West End News: February 7

Moose capture - photo courtesy the Minnesota DNR.
Moose capture - photo courtesy the Minnesota DNR.

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Two of the young Norwegian film makers who where around the county last summer have returned for the month of February to finish their interactive, multimedia project about Norwegian Americans on Minnesota’s north shore.  They are part of a collective of young Oslo area photojournalists who call themselves “Lutefisk Hotel.”  Their north shore project is called “The Norwegian Riviera.”
 
When they arrived in the county, Kristian Bålsrød and Anton Ligaarden advertised a request for housing, so we let them stay in our crew house here at Sawbill.  It was fun to have them around for few days.  They are certainly skilled photojournalists, which you can see for yourself by looking at their website at Lutefiskhotel.com.  Also, Anton received word while here at Sawbill that his work has been nominated for “picture of the year” by the Norwegian Nation Photojournalism Association.  That is a high honor to earn at the tender age of 22.  Congratulations Anton.
 
Like all young Norwegians, they speak English very well, with only the occasional humorous translation error.  While having coffee at our kitchen table, Kristian exclaimed, “Oh look, there is a woodchuck on your bird feeder!”  Seeing the look on our faces, he quickly said, “no - a woodchuck is a small mammal. I mean woodpecker.”  He followed that by asking what the large red bird on feeder was called.  When we replied that is was a pine grosbeak, Kristian responded, “What? Pine roast beef?”  It was good for a laugh, but I must admit that I can’t even pronounce the four Norwegian words that I know correctly, so my hat is off to Norwegian language education.
 
Ann Rider, who lives in Lutsen, is a well-respected and successful editor of children’s books.  She works for Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.  She is one of a number of Cook County residents who have successful businesses that operate in the larger world, but fly under the radar here in the county. 
 
In the world of children’s books, the highest honor you can receive is a gold or silver medal from the American Library Association.  The Caldecott Medal is awarded for the best illustrations and the Newberry Medal is awarded for the best writing.  A book that Ann edited, “Sleep Like A Tiger,” illustrated by Pamela Zagarenski and written by Mary Logue, just received this year’s silver Caldecott Medal.  This is a big deal, but almost routine for Ann.  Her books have previously won two gold Caldecotts, two silver Caldecotts and a silver Newberry.  The awards go to the illustrators and authors, not the editor, but Ann is invited to the ceremony and is the recipient of high praise from the winners.
 
The DNR moose collaring operation has moved out of Cook County.  They are working now in the western end of the Superior National Forest, but are very close to completing their task of collaring 100 moose.  They have some dramatic pictures of shooting moose with tranquilizer darts, installing the collars and taking various biological samples.  You can easily find their pictures and daily updates by going to the Minnesota DNR website and entering the key word “moose.” 
 
While I’m supportive of the research and the results will be fascinating, there is a small part of me that feels sorry for the moose.  It can’t be much fun to be chased by a helicopter, shot with a tranquilizer, subjected to numerous humiliating probes and pokes and then be left with a ear tag and a collar to wear until you die.
 
It also seems obvious to me that the moose decline in northern Minnesota is just one of hundreds of signs that the climate is changing and the ranges of all species are moving north.  I wonder sometimes if it isn’t easier to study the problem than to get to work solving the problem.
 
Speaking of climate change, Minnesota Power announced last week that they are shutting down one of the three coal-fired turbines at their Taconite Harbor power plant in Schroeder.  Unit three at Tac Harbor is actually the newer of the three units.  The power plant was actually designed to have six turbines, to be built in stages as needed.  Unit 3 was added to the plant a few years after the original two units were built.  Being a few years newer, it was the most efficient and least polluting unit at the plant until a few years ago when extensive pollution control equipment was installed on Unit 1 and 2.  Minnesota Power figures that it wouldn’t pay to put pollution control equipment on Unit 3 in the face of impending federal limits on CO2 production.  CO2, especially from coal-fired power plants is a major cause of climate change.
 
Minnesota Power didn’t say when Unit 3 would be closed.  I notice when I drive by that it is still going strong.  The good news is that they don’t expect anyone to lose their job due to the closing.  The bad news is that the handwriting seems to be on the wall for the eventual closing of the whole plant.  That will be a serious economic hardship for Cook and Lake Counties, if and when it happens.  On the other hand, climate change is now obvious for all to see and I would sure hate to lose the moose in our woods.

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