Category Archives: Environment/Ecology/Nature

Status Report: Border Country Birds

The loon’s famous song, echoing across wilderness lakes, makes solitude audible. It simply sounds like wilderness. Many other bird species also find the habitat they need to breed amid the forests, lakes, rivers, and wetlands of the Boundary Waters, giving unique voice to the wild landscape. Here, a tongue of Canada’s boreal forest creates ideal conditions for an array of bird species—for a few months each year. 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

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.…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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’…

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 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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

Some BWCAW, National Forest Areas Reopening

Areas in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and the Superior National Forest closed to the public because of their proximity to the Pagami Creek Fire have been reopened thanks to cooler, wetter weather and increased containment of the blaze.Continue Reading

Pagami Creek Fire 80% Contained

Despite last week’s hot, dry weather and high winds, firefighters battling the Pagami Creek Fire in northeastern Minnesota now have the blaze 80% contained, officials reported Monday morning.Continue Reading

As BWCAW Fire Slows, Recriminations Flare

After a second day in which weather conditions allowed a growing team of firefighters to hold ground against the fire burning in the Boundary Waters, frustration over the Forest Service’s initial response to the blaze has flared.Continue Reading

Weather Slows Advance of BWCAW Fire

Cooler weather on Wednesday that included rain and even some snow showers helped slow the advance of the Pagami Creek fire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness which has consumed more than 100,000 acres of forest.Continue Reading

Pagami Creek Fire Nearly Quadruples in Size

Fanned by gusty northwest winds, the Pagami Creek Fire nearly quadrupled in size yesterday, charring Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness forest from Lakes One and Two in the north to just north of Clearwater Lake in the south.Continue Reading

Burning Used to Reduce Fire Danger

Superior National Forest officials are using intentional burns to reduce the danger posed by a small, lightening ignited fire near Lake One and Lake Two in the Boundary Waters east of Ely, Minnesota.Continue Reading

Wildfire Grows in Boundary Waters

A lightning-caused wildfire in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness that smoldered for a week has grown to 130 acres and is now being closely monitored by U.S. Forest Service officials.Continue Reading

Moose Also Struggling in Canada

Moose populations on the Canadian side of the Quetico-Superior region’s international boundary are also showing long-term declines according to aerial surveys by the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.Continue Reading

Voyageurs to Conduct Deer Tick Survey

Voyageurs National Park officials are partnering with the Minnesota Department of Health this summer to collect data on deer ticks. Deer ticks are known to carry pathogens for Lyme Disease and other maladies.Continue Reading

USFWS Concerned About Stricken Bats

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced yesterday that bats stricken with white nose syndrome may warrant federal protection as threatened or endangered species. One of the species, the northern long-eared bat, is a northeastern Minnesota resident.Continue Reading

Moose Decline Continues in NE Minnesota

The number of moose in northeastern Minnesota continues to fall, according to aerial survey results released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The current population is now estimated at 4900 animals, down from the 5500 estimated last year.Continue Reading

GPS-Collar Moose Study Underway

In an on-going effort to understand the reasons behind decline in Minnesota’s moose population, a study using global positioning system technology to track the massive ungulates in underway.Continue Reading

Voyageurs Continues Collared Moose Study

Nineteen adult moose will be captured and fitted with telemetry collars this month as part of a continuing project to investigate the potential effects of climate change and other factors on the long-term viability of moose in Voyageurs National Park. Continue Reading

Regional Deer Harvest Up 20%

The number of deer harvested in northern St. Louis County during the recently concluded 16-day firearms deer season increased 20% from last year, according to Minnesota Deparment of Natural Resources statistics.Continue Reading

Voyageurs Moose Study Seeks Answers

A GPS-based research study on the moose that inhabit Voyageurs National Park seeks to unravel the knotty question of what exactly is causing the decline in the animal’s population in northeastern Minnesota.Continue Reading

Moose Hunters Find Success

Despite warm temperatures during the start of the hunting season and a declining moose population, northeastern Minnesota moose hunters were more successful bagging animals this season than last year.Continue Reading

“Savannification” Still Expected in North Woods

University of Minnesota forest ecologist Lee Frelich continues to foresee a transition from forest to savanna taking place at the margins of Minnesota’s north woods. Newly published research suggests that within the century, the climate and ancillary factors will make significant changes to the state’s prairie/forest border.Continue Reading

Freshwater Jellyfish Appear in Namakan Lake

Tiny freshwater jellyfish have recently made a rare appearance in Namakan Lake along the Ontario border. The creature — Craspedacusta sowerbii — is the size of a small coin and typical shows itself toward the end of warm summers.Continue Reading

Small Fire Burning in BWCAW

A small forest fire is burning south of the Gunflint Trail in a remote section of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness in the general vicinity of Long Island Lake.Continue Reading

Invasive Spiny Waterfleas Discovered Near Boundary Waters

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed that spiny waterfleas were discovered by anglers in Burntside Lake near Ely last week. Burntside Lake is a popular entry point into motorless area of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Water fleas are tiny, but pose threats to lake life. The animals can collect in masses…

Moose Symposium Set for Thursday

A symposium aimed a getting a better understanding of moose population dynamics in a world affected by climate change is set to take place this Thursday in International Falls. The “Moose in a Warming World” symposium, co-sponsored by Voyageurs National Park Association and the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, is open to the public.Continue Reading

Ely-Area Bears Apart, But Doing Well

Lily and Hope the celebrity bears being observed by researchers at the North American Bear Center continue to live separate lives, although both appear to be doing well. Lily, the mother bear, and Hope, her cub who’s birth was web-cast earlier this year, have been apart since May 31.Continue Reading

Loons Could be Gulf Spill Victims

Common Loons, birds emblematic of the Quetico-Superior region, could face survival problems due to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Many of the loons that nest on Minnesota and Ontario lakes in summer, winter along the Gulf Coast.Continue Reading

Bear Cub Abandoned Again

Hope, the most famous black bear cub in North America, has been abandoned again by her equally famous mother Lily. The latest separation comes just a week after the pair first became separated but were dramatically reunited.Continue Reading

Lost Bear Cub Found, Reunited with Mother

The bear cub known as Hope, which was separated from its mother over the weekend and feared dead, was found yesterday, hiding in a tree in Eagles Nest township west of Ely. Researchers were able to successfully reunite the cub with its mother.Continue Reading

Well-Known Bear Cub Lost

An Ely area bear cub whose birth last winter was shown world-wide by a remote web-camera focused on its mother’s den is missing. The North American Bear Center, which has been following the cub and its mother since the birth, reported that mother and cub had separated on Saturday.Continue Reading

2010 Warmest Early-Spring on Record

The early-spring of 2010 was the warmest on record in the Quetico-Superior region according to data from the International Falls weather station, which has observed conditions longer than any other station in the area.Continue Reading

The Future of Moose in a Warming World

A combination of challenges threaten Minnesota’s sensitive moose populations – warming temperatures, changes in precipitation, increased varieties of diseases and parasites, and changes in predator populations. Are we watching the end of moose in Minnesota?Continue Reading

Bracing for an Historic Fire Year

Although weekend rains may have lessened the immediate fire danger in the Quetico-Superior region, wildland fire experts say this year could shape up to be one of the worst fire years in a generation.Continue Reading

Rains Should Lessen Fire Danger

Rain predicted for later today should lessen the extreme fire danger that has accompanied the earliest and driest spring on record in Northeastern Minnesota. Yesterday, despite high winds and dry air, firefighters were able to control new fires and keep others contained. Continue Reading

Fire Danger Still High

Despite some light showers over the weekend, wildfire danger in Northeastern Minnesota is still high according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.Continue Reading

Fire Restrictions to be Tightened

Fire restrictions will be tightened on Friday in the Superior and Chippewa National Forests as continued dry weather raises the risk of wildfire. The Minnesota DNR is also tightening fire regulations.Continue Reading

Frelich Ponders Forest Future

University of Minnesota forest ecologist Lee Frelich will discuss the long-term future for vegetation in the Quetico-Superior region in a lecture kicking off the Heart of the Continent Partnership’s quarterly meeting later this month.Continue Reading

NE Minnesota Moose Decline Continues

The decline in northeastern Minnesota’s moose population continues, according to new survey data released by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources this week. An aerial survey done in January estimated that 5,500 moose reside in northeastern Minnesota.Continue Reading

Voyageurs to Study Declining Moose

Voyageurs National Park officials plan to radio-collar 14 moose this month to investigate the potential effects of climate change and other factors on the long-term viability of moose in the park.Continue Reading

Protecting a Scenic Entrance to the BWCAW

Protecting a Scenic Entrance to the BWCAW

Fall Lake Property on the Edge of the Boundary Waters to be Protected An 11-acre parcel of land on Fall Lake outside of Ely, Minnesota, will be protected thanks to the joint efforts of the landowners, the Forest Service and the Trust for Public Land (TPL). Located just across the lake from a Forest Service…

Voyageurs Plans Burn for Thursday

Voyageurs National Park officials plan to burn an area on Tar Point near Blind Indian Narrows in Namakan Lake Thursday. The burn is intended to help determine what effect fire has on archeological artifacts and help determine the effects of fire on vegetation.Continue Reading

July Adds Up to Cold, Dry

Temperatures in the Quetico Superior region were colder than normal in July, with International Falls breaking a record for lowest average temperature for the month. July was also a dry month across the region.Continue Reading

Fire Danger Low, but Area Firefighters Active

Forest fire danger in northern Minnesota and western Ontario is low, but that doesn’t mean area firefighters are keeping busy. Wild-land fire fighters from the Quetico-Superior region are helping fight fires currently burning in British Columbia.Continue Reading

Mayflies Inundate Lake Vermillion

This year’s mayfly hatch on Lake Vermillion was one of epic proportions. Hatches of the short-lived native species are normal in mid-summer, but this year’s hatch of the insects called for extra measures to remove the piles of dead creatures.Continue Reading

Remembering the Blowdown of 1999

Tomorrow marks the 10th anniversary of the famed Boundary Waters Blowdown. On July 4, 1999 a huge storm packing 90-mile-per-hour winds ripped through the BWCA, uprooting trees, blocking portages, and stranding campers. In all 370,000 acres in the BWCA were affected by the storm.Continue Reading

Cross-Border Study Examines Cormorants

An on-going study of cormorants on Rainy Lake will include increased attention on birds dwelling on the Canadian side of the international water-body this summer. Cormorants have been a lightening-rod species among some anglers who fear the birds are impacting game-fish populationsContinue Reading

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