letter to Rogers, the DNR says Rogers’ research, which includes…

Mining Truth Coalition Launches Summer Campaign

The environmental coalition Mining Truth, comprised of the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness, Conservation Minnesota, and the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, has announced a new campaign. The “4 Simple Questions” effort is intended to educate the public about the risks of sulfide mining, and call on Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton to adhere to…

Peculiar Spring Ice-out Recapped

The final 2013 ice out dates have been recorded for the lakes in the Quetico Superior. For many, even those that have reliable records back over 50 years this was a record late break-up. For others, this was the latest break-up since 1950. Either way it was an extraordinary spring especially coming on the heels…

Montana Economist Presents in Minnesota on Mining Cost-Benefits

Retired University of Montana economics professor and researcher Tom Power was in northern Minnesota this week to speak about the risks of mining-dependent economies. He gave presentations in Duluth and Ely sponsored by environmental organizations. Power’s research has found that mining does not typically lead to the prosperity promised by its proponents. This is largely…

Ontario Endangered Species Act Weakened

The Ontario Provincial Cabinet announced May 31st its approval of several exemptions for industry under the Endangered Species Act, 2007 (ESA).  Many environmental organizations are incensed at the this government action. They fear it is an abdication of public government’s responsibility to protect Ontario’s endangered plants and animals. Specifically, the exemptions for the forest industry…

Sigurd Olson Exhibit Opens in Ely

The International Wolf Center in Ely, MN has opened a new exhibit dedicated to wilderness writer and author Sigurd F. Olson. The exhibit is focused on Olson’s legacy as a writer, wilderness advocate and wolf researcher. Before Olson was well-known as a conservationist and author, he did groundbreaking research on wolves. In a statement, Wolf…

Re-engineering Campcraft

With the ice off the border lakes and the summer paddling season underway, it is a great time to refine some camping strategies. One of the rules commonly broken in the Boundary Waters Wilderness is the prohibition of burning paper, plastic or foil in campfires.  The USFS has done research  on the burning of plastic…

New Version of PolyMet Environmental Review Released to Cooperating Agencies

A revised draft of the environmental review for the first-ever copper mining project proposed in Minnesota has been completed. PolyMet Mining Corp.’s new document has been distributed to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, tribal governments, and other state and federal agencies which are involved in the process. The release comes almost…

Researchers Call for Isle Royale Wolf Management

Three scientists have published an op-ed in the New York Times calling for the National Park Service to not let Isle Royale’s wolf population disappear. There are now so few wolves on the remote Lake Superior island that there are questions about whether or not there is enough genetic diversity, and even enough females, to naturally survive. Wild vs.…

Longtime Sawbill Resident and Wilderness Advocate Bill Hansen YouTubes Two Lynx

Bill Hansen, whose parents began Sawbill Canoe Outfitters in 1957 and who has built his outfitting business into one of the most respected in the BWCAW, had the pleasure of spotting two conversing lynx last week while driving down the Sawbill Trail. Lynx are seclusive but iconic predators of the boreal forest and rarely seen…

Moose Population Holding Steady in Voyageurs National Park

Photo by Steve Wall via Flickr The moose population in Voyageurs National Park remains steady, according to a Park Service study released Tuesday. Aerial surveys conducted in late February indicate a population of 46 animals, compared to 51 in 2009. Over the same time period, the population of northeastern Minnesota moose is believed to have declined…

Cormorant Control Approved for Lake Vermilion

According to the Ely Timberjay newspaper the DNR recently announced their decision to kill up to 10% of the Double Crested Cormorants on Lake Vermilion, in Minnesota, this summer. In addition, cormorant eggs will be spread with vegetable oil to prevent them from hatching and at the same time not stimulate the birds to renest.…

Just How Late Will Ice-out Be?

The stubborn winter of 2013 seems to be baffling scientists and old-timers alike, but just how late will this year’s Quetico-Superior’s ice-out be? Following an extremely early ice-out in 2012 might make this year just seem late, but no. With paddling forum entries reporting ice still as much as three feet thick on Boundary Waters’…

Anti-mining Activists to Open Office in Ely

New mine proposals in northeastern Minnesota have prompted a group of local citizens and businesses to plan an anti-mining “action center” on Ely’s Sheridan Street. The office will provide information to visitors and residents, and is expected to open by Memorial Day weekend. The effort is being spearheaded by Steve Piragis, proprietor of wilderness outfitter…

South Kawishiwi River Named One of America’s “Most Endangered Rivers”

The South Kawishiwi River, which flows into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, has been named one of “America’s Most Endangered Rivers” as a result of the Twin Metals mine proposal and other mineral exploration nearby. The annual report by American Rivers, a national organization which works to protect and restore the nation’s rivers, highlights…

Early Reports on Minnesota Moose Study Inconclusive

The Minnesota moose population has plummeted by 50% in just two years. In an attempt to discover what is causing this dramatic decline, this winter the DNR began an aggressive research study by attaching sophisticated GPS-equipped transmitters to 111 moose. The collars transmit a message when a moose is dying, and the hope was that…

Northern Tier High Adventure Program

Steeped in 90 years of canoeing tradition By Alissa Johnson During the summer of 2012, the Northern Tier High Adventure Program helped 755 crews, most of them Boy Scouts, explore the wilderness of northern Minnesota and Canada. That’s 6,012 people starting and ending canoe trips at one of three base camps, and connecting with the…

Border Security Intrudes on Boundary Waters

Campers deep in northern wildernesses are being harassed by U.S. Border Patrol helicopters, and the problem could get worse if new policies are implemented. This conflict between solitude and security is outlined in a new report (PDF) from national advocacy group Wilderness Watch, and described in a Star Tribune commentary by Wilderness Watch’s Kevin Proescholdt…

Northern Forests Threatened by Global “Worming”

In the March 25 Minneapolis Star Tribune, Lee Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Forest Ecology notes that the lowly earthworm, often thought of as a friend to the backyard gardener, is actually a dangerous invasive. Earthworms threaten northern forests by eating the duff and litter of the forest floor. This causes…

A Lingering Haze Over the Boundary Waters

Haze Over Voyageurs National Park. Photo courtesy MPR.org The clear skies of the Boundary Waters are sometimes compromised by haze. The Environmental Protection Agency is concerned that Taconite mines on the Iron Range are major contributors to this condition. Local congressman Democrat Rick Nolan is asking the EPA to give Taconite producers more time to…

2013 Poll Indicates Public Opposition to Sulfide Mining Exceeds Support

48% of Minnesotans polled oppose sulfide mining in northeast Minnesota while 39% favor it. Results of the January, 2013 poll, sponsored by Minnesota Environmental Partnership, were the first to demonstrate that opposition exceeded support for the proposed mining. Annual polls on this subject have been held every year starting in 2008. Since 2009, there has…

Local Musher Wins Beargrease

Nathan Schroeder from Chisholm, MN won the nearly 400 mile sled dog marathon which started Sunday, March 10, and ended Wednesday, March 13. This is the second John Beargrease victory for Schroeder who also won in 2010. It was the 29th running of the event on Minnesota’s north shore. Complete results and videos of the…

Minnesota Senate Panel Voted Today in Favor of 5-year Moratorium on Wolf Hunts

Although still a long way from suspending the hunt, this vote is seen by the St. Paul Pioneer Press as a victory for the opponents of wolf hunting in Minnesota. On Monday, the Duluth News Tribune reported that a group that opposed this year’s wolf hunt, Howling for Wolves, released the results of a statewide…

The Minnesota Wolf Hunt: A Spiritual Perspective

The most visible opposition to the recently completed new Minnesota wolf hunting season was ecological. How could a animal go from the endangered list to the target of sport hunters in a such a brief span of time? The Minnesota DNR presented compelling evidence that a tightly regulated hunting season would not threaten the species…

Warming Water and Invasive Species Changing the Character of Quetico-Superior Lakes

The Lake Superior summer water temperatures are increasing more rapidly than regional air temperatures.  According to an article in the Ely Timberjay, the surface water temperatures of Lake Superior increased approximately 6 degrees F between 1979 and 2006. This is significantly greater than regional atmospheric warming. How this change will impact biodiversity and the proliferation…

Finnish Musher Wins WolfTrack Classic

The Duluth News Tribune reports that Musher Jennifer Freking of Finland won Sunday’s 10-dog, 60-mile WolfTrack Classic Sled Dog Race from Ely to Cook, MN. It was the 5th annual running of the event and snow conditions were excellent. To be successful, the event requires the cooperation and a valiant effort by Ely residents and…

20,000 Plan to Attend Canoecopia in Madison, Wisconsin

March 8-10 are the dates for one of the world’s biggest paddlesport shows, Rutabaga’s Canoecopia. Hundreds of vendors and dozens of presenters converge on the Alliant Energy Center and for three days to entertain, teach and sell, the virtues, skills, history and gear of canoeists and kayakers. From bear-proofing a campsite to the life and…

Minnesota Moose Population Drops by a Third in One Year

According to Saint Cloud Times reporter Glenn Schmitt, MN DNR aerial survey results last month indicate a 35 percent drop in the northeast Minnesota moose population from the previous year and a 52 percent decline from 2010. The current estimate of the moose population is 2,760 animals down from 4,320 animals in 2012. Although DNR…

Submit Your Favorite Boundary Waters Story to the BWCA Reader

Barry Johnson has canoed the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness for 24 years. That’s 24 years of portaging, windy lakes, buggy nights and lots of memories–essentially, 24 years of stories. Johnson was recently featured in the StarTribune because he’s commemorating those stories in a new publication, the BWCA Reader. And he wants your stories, too.…

EPA Issued Rule to Cut Haze over BWCAW

The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Voyageurs National Park will both get added protection from haze under a new ruling from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. According to the EPA, the regulations should reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides by about 22,000 tons per year and sulfur dioxide emissions by about 2,000 tons. An article…

Obama Writes Letter for Ely Time Capsule

How’s this for a little Friday fun: A time capsule being buried in Ely, MN will include a note from President Obama expressing his hope that balance can be struck between energy use and wilderness protection. According to the Pioneer Press, the handwritten note came in response to a request made in March of 2012…

No More Minnesota Moose Hunt, For Now

Moose hunting in Minnesota has been canceled indefinitely. The decision comes after the state’s moose population has dropped by more than half since 2010, and 35 percent since last year.   According to the Star Tribune, the DNR stressed that its managed hunts have not been a factor in the animal’s decline, but suspending the…

Boreal Owls Invade After All

Earlier blog post to the contrary, it appears as if the winter of 2012-13 is the year of the Boreal Owl in the Quetico-Superior region. In the last week, there have been several sightings of the owls all along the Minnesota North Shore of Lake Superior. Several Boreal Owls have been seen in Two Harbors,…

Get the Lead Out

Despite a howling northwest wind and sub-zero temperatures across the Quetico Superior wilderness, many people are dreaming of warmer days and are making their summertime recreational plans. Fishing in the clear lakes of northeast Minnesota and adjacent Ontario, is for many, near the top of their dream list. Sorting through tackle boxes is one way…

Reminder: Summer BWCAW Permits Available Starting Today

Reservations for all entry points can be made on a first-come, first-served basis starting today. Reservations can be made online www.recreation.gov or by calling 1-877-444-6777. With over 1,500 miles of canoe routes, nearly 2,200 designated campsites, and more than 1,000 lakes and streams waiting, the BWCAW draws over 250,000 visitors each year. Any group or individual making an…

Boreal Owl Invasion Fails to Meet Expectations

Boreal owls are extremely rare resident birds in Minnesota. The first nesting pair was not recorded until 1978.  But every once in awhile, due to the boom and crash cycles of sub-arctic rodents, Boreal Owls invade northern Minnesota. Last fall, citizen naturalist Susan Plankis reported that Minnesota birders believed the winter of 2012-13 was going…

The Heart Of the Continent Partnership Meets February 8-9 in Duluth

The next quarterly meeting of the Heart Of the Continent Partnership will be held February 7-8, 2013 at the Clyde Iron Works in Duluth, MN. The Heart of the Continent Partnership is a Canadian/American coalition of land managers and local stakeholders working together on cross-border projects that promote the economic, cultural and natural health of the lakes,…

Climate Change and the Quetico Superior Wilderness

The St. Paul Pioneer Press warns that climate change will have a serious impact on the Midwest. Because the Quetico-Superior region is at a crossroads of forest communities: the boreal forest to the north, the broadleaf deciduous forest to the south and the oak savanna to the west, affects of climate change to ecosystems may…

John Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon Postponed

Lack of snow has forced organizers of the John Beargrease Sled Dog marathon to postpone the event. The event has been rescheduled for March 10. The combination of scant snowfalls this season and recent rains has made the trail unsafe for dogs and mushers. The Duluth News Tribune reports that if conditions have not improved…

Russians Plan a Draconian Wolf Hunt

On January 15, 2013, the Russian Siberian republic of Yakutia will begin a war on wolves. Of the estimated 3,500 wolves in the area, the Republic plans to kill 3,000 of the animals. Monetary rewards will be paid to the top hunters and trappers. This effort is in dramatic contrast to Minnesota DNR wolf management…

It’s Time to Start Planning Summer BWCAW Trips

Varnish those paddle blades, oil the Duluth Pack straps, grease those tent zippers and scrutinize the maps. Paddlers who want to realize their summertime paddling dreams need to start planning now. In addition to tuning up the gear and planning a route, campers need to reserve their desired entry point for their desired departure date. Access…

Texting to Help DNR Study Minnesota Moose

A new study will give researchers a better chance at determining when and where Minnesota moose are dying. The species was selected for added protection by the DNR at the end of 2012, and now the DNR wants to use GPS technologies and implants to study the animal closer. According to stories on MPR News…

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