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North Shore Morning

AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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News and information, interviews, weather, upcoming events, music, school news, and many special features. North Shore Morning includes our popular trivia question - Pop Quiz! The North Shore Morning program is the place to connect with the people, culture and events of our region!

 


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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: February 17

Goshi, Deja, and Sophia report the latest school news.

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Superior National Forest Update: February 17

Hi. This is Patrick Krage, Engine Module Leader, Engine 621, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For February 17th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

With temperatures in the forties and rain forecast for this weekend, skiing and snowmobiling don’t sound very appealing. But, there is one activity this weekend which you can participate in from the comfort of a chair by the window with a cup of coffee in your hand. This weekend is the annual “Great Backyard Bird Count.” This is a national citizen science effort to track on winter bird populations, and the Forest Service uses the data for monitoring our local birds. The Audubon Society is the organizer of the event, and it is easy to record what you see at your feeders on line, as well as see who else is reporting on birds in your area. Just search for Great Backyard Bird Count on the web to get started, or look for the link on the Superior’s Facebook page and our website.

Our changing winter weather has also seen an increase in a newer form of recreation: Fat tire biking. Fat tire biking can be a great way to get out in the winter, but we are becoming aware of a growing number of bikers and cross country skiers who have been using area snowmobile trails. These trails are not designed for use by skiers or cyclists, and the mix of snowmobiles, skiers, and cyclists on the same trail presents a safety hazard for everyone. Contact a Forest Service office for information on locations where winter biking is appropriate, and for locations of our cross country ski trails.

The alternating warm and cold spells have been hard on our forest roads. During the warm times, watch for soft shoulders and even soft spots in the roadway itself. In the cold, ice has been an issue as snow melts or packs down into some really slippery areas. All this means that regardless of the weather, slow down going around corners because you don’t know what the road conditions will be like up ahead. As always with driving, be defensive and prepare for the worst.

There is some winter timber harvesting going on as well. On the Tofte District, watch for logging traffic on the Trappers Lake Road, Cook County 3, the Sawbill Trail, the Honeymoon Trail, and the Grade. On the Gunflint, expect traffic on the Firebox Road and Greenwood Road.

If you do stop in at the Tofte Ranger Station, you’ll see a new face as district ranger. Lenore Lamb will be filling in behind Kurt Steele for a few months. Stop by and say hi, but she’s coming to us from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, so watch what you say about the Packers. Also, if you are planning on visiting any of our ranger stations, remember that this Monday is President's Day and federal offices will be closed.

Enjoy the woods, or enjoy sitting counting birds from the comfort of your home. Either way, have a great week. This has been Patrick Krage with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Sawtooth Mountain Elementary School

School News from Sawtooth Mountain Elementary: February 16

Tighe and Katie report the latest school news.

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Ethical owl photo

West End News: February 16

What do birders and Harry Potter fans have in common? Both are delighted with the irruption of owls we are experiencing this winter. Every several years, the conditions align in such a way that the elusive owls are seen with some regularity along the backroads, and even in backyards, of the West End. I’ve seen residents and visitors alike posting pictures of Great Gray, Barred, Saw-Whet and even Snowy owls so far this year.

These photographs are being taken and shared by amateurs and professionals. Irruptions of owls create an opportunity for everyone to observe these magnificent birds in their natural habitat and perhaps even capture a great picture. This has given rise to a great ethical debate. That is, is it ethical to bait owls in order to get an action shot?

Baiting owls is the practice of releasing mice, often purchased from a pet store, in the vicinity of an owl. The owl, rendered almost helpless by instinct, will pounce on the mouse, giving photographers the money shot. Owl baiting is not illegal in Minnesota. What is illegal, is releasing an animal (in this case a mouse) in a State Park, State Forest, or Wildlife Management Area.

Here is the debate. Some owl baiters are professional photographers under pressure to get the much sought after action shots. Some will only offer an owl a few mice, on infrequent occasions, away from roads. Others argue that owls are starving, so feeding them mice is actually doing them a favor.

The other side points out that baiting owls often does much more harm than any potential good. From a photography standpoint, selling pictures of baited owls is not the same as capturing an owl hunting naturally in the wild. These staged photos are tantamount to fakes to many photographers. More importantly, the practice of feeding a wild animal is harmful to the owl. First, there is the problem of introducing pet store mice to these wild raptors, there is no guarantee that the mice are disease free. Second, the owls quickly become habituated to people. This is why owl baiting is different from feeding birds at your bird feeder, those birds retain their sense of self-preservation. Habituated owls are also more likely to be hit by cars, once they are accustomed to being fed by people near roads and vehicles. Third, feeding owls changes their wild behavior. Routine access to an easy food source can have a detrimental effect on owls’ hunting behavior and even their migratory patterns.

I invite you to draw your own conclusions about the practice of baiting. Personally, I will be more aware of a photographer’s ethical practices before hitting the ‘like’ button, or purchasing a print.

By popular demand, Birch Grove School is now selling spiritwear. Now you too can rep your favorite West End school with a cool blue shirt sporting the Birch Grove logo. Adult and kids T-shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and beanies are all available. The online store is only open until February 28, so be sure to place your order before then. A link to the online store is included the West End News text on the wtip.org website here.

We were happy to return to so much new snow after our trip to Paris. We were even happier that Bill and a few friends pitched in to shovel all that snow off our roofs while we were away, now that’s a good house-sitter! While in Paris, we visited the Le Marais neighborhood. Le Marais is full of unique and forward thinking concept shops. While window shopping we saw three different Minnesota companies being featured. That’s right, the fashionistas in Paris are wearing Red Wing boots and Minnetonka Moccasins! We also spotted some Epicurean kitchen utensils in the famous concept store Merci. It appears Le Marais and Grand Marais have more in common than one would expect.

For WTIP, I’m Clare Shirley with the West End News.

(Photo by Danielle Fortin)

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North Woods Naturalist: Sunflower seeds

How do some birds so expertly extract seeds from their shells and then digest them? WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about sunflower seeds, crops and gizzards.

(Photo by Pirhan on Flickr)

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North Woods Naturalist: Snow crust

There may be snow accumulating on a frequent basis, but it’s accumulating on a thick crust that has advantages and disadvantages for some animals. WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about the snow crust.

(Photo courtesy of JLS Photography on Flickr)

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The Gunflint area is bathed in the light of the full moon.

Wildersmith on the Gunflint: February 10

The Wildersmith two are back in the woods. After a swell visit with family and friends from border to border in Iowa, it’s great to be home in the quiet of Gunflint country. The greatness of unorganized territory is never more cherished than when one is absent for several days after being caught up in the hubbub of civilization.                                                                                        

While logging some 1,600 miles of windshield time, extremes of upper Midwest weather made we travelers relish the security of hanging out in our wildland abode. Treacherous roads through southern Minnesota and northwest Iowa had us white-knuckling it for a third of the trip. Then bare pavement eased the return until reaching icy Trail patches leading us back to white reality.

Although our Gunflint winter to date has been fairly wimpy, we can be grateful as surprisingly most areas traveled south of the Minnesota line were largely devoid of snow and temps along our stops seemed prematurely spring like.

Happily a few inches of snow were added shortly before we commenced down the Mile O Pine, and then fluffed things up in the first February weekend, along with temps hovering about the zero mark. The now cold, dried snow has allowed me to regain use of my driveway for more than a slippery walking path. Hope it stays this way until mud season arrives.                                                  

Sure is nice to have recaptured seasonal conditions after a terrible warm siege last half of January. Some of us are not ready for spring in spite of seed and gardening catalogs luring us toward a new growing season. We have more winter yet to enjoy and “Mother Nature” has turned on the snowmaking machine since I commenced with this weeks’ commentary.  

Heading into this weekend, borderland greets the second big moon of year 17 as the Ojibwe, full “sucker moon” will light up our lives in this land of enchantment. The monthly lunar experience is one to behold most anywhere in the universe, but probably not as lustrous as it can be in the snow covered north land.

It’s hard to figure how critters react to the Smith’s not being around with daily nutritional hand-outs. One thing for sure is the woodland chatter doesn’t take long to be passed along when we get home. Our homecoming finds enthusiasm around the feed trough is delirious amongst the wild returnees, and it’s catching for us viewers too.

In the midst of the usual gang has been a raven. It came in and took over the chow line on “Super Sunday” keeping all others at bay until a tap on the window glass sent the ebony beauty flapping off into the pines. I’m wondering if it might be the one with whom I conversed a couple weeks ago. If so, perhaps it could be that my “awking” exchange back then was taken as an invitation to dine here at the “McSmith” eatery.

It seems as though tragedies often occur in segments of three. Such is the case once again for the Gunflint Trail community. Following the deaths of two friends and neighbors since first of the year, word has been received of yet another loss. The family of Jean Schmidt-Smith, (no relation), has sent word of her passing in early January.

Jean lived in Black Mountain, North Carolina, but resided seasonally at her cabin (“Grand Portage”) on the north shore of Loon Lake with her late husband Frank. She so loved the Gunflint territory and so many loved her, she was a really nice lady! Trail condolences are extended to her surviving family and friends.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith, where every day is exceptional, and great to be shared with the “wild neighborhood.” Happy hearts and chocolates day!
 

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Great Expectations School

School News from Great Expectations: February 10

Sequioa, Grace, and Lexi report the latest school news.

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Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: February 9

Jack, Sophia, and Gus report the latest school news.

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The 1982 Cook County Board of Commissioners, with the County Attorney and Auditor - Frank is far left

West End News: February 9

This is Bill Hansen. I’m best known for being the father of Clare Shirley, who is the normal author of the West End News, but she is on vacation this week.
 
When Clare’s grandfather, Frank Hansen, was a Cook County Commissioner back in the 1980s, I remember that much of the discussion at board meetings revolved around the shortage of housing for people who live and work in Cook County. The housing shortage was hurting economic development because people who were solidly in the middle class, like those who worked for the Forest Service, the clinic, the schools, the sheriff’s department, and so on, literally could not find an affordable place to live. At one county board meeting in that era the commissioners all agreed that the problem was so serious that it had to be addressed that year.
 
Frank, if he were alive, would have turned 95 last week and would have been delighted that the “project of the year” for 1983 was finally coming to fruition in 2017. After years of hard work by a lot of people, the first of a series of housing developments - targeted toward people who live and work here – is about become a reality. 
 
One Roof Community Housing, a non-profit housing developer based in Duluth, is planning to build 16 units of housing in Lutsen, starting construction this spring. One Roof has a long and successful track record of developing housing for working people, including hundreds of housing units in Duluth. I’ve been a supporter of One Roof for years and have been hoping they would do a project in Cook County. They are the right people for the job.
 
In an ideal world, private developers would just build houses and sell them to us for a reasonable profit and all would be well. Unfortunately, geography and market forces keep that from being a viable option here - and in many, many communities around the country. One Roof, along with an impressive list of partners, including the Cook County Economic Development Authority, the I.R.R.R.B. and the Minnesota Department of Trade and Economic Development, are finally cracking this tough nut and we will all benefit.
 
This project is not for seasonal workers. The large resorts in the West End are already housing their seasonal workers in housing they built at their own expense to the tune of millions of dollars.
 
Every piece of this housing puzzle has been fitted with the other pieces to provide well built, energy efficient, aesthetically pleasing housing that middle-income people can afford. This isn’t cheap housing by any means, but it is decent, dignified, and reasonable. I’ve been a little amused by the people who suggest that the rents are too high. Of course, the rents are too high! It would be great if those who think the rents are too high would suggest ways to lower them. Every part of this effort has been undertaken with the intent to keep rents – and costs - within reason. That is the whole point.
 
The really good news is that a similar, probably larger, project is coming soon to Grand Marais and another to Tofte. Once those are done, if there is still need - and there probably will be - projects can be done where they are needed. Thank you to all who have worked so hard to craft a real-world solution to the serious shortage of housing in Cook County!
 
It is always heart warming to see how our community rallies to solve problems and help those in need. Angela Cook, who works at the courthouse, has been dealing with very serious and costly health issues for two years. Her co-workers, the congregation at Zoar Lutheran Church in Tofte, and West End community members are holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at Birch Grove Community Center on Saturday, February 25, from 5 to 7 pm. There is a related raffle in progress, with many cool and valuable prizes donated by local businesses. You can buy tickets from the gals at the courthouse, at Tofte Holiday Station, and at Zoar Church.
 
As I always say about great events like this, be there, or be square.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen, filling in for Clare Shirley, with the West End News.
 

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