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West End News January 17

Canada Lynx caught on West End trail cam.
Canada Lynx caught on West End trail cam.

Finalcut_WEN_20130117.mp36.04 MB

It looks like a part of the new moose research project that is being coordinated by the Department of Natural Resources might come to Sawbill.  DNR wildlife biologist Dave Ingebrigtson, from Grand Marais, stopped by recently to let us know that public parking lot here at Sawbill might be used as a helicopter landing pad starting this week.  It may include a fuel tanker, support crew and a heated trailer used by state veterinarians as a portable laboratory.  He even mentioned the possibility of a moose being brought into the parking lot in a sling under the chopper.
Dave said the activity, or lack of activity, here at Sawbill will depend on where moose are found and many other details related to the research.  I sure hope they end up here because it would be fun to watch the research at close range – and it’s always entertaining to have a helicopter in the neighborhood.
About 15 years ago, the DNR was doing a project near here that involved using a helicopter to spread tree seeds.  The pilot, who was a private contractor, landed here at Sawbill a couple of hours before his fuel truck arrived, so we invited him to kill time by joining us for lunch.  At the end of the meal, he pushed his chair back, looked at our two younger children and asked if they would like a ride.  He insisted that we all go, two at a time.  He had spent years giving rides at county fairs, so he really knew how to show the yokels a good time.  It is one of our family’s favorite memories, all the more so for being so unexpected.
I don’t reckon we’ll be so lucky this time around, but it sure would be fun to be in a helicopter that was flying close enough to a moose to shoot it with a tranquilizer gun.
The new skating rink and warming house at Birch Grove is now fully open for business. With this extended cold snap that has settled in, the skating should be ideal.  The lights are on until 10 every night and the warming house is open most of the time.
The popular boot hockey tournament held at the Birch Grove skating rink already has four teams signed up for the contest scheduled for Friday, Janu. 25.  If you want to get in on the January tournament, you should email right away and you can probably still squeeze in.  A second tournament is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 9 and it’s not too early to register for that. A team consists of five or six players who are at least 12 years old.  Each game is 25 minutes long and the tournament runs until a champion is crowned.  Regardless of their win/loss record, each team will receive a complimentary Sven and Ole’s pizza, thanks to Sven and Ole’s and Grand Marais State Bank.
Birch Grove is also recruiting West End residents to its Keep It Moving team.  This is part of the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s program that has businesses and organizations in Cook County tracking how many miles they have walked, run or biked to be plotted as distance around Lake Superior.  The idea is to see how many virtual circle tours your team can make around the big lake and compare that with your friends and neighbors’ efforts.  You can join the Birch Grove team, log your miles and keep track of the progress on the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic website.
Even though it is rare to see a moose these days, lynx sightings continue to be fairly routine here in the West End.  I saw two lynx on my way to Ely last week, and another West End resident shared a lynx photo that their trail cam captured.  It’s sure good to have the big cats around again and it looks like there are plenty of snowshoe hare for them to eat at the moment.
I drove over to Ely because I was invited to a meeting with Sen. Al Franken on the issue of the state owned school trust lands in the BWCA Wilderness.  The issue of school trust lands goes all the way back to when Minnesota was declared a state.  Over the years, this has been a political football that has been kicked all over the field and even occasionally out of bounds.  The meeting I attended was made up of business owners whose businesses are directly tied, in one way or another, to the BWCA Wilderness. 
The issues surrounding these state land holdings are unbelievably complex, detailed and arcane.  I couldn’t begin to go into them here without causing a quick and sharp drop in listenership.  But, I will say that I was very impressed with how thoroughly Sen. Franken is striving to understand the issue.  He is meeting with federal, state, county, township and school officials, mining concerns, business people, environmental interests, hunting and fishing interests and anyone else he can find who cares about public lands and/or public education.  He likely now knows more about the issue than any other living person and will be using that knowledge to guide the drafting of any future legislation.  It was a pleasure to see a politician doing his homework so thoroughly and thoughtfully.
While on the subject of politics, I hope my fellow gun owners will join me in supporting some long overdue common sense regulations.  The scorched earth politics of certain gun advocacy groups have long annoyed me. It’s time to set aside wild fantasies of government conspiracies and do what we need to do to protect our children from guns that are manufactured for only one purpose – to kill lots of people very quickly. The time has come.
Airdate: January 17, 2013