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West End News: May 3

Sawbill dock, photo by Ruthie Hansen
Sawbill dock, photo by Ruthie Hansen

WEN_finalcut_20120503.mp35.41 MB

I don’t think I’m the only one who has been disappointed in this year’s Minnesota Legislature.  I’m not personally invested in the Vikings stadium issue, because I’m a fair weather fan a the best of times, but Vikings fans must be incredibly frustrated with the legislature’s inability to bring closure, one way or the other to that issue.

My frustration lies with two bills that were signed into law last week that deal with school trust lands and specifically school trust lands in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  School trust lands are large tracts of land that were put in state ownership when Minnesota first became a state to provide income, paid to a permanent trust fund, the proceeds of which were to be used to establish and support Minnesota’s public school system.  It was a great thing and it worked pretty well.  Most of the land was sold and the trust still exists, but in the modern era it only pays a tiny portion of school funding.

The first bill creates a new legislative commission – often a bad idea just on the face of it – to manage school trust lands, taking management away from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  Apparently, the legislature felt that the DNR was too conservative in their management on the state trust lands, taking into account things like ecosystems, watershed protections, wildlife habitat, recreation opportunities like hunting, fishing, hiking and other silly scientific hoo-haw.  The new management is specifically instructed to maximize the return from the lands and damn the torpedoes.  I have no doubt that over time, the new land managers will realize that the best value is derived from land by managing it under careful scientific principals, not the principals of under-informed politicians or rapacious multi-national corporations.

The second bill outlines the state’s proposal to trade the school trust lands in the BWCA Wilderness for Superior National Forest Land outside the wilderness.  On its surface this sounds like a good idea, and it is a good idea, except the legislature ignored the recommendations of a panel of stakeholders that has been negotiating an agreement that would work for everyone and passed a simplistic plan that is only to the benefit of the state – or to be more exact, the benefit of large timber and mining interests.  Of course, the state legislature can’t force the federal government to do anything, so their action has just set the whole issue back, probably for decades.

Just like the Vikings stadium issue – lots of posturing and pretending and very little actually getting done.

Meanwhile, here in the good old West End of Cook County, kids are being happily educated, starting in pre-school with opening of enrollment for the 2012 – 2013 Saplings Pre-School at the wonderful Birch Grove Community School in Tofte.  The pre-school runs from 7:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday on every regularly scheduled Birch Grove school day.  You can enroll your pre-schooler to go all the time or part-time to fit around your schedule.  The teaching staff is highly qualified weaves together the Core Knowledge Sequence and the Minnesota Early Learning Standards, all of which helps your child succeed all through school and life.  Free transportation and scholarships are a possibility, so call Diane at 663-0170 for details and information.

You may see a vaguely familiar face around the Bluefin Bay Grille this summer.  Emma Tofte will be on the wait staff there this summer. Although Emma hails from White Bear Lake, her presence represents a deep connection to the pioneer days of Tofte.  She is the daughter of Tofte native Scott Tofte and the granddaughter of Orton and Marge Tofte.  When Emma announced on Facebook that she would be spending the summer in Tofte, her father posted the following advice on things she should do:

  • Have lots of bonfires by the lake.
  • Catch fireflies in a bottle.
  • Play Star Light Star Bright with your cousins. You won't believe how dark it is when you try to find them.
  • Let your uncles take you out to Sawbill Lake and fish off the dock.
  • On your way, stop and get water from the spring.
  • Hike up to Carlton Peak.
  • Learn to be a rock skipper. You never run out of rocks.
  • Lay back on the beach and look up at the stars. If you're really lucky, you'll see the Northern Lights one night.
  • Swim at the Temperance every nice day.
  • Have fun.
  • Love, Dad

Good advice indeed.