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NORTH STAR TOWNSHIP, Minn. — Tradition is a huge part of the Minnesota deer hunting experience. Stories of big deer bagged and of missed bucks with giant racks that somehow get bigger every year. Ritual night-before-season meals. Who gets to use grandpa's gun and sit in his stand. But there’s a tradition going on at the McCabe family deer camp, in the woods just north of Duluth, that’s extraordinary in its longevity and which shows little sign of fading.
CHIPPEWA NATIONAL FOREST — Jens Heig first checked the tail and rump feathers of the smallish grouse, then checked the edges of the wing feathers. It was a juvenile bird, he concluded, a female. Then he dug into the crop, just to see what the bird had been feeding on (wild strawberry leaves) before digging into his backpack for a field test kit that looks a bit like something from CSI Northwoods.
SOUTH OF BALL CLUB, Minn. — In the woods of the Chippewa National Forest, with the late morning sun shining through mostly leafless trees, a beam of light enveloped an English setter named Tyler that was frozen on point. Ken Taylor, Tyler's owner, was handling the dog. Jeff "Cubby" Skelly, a local hunting guide, was moving forward on the left, ready to shoot, as was hunter Jim DePolo on the right. Jens Heig, another local guide, was watching closely, as was this newspaper reporter.
1902 - The U.S. General Land Office sets aside 500,000 acres in what would become the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, keeping it undeveloped by removing it from settlement acreage being offered to homesteaders. 1904 - Congress grants 20,000 acres to the state for the Burntside Forest Reserve. Minnesota forestry officials declare "State Forest Reserves should be devoted not alone to the business of raising timber, but to the pleasure of all the people."
DULUTH — It passed the U.S. Senate in the last minutes of the last day of a Congressional session that may have been its last chance to pass. Democrats were in power in Minnesota and in Washington, and several Minnesotans were in President Jimmy Carter's administration when the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act passed Congress on Oct. 15, 1978. That included Vice President Walter Mondale and Secretary of Agriculture Bob Bergland, whose department oversaw the U.S. Forest Service that managed what was then the BWCA.
WASHINGTON, D.C.—Projects to bolster conservation efforts for Minnesota loons will get a huge boost under a settlement agreement announced Tuesday, Oct. 9, stemming from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The agreement, published Tuesday in the Federal Register, sets aside $16 million from BP, the oil rig's owner, for fish and wildlife rehabilitation for species impacted by the explosion, fire and spill that killed 11 people, injured 17 others and sent millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf.
DULUTH—On the same day an international panel of climate experts predicted dire consequences if human-caused global warming continues unabated, scientists at the University of Minnesota added northern forests to the list of potential victims. Scientists looked at 11 species of trees growing in two northern Minnesota forests and said predicted temperatures will cause drier soils and reduce tree growth as temperatures warm.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on Friday, Oct. 5, announced it will move to protect the eastern black rail — a small, secretive swamp-loving bird — under the Endangered Species Act. The agency said the official protection as "threatened" is needed because the bird has declined by more than 90 percent across much of its range "with a relatively small total population remaining across the eastern United States ..."
You might not recognize the name Carrol Henderson, but if you appreciate wildlife in Minnesota, you will probably want to thank him. Henderson, 72, has been the only director of the Nongame Wildlife Program of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources since its inception in 1977. He's helped spur recovery efforts for peregrine falcons, trumpeter swans, river otters, bald eagles and other lesser-known species.
ON NATURE'S LAKE — For an early opening morning, just a day into fall, the start of Minnesota waterfowl season Saturday, Sept. 22, turned out to be pretty ducky. A low deck of clouds hung overhead allowing an incredible orange and red pre-dawn glow for a few minutes before socking in to keep the sun out of our eyes. A persistent southwest wind kept the decoys moving nicely and it was just cool enough so a jacket felt good. A few raindrops even fell as we paddled back to camp. Best of all, for the crew at the Squaw Lake Bird Watchers Society, the ducks cooperated.