Category Archives: Hot Topics

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…

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…

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…

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…

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,…

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…

Boundary Waters Advisory Commission Meets with Forest Service to Discuss Restoration of Pow Wow Hiking Trail

When most people think of summer recreation in the Boundary Waters Wilderness, images of canoes, blue lakes and fishing come to mind. To a cadre of backpacking enthusiasts the BWCAW is also home to the wildest backpacking trails in the midwest. These trails enable citizens to safely penetrate a wilderness, detached from canoe routes, and…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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.

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Trust for Public Land: Protecting Gaul Island

Trust for Public Land: Protecting Gaul Island

How a collaborative effort is transferring private land to public stewardship. By Alissa Johnson In the summer of 2010, the Trust for Public Land (TPL) received an inquiry from the Listening Point Foundation. The owners of a 15-acre island across from Listening Point had notified the Foundation that they intended to sell their property. Gaul…

Mining in Minnesota: Ely’s Steve Piragis Offers His Take on Keeping Wilderness Pristine

As northwoods mining takes center stage on the economic and environmental stages, a long time land use debate is resurfacing among neighbors who make Ely, MN their home. Steve Piragis, owner of Piragis Northwoods Company, is no stranger to that debate. He and his wife have run their shop and guide service since 1979.

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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…

Inside the Pagami Creek Fire

A couple of boundary waters paddlers found themselves on Lake Insula on Sept 12 when the Pagami Creek Fire took off – this video shows them caught off guard by the flames. If the video above does not play, click HERE for the YouTube Video.

Wilderness News Summer Edition is Online

The Summer 2011 Issue of Wilderness News Print Edition is now online! Click here to download the PDF > Featured in this issue: Chik-Wauk Museum and Nature Center By Rob Kesselring Take a drive to the end of the Gunflint Trail and spend a few hours at Chik-Wauk Museum, the word serendipity will come to…

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