Author Archives: Alissa Johnson

Canoe building: A life-changing experience

Canoe building: A life-changing experience

Canoe builder Ken Koscik points to a canoe hanging in the rafters and says, “We’re going to build that.” Some students shake their heads. Some don’t believe it. He reassures them: it’s easy. “I have told hundreds of people that if you can tie your shoes, you can build this canoe. And that is the truth,” he says.Continue Reading

Paddlesongs: How one country songwriter married his love of music and canoeing

Paddlesongs: How one country songwriter married his love of music and canoeing

In 1994, Nashville singer-songwriter Jerry Vandiver, whose song “It Doesn’t Get Any Countrier Than This” had just been recorded by Tim McGraw, portaged a behemoth of an aluminum canoe across a rocky and root-filled portage. He was no stranger to paddling; he’d moved that canoe from his hometown of Kansas City, Missouri, to Nashville when he set out to see if he could make it in the country music business. But this was his first trip to Quetico Provincial Park, and lugging that canoe over such a challenging portage inspired himContinue Reading

Sawbill Canoe Outfitters: The family behind the legacy

Sawbill Canoe Outfitters: The family behind the legacy

There is an outfitter at the end of the Sawbill Trail where customers and staff return year after year, a network of people connected to the place and the family at its center. The Hansens, and now the Shirleys, have been running Sawbill Canoe Outfitters since 1957, where annual traditions, lifelong friendships and marriages have been born.
Continue Reading

Protecting Our Wild Rice Heritage

Protecting Our Wild Rice Heritage

Evaluating Minnesota’s water sulfate standard for wild rice. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency is reviewing its standards for protecting wild rice in Minnesota. With funding from the Minnesota State Legislature, the agency conducted a two-year study to determine how sulfate—the presence of which in water has been linked to an absence of wild rice—and other chemicals affect the health of wild rice.Continue Reading

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…

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…

Increased Protection for Moose Does Not End Hunting

The Department of Natural Resources’s recent announcement that the moose will be listed as a “species of special concern” comes with a certain irony: the lowest designation on the Endangered Species List does not limit hunting of the animal. According to the Regional Roundup at the Pilot Independent, moose hunting will only be impacted if…

New Sled Dog Race Comes with $25,000 Purse

A new three-day sled dog race aims to highlight northern Minnesota’s sled dog heritage next month. Racers will depart from Grand Portage on Sunday, January 6, and return on Monday January 8 after visiting Grand Marais and the Gunflint Trail. According to an article in the Duluth News Tribune, organizers wanted to unite different communities…

St. Louis County Board Favors BWCAW Land Swap

U.S. Representative-elect Rick Nolan may have gone on record saying the BWCAW Land Swap probably wouldn’t see traction this year, but this month the St. Louis County Board passed a resolution in favor of the swap anyway. According to an article on Northland’s Newscenter, the board voted 5 to 1 in support of the state law…

Moose Targeted for Extra Protection

Minnesota’s moose population has dropped by about half since 2005–a rate of decline that could lead to the animal disappearing from the state in 20 years. That’s earned the moose on a list of 591 animals, plants and insects deemed “species of special concern.” According to an article in the Star Tribune, it’s a potential…

Iron Range to Get Two Ore Recovery Plants

Magnetation, LLC announced this week that it will build two plants in northern Minn. for iron ore recovery. It will also convert an old ethanol plant into an iron ore pellet plant in Reynolds, Indiana. Superior, Wis. had been competing for the facility. The company currently processes mining waste to reclaim iron ore in two…

New Film: Sled Dogs to St. Paul

When former Minnesota State Representative Frank Moe mushed his team of sled dogs into St. Paul last winter, the runners on his sled sparked as they crossed snowless patches on the road. Moe and his team of 10 sled dogs carried 13,000 signatures on a petition against sulfide mining–they’d ridden all the way from Grand…

Replinger Honored for Bringing Girls into Outward Bound Programming

We were happy to see Jean Replinger in a slew of newspaper articles this month–during the 1960s she helped open Outward Bound to girls. More recently, as an officer of the Oberholtzer Foundation, she’s been a great help and resource for Wilderness News thanks to her dedication to the north country. An article by Karin…

69 Wolves Taken During First Three Days of Hunt

Estimates show that 69 wolves were taken during the first three days of the inaugural wolf hunting season. According to the Star Tribune, 32 wolves were killed Saturday, 18 on Sunday and 16 on Monday. Hunters are allowed to take up to 200 wolves during the early season, which coincides with deer hunting season, and…

Wolf Hunt Starts Saturday

Minnesota’s first wolf hunting season begins this Saturday, November 3. More than 23,000 people applied for wolf hunting licenses, and according to the DNR, 6,000 hunters received licenses. They’ll be allowed to take up to 400 of the state’s 3,000 wolves over two general hunting seasons and one trapping season. According to a Kare11 article,…

Three Companies Bid for Mineral Rights

The mining story continues to unfold in northern Minnesota, where three companies participated in the latest mineral rights auction. According to an article in the LaCrosse Tribune, Duluth Metals LLC bid on nine parcels northwest of Silver Bay, Encampment Minerals Inc. bid on 21 parcels south of Hoyt Lakes, and MMG USA Exploration LLC bid on…

Four Wolves Killed First Day of Hunting

Four wolves were reported killed during the first day of hunting in Wisconsin this week. The hunt runs through February but will be ended early if hunters hit the limit of 116 wolves. The hunt is the first of its kind in the region in decades, and Minnesota follows suit in November. In Michigan, a…

Groups Sue to Stop Wolf Hunt

The Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals are filing a suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in an attempt to halt wolf hunts in Minnesota and Wisconsin. According to a press release by the Humane Society, the motion came on the first day of the first public wolf hunt in the…

Pollution Control Agency Ramping up Water Monitoring

State and local organizations, and even citizens, will begin monitoring lakes, rivers and streams in Minnesota’s Lake Superior North Watershed. It’s part of a new monitoring approach by the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA). The initiative is known as “Intensive Watershed Monitoring,” in which water experts from local soil and water conservation districts, the Minnesota Department…

Breaking Ground at the Bear Center

The North American Bear Center in Ely, MN, broke ground this week on its facility expansion. The project will double the size of the facility, which facilitates research, education and public exhibits. The center has raised nearly $560,000 of its $1 million goal–you can track progress and give a donation of your own on their…

This Fall, Fires an Ever Changing Presence in the North

It’s starting to feel like Ground Hog’s Day–the Forest Service has suppressed fires near Parley Lake and Hoist Bay and reopened those areas of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. But new fires popped up on the Canadian side of the border, including one in the Fort Francis District in Quetico Provincial Park. The latter…

New Fires Burn in the Boundary Waters

Not long after the Forest Service contained the Cummings Lake Fire, new fires cropped up adjacent to and in the northern parts of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. The Parley Lake Fire  east of the Beartrap River and north of Sunday Lake was estimated at 75 acres as of Thursday, September 13, with aircraft…

Cummings Lake Fire an Example of New Forest Service Fire Fighting Policy

Lake and area closures have been lifted in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, though fire restrictions remain in place HERE. The suppression of the recent Cummings Lake Fire has prompted some people to note that the Forest Service has changed its fire fighting policy. The Brainerd Dispatch recently pointed out the striking difference between…

Boundary Waters Fires are Out, Closures Remain in Effect

The Cummings Lake Fire about 12 miles northwest of Ely, MN and the Wooden Leg Fire about 22 miles northeast of the town are officially out. According to an article in the Pierce County Herald, the Cummings Lake Fire burned about 50 acres and the Wooden Leg Fire burned about a quarter-acre. The latter fire…

Wildfire Burns Near Ely

Fire crews are battling a fire near Ely, MN. The fire was reported on Sunday afternoon and is burning on a peninsula between the west end of Cummings and the northeast side of Otter Lake. Current estimates place the fire at about 20 acres in size.Continue Reading

Volunteer at Voyageurs National Park

This September, get an inside look at Minnesota’s only National Park and help park rangers complete important conservation projects. Voyageur’s National Park is hosting its 2012 Volunteer Rendezvous on September 7 and 8, and nature lovers of all ages are invited to sign up for one or both days.Continue Reading

Border Security vs. Wilderness Protection

Another new bill raises concerns about potential development in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives waives environmental regulations on public land within 100 miles of international borders.Continue Reading

Duluth and the North Shore are Open for Business

Duluth Mayor Don Ness and north shore business owners are spreading the word that it is safe to visit Duluth. A story on Minnesota Public Radio reports that restaurants and shops at Canal Park are open for business, as is much of the north shore after last week’s storms and flash flooding. Still, it appears…

New Bills Could Open Wilderness Areas to Hunting, Fishing, Motors

When the U.S. House passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act of 2012 two months ago, it didn’t get much attention. But after further analysis, the bill is increasingly seen as a real threat to wilderness protections. It would expand access to hunting, fishing and motor vehicle use on public lands–including areas like the Boundary Waters Canoe…

AT&T Asks Courts to Overturn Tower Ruling

AT&T asked the Minnesota court of appeals to overturn a decision barring the company from building a 450-foot cell phone tower on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW). In a brief filed at the beginning of January, AT&T argued that Hennepin County District Judge Philip Bush wrongly applied state law to…

Bringing Broadband to the North Shore

Voters in Cook County will decide on a sales tax in November that would support the construction of a fiber optic network and the expansion of high speed internet to the North Shore. Proponents argue that Internet connection is vital to economic sustainability.Continue Reading

Celebrate Minnesota’s National Park Legacy

The Bell Museum of Natural History hosts the premier of Twin Cities Public Television’s “Minnesota’s National Park Legacy” this Thursday, September 24th. Join the film’s producer and National Park Superintendents to be among the first to view the film. Continue Reading

Voyageurs National Park Fall Rendezvous Restores Native Shoreline

Volunteers met at Voyageurs National Park last weekend, September 11 – 13, to plant native trees and wildflowers and restore disturbed shoreline within the Park. Part of the Fall 2009 Volunteer Rendezvous, they are part of a growing effort by Voyageurs National Park Association and friends and supporters of the park to contribute to a healthy and vital park and community.Continue Reading

Wilderness News Profile: Frederick Winston

In 1964, Fred Winston received an inquiry following Wilderness News’ inaugural publication: “I can see that there are many sides to Minnesota’s wilderness problem. But which side are you on? What are you trying to prove?” In his reply, Fred Winston set the tone for the Quetico Superior Foundation’s role in the ever changing wilderness debate and set an example of activism.Continue Reading

Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness

Last spring, the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness welcomed new director Paul Danicic. Paul recently shared his thoughts on the state of the wilderness and the Friends’ role in protecting it with Wilderness News contributor Alissa Johnson. Originally published in part in the Summer 2009 issue of Wilderness News, read the full interview here.Continue Reading

Wolves Back on the Endangered Species List

Two weeks ago, five wildlife protection groups filed a complaint against the removal of Great Lakes Wolves from the Endangered Species List. Today, wolves are back under federal protection as the result of a court ordered settlement between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the protection groups. According to Associated Press coverage on WCCO,…

Gunflint Green Up Sprouts New Life In Forest – And Community

Hundreds of people descended upon the Gunflint Trail outside of Grand Marais last weekend to plant thousands of pine seedlings and green up the fire impacted forest. Wilderness News Online caught up with Quetico Superior Foundation board member and Gunflint Trail property owner Dyke Williams, who had the opportunity to join the annual event. Read our Q&A.Continue Reading

Gunflint Green Up 2009

Third annual Gunflint Green Up is gearing up to plant thousands of white pine and coniferous seedlings in areas of Superior National Forest impacted by the Ham Lake Fire of 2007. Register now for a spring weekend of outdoor work and great fun! May 1-3, 2009.Continue Reading

Moose Population Steady in Voyageurs National Park

According to a Voyageurs National Park press release, a recent survey of the park’s moose population revealted that it is holding steady. The aerial survey sited 45 moose–a pleasant surprise for park officials given the decline of other moose populations acrosss northeastern Minnesota and southern Ontario.Continue Reading

The State of the Wilderness 30 Years After the BWCAW Act of 1978

On the thirtieth anniversary of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act of 1978, Wilderness News set out to assess the current state of the wilderness and its management. We uncovered a transformation in the challenges facing the region. Where issues like motor use once topped management concerns, they are giving way to increasingly complex challenges that defy man-made boundaries and may have significant implications for how we think about — and manage — the Boundary Waters.Continue Reading

The 100th Anniversary of the Quetico Superior Region

2009 marks the 100th Anniversary of the initial formation of what would become Quetico Provincial Park and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. What started as a long and jagged process of preservation and restoration resulted in a huge, roadless and protected forest being celebrated today.Continue Reading


Welcome to Wilderness News Online! We couldn’t be more excited to launch the online version of the Quetico Superior Foundation’s publication Wilderness News. Our goal is to become your online news source for the unique issues and challenges impacting the Quetico Superior region–because an informed public can practice informed stewardship of this ecologically and culturally…

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