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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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Wildersmith on the Gunflint: June 5

As Gunflint Country bid adieu to May, an exasperated “old man winter” took a brief swipe at the area. A couple mornings found low temps in the twenties at some locations. And believe it or not, a couple snow squalls blew through the Seagull/Sag/Gunflint Lakes around eight hundred hours on Saturday.               

The cold had many gardeners on edge for sure. At Wildersmith, we skimmed some ice on the bird-watering shell, and I overheard one fellow’s comment about the cold snap, suggesting “he guessed we’ve had our summer.”

Since that time, conditions have upgraded as our month of the full “strawberry moon” closes in on week one. It seems hard to grasp we are into month six, and his “lunar highness” is already into the books.  What a beautiful moon it was.                                                                                                                                              

We had some swell days, most of which ended with those magnificent “Canadian Sunsets” over Gunflint Lake. Those molten iron beams from “old Sol” as he called it a day in our land of “sky blue waters” remain spell-binding. There aren’t enough descriptors to duly honor the fiery reflections rippling up the lake during warm season evenings.

A couple miniscule showers over the past week helped put the finishing touch on border land green-up.  We are now consumed with foliage to the point where one can no longer look into the woods and see some critter looking back. All sorts of wild perennial blooms are popping out, and we’ve harvested rhubarb from the Wildersmith yard.

More moose sightings have come in than I’ve heard in several years. This is good! One fellow tells of counting six north woods icons in the past week, all being in varying locations along the “Trail” so they obviously were not the same one.

A couple reported seeing a cow and her calf in the swamp opposite side of the road from Mayhew Lake. Meanwhile a gal residing on Leo Lake had a young bull casually wander through her yard and briefly step out onto her dock for a little sight-seeing. If she’d been calling for “all hands on deck” this was surely more than one could expect. I’ve included a digital of this gawky guy with his velvet head dress along my website column at WTIP.org.

Other babies are now coming into the world, notably, whitetail fawns. Folks are reminded to leave them alone if found lying quietly in apparent abandonment. Momma deer often leave them for short periods of time, and are generally not too far away. In other words, don’t fool with “Mother Nature.”

Members, residents/visitors are reminded of the first summer meeting for the Gunflint Trail Historical Society. The gathering will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center this coming Monday, June 8.

Beginning at 1:30 pm, after a brief GTHS business meeting, Mr. Steve Elliot, Director of the Minnesota State Historical Society, will speak about issues related to the Gunflint Trail. As usual, treats and conversation will follow.

GTHS members and friends are invited to the second annual “Shrimp Boil.” This fundraising event, which will include a bake sale, was a delicious success last year so mark your calendars for Sunday, June 14, and don’t miss it! The event will be held at the Seagull Lake Community Center beginning at 4:00 pm.

Keep on hangin’ on, and savor some Gunflint magic!

(Photo by Lee Zopff)

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Superior National Forest Update: June 5

Hi.  I’m Mary Ann Atwood, administrative support assistant on the Gunflint Ranger District, with this week’s edition of the Superior National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 5, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
After several days of soaking rains, this weekend looks like an opportune time to get outdoors.  With the forest greening-up and the rain, the fire danger has been greatly reduced.
Fire crews completed the 130 acre Hungry burn June 1 & 2. If you are interested in taking a look at the burn area and watching the post fire environment, you’ll find it one mile past Devil Track Campground on the north side of the road.  You may be surprised at how fast the forest recovers.
Speaking of recovering forests, our silviculturists have completed their spring planting season.  275,000 trees were planted across the Tofte and Gunflint Districts.  Several of those trees were equipped with paper ‘bud caps’.  Now…they may look a bit silly, but these white pieces of paper stapled onto the tops of saplings protect them from hungry deer.
Two active logging operations continue on the Superior.  Continue to keep an eye out for logging trucks on the Shoe Lake and Greenwood Roads, as well as along the Gunflint Trail, the Four Mile Grade and on Forest Road 369.
 
The Boundary Waters Expo, organized by the Cook County Visitors Bureau, starts Friday June 12.   Forest Service participation includes presentations from Forest historian and archeologist Lee Johnson, recreation assistant ranger Suzanne Cable, and interpretive naturalist Steve Robertsen.  Details are available on the Visitors Bureau website “visit cook county dot com”.
Superior’s Wildlife biologists have been “Battling for the Bats”.  Bats are contending with the threat of white nose syndrome, a disease from Europe that kills 90% or more of the bats in an infected hibernating location.  This week, biologists have been staying up late!  They’re netting and banding bats along the Gunflint Trail in an effort to find out more about the Minnesota bat population before the disease strikes here.  Some of the bats are being equipped with tiny radio transmitters which enable biologists to track the bats to their roosting spots.  For those of us who may have a bit of a “problem” with bats… well, keep in mind their estimated value in pest control to agriculture is 3.7 to 53 billion dollars each year.   AND that’s in addition to their reducing the mosquito population.
Visiting the Grand Marais lighthouse this weekend?  Few people realize that Artist Point is actually part of the Superior National Forest.  There are two new information packed signs.   For instance, did you know that two large observation towers had once been located there?  We’d like to thank the Cook County Historical Society for providing historical photos and research help, as well as Paul Sundberg for the use of his photographs.
I’ll close with another bit of Forest trivia:
Did you know that the Superior has the highest and lowest elevation points in the state of Minnesota?  Think about it.
Have a great weekend, enjoy the Forest. 
Until next week, this has been Mary Ann Atwood with the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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West End News: June 4

 
I enjoyed Brian Larsen’s article in the Cook County News Herald about the history of the Schliep family at the Taconite Harbor power plant in Schroeder. There is no living person with more knowledge of the plant than Jim Schliep of Tofte. 
 
Jim’s son, Tim, and grandson, Jory, work at the power plant now, keeping the Schliep family tradition going forward. The picture in the paper made it clear that the Schlieps are getting taller with each successive generation. If the trend continues, Jory’s kids will be professional basketball players.
 
Unfortunately, the occasion for the Schliep family reunion at the power plant was the permanent closing of Unit 3, the largest and newest of the three turbine units at the plant. Although they are ten years older, Units 1 and 2 were retrofitted with 50 millon dollars worth of pollution reduction equipment about 8 years ago, so as the dirtiest of the three units, #3 had to be closed for owner Minnesota Power to meet clean air regulations.
 
Minnesota Power has been up-front with the community about the closing of Unit 3 and the eventual closing of the entire power plant. That is, of course, a hardship for the West End and the entire region. It’s never a good thing when good paying jobs are lost within our small population.
 
Minnesota Power has looked long and hard at how they could keep the Taconite Harbor Energy Center functioning, but its location and age make every alternative too expensive. There is no hard date for the closing of the remaining two units, but it appears to be inevitable.
 
It’s always difficult when global conditions hit home at the local level, but nothing lasts forever, and there are very good reasons that the old, inefficient coal fired power plants are at the end of their usefulness to society. There could well be another generation’s worth of work at Taconite Harbor as the plant lives out the rest of its life and then is decommissioned.  
 
All we can do as a community is look to the future. If we tap the skills and work ethic of the Schliep family and the many other local people with ties to Taconite Harbor, hopefully we can make the best of a bad situation.
 
The winds of change affect every industry. This season’s display at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder is titled “Lost Resorts.”  It provides a glimpse of more than 50 resorts that operated in the West End since the early 1930s. Only eight of those resorts are still in business today. 
 
On the surface, it sounds like the tourism business has suffered a severe decline, but the opposite is actually true. The tourism economy in the West End is bigger and healthier than it’s ever been. The big reduction in the number of resorts is, in my opinion, the result of market forces that made the little “Ma and Pa” resorts unprofitable, leading to the rise of the large, commercial resorts. Many of the small resorts morphed into large operations. In Tofte, for instance, Olsen’s Resort and Edgewater became Bluefin Bay, with many millions of dollars of new investment.
 
It’s natural to feel nostalgia for the old days, but in my opinion, we’re lucky that all the large resort properties in the West End are still owned by local people who live here and are active in community life. 
 
In any case, I hope you’ll join me in visiting the “Lost Resort” exhibit at the Cross River Heritage Center in Schroeder.
 
Also, mark your calendar for the Schroeder Area Historical Society Annual Meeting at the Heritage Center on Sunday, June 21, starting at 1 pm.  The speaker this year is Tim Cochrane, Superintendent of Grand Portage Monument, who will talk about the American Fur Company which had a strong connection to the West End. Tim is a fascinating speaker with a vast knowledge of our region’s history – and if that isn’t enough – ice cream will be served.
 
It seems like just yesterday that I was talking up an unknown little bike race called the Lutsen 99er. I don’t have to talk it up anymore as it has morphed, in just a few short years, to one of the premiere mountain bike races in the country. It not only provides a big shot of tourism revenue during race weekend, but it has put us on the map as a biking destination. Congratulations to all the West Enders who work so hard on this fantastic event. 
 

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All community members welcome at the Tennis Block Party on June 6

WTIP spoke to Lee Bergstrom, president of the Cook County Tennis Association, and Emily Marshall of the Cook County YMCA about the upcoming Tennis Block Party. This event will be held on June 6 at 10 am at the public tennis courts and will open to anyone, regardless of age or skill level. Listen in to hear more about the activities at this event.

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Venus, Jupiter and the Moon {Dave Schumaker /Flickr}

Northern Sky: May 30

Deane Morrison is a science writer at the University of Minnesota. She authors the Minnesota Starwatch column, and contributes to WTIP bi-weekly on the Monday North Shore Morning program through "Northern Sky," where she shares what's happening with stars, planets and more.

Lots of activity for Venus; the Beehive Cluster; the Gemini 'triplets'; plus a full Strawberry moon on June 2nd.

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Superior National Forest Update: May 29

Hi.  I’m Chris Beal, Wildlife Biologist, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 29th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
In the Grand Marais and Gunflint areas there are two road construction sites this summer.  You may have already encountered the construction on Highway 61 at Cutface Creek.  It is a single lane with traffic light control.  Expect that to remain until October 1st.  Starting on Monday, June 1st, there will also be construction restricting the Gunflint Trail to a single lane from the Fox Ridge Road to the western intersection with County Road 92.  That should last until mid-August.  Allow yourself extra time when traveling these areas, be patient, and watch for workers on the road. 
Most spring load limits are lifted, although there are a few remaining in Cook County.  You can expect timber trucks hauling on the Shoe Lake and Greenwood Roads and the Gunflint Trail on the Gunflint District, and on the Four Mile Grade, Lake County 7, and Forest Road 369 on the Tofte District.  The recent floods in Texas are a good reminder that drivers need to use caution after any heavy rain event as roads can get soft.  If water covers the roadway, stop in a safe place and get out and look before you drive into it.  If there’s any question on the depth or road condition, be safe and find an alternate route.
With the rain and the spring green up of the woods, comes reduced fire danger.  You still need to make sure your campfires are dead out when you are done.  Sometimes a campfire might smolder until conditions are drier, and then start a wildfire, so fire safety should always be practiced, regardless of the fire danger level. 
Memorial Day weekend saw a lot of people out camping and enjoying the Forest.  It also saw some people setting up camp in spots like boat launches.  Please, camp in the designated campsites, not boat launches!  If you plan on dispersed camping outside of campgrounds and other developed recreation sites, check our website under Dispersed Camping or stop at a ranger station to review the rules on where you are permitted to set up camp in the general Forest.
This Saturday morning, May 30th, the Forest Service will be giving a family program on birding at North House Folk School.  North House is also hosting the Northern Landscapes Festival this weekend with many activities. Our program is free and open to everyone, not only festival attendees.  We do ask that you phone North House ahead of time to register for the program so we have an idea of group size.  We will be meeting to learn about families of birds and family bird watching at 9:30 at North House, and going for a hike as well.  Kids are more than welcome, but they must be accompanied by an adult.
It looks like a little rain on Friday morning, but the rest of the weekend looks like a great one to get outside and try to put off mowing the lawn.  Enjoy the Forest, and until next week, this has been Chris Beal for the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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Many Hands {Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon /Flickr}

new Cook County Youth Agency Coalition

The YMCA is the home of the new Cook County Youth Agency Coalition, or CCYAC (prounounced‘kayak’).  WTIP volunteer Marnie McMillan spoke with Branch Executive Director Emily Marshall and new coalition director Jaye White on North Shore Morning
  

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White Pine "Topping"

West End News: May 28

 
For the last year, our Sawtooth Mountain and Grand Portage Clinics have been cooperating the Minnesota Department of Health on study of mercury exposure from eating fish in Cook County. 
 
Several years ago, it came to light that newborn babies on the North Shore have a higher level of mercury in their blood than newborns in the rest of the Midwest.  The current study is aimed at learning the fish eating habits of women in their childbearing years along the North Shore.
 
The study, which started last May, is attempting to interview and test the blood of 500 women, ages 16 to 50, before the end of June.  Although this seems like an ambitious goal, they have already tested more than 450 women, so the goal of 500 is definitely within reach.
 
If you decide to participate, you just schedule a short visit at the clinic in Grand Marais or Grand Portage.  You will be interviewed and a small amount of blood will be drawn.  You will learn the level of mercury and fatty acid in your bloodstream.  An important part of the study is learning the methods for eating fish in the healthiest way. 
 
All information will be kept strictly confidential.  You do not have to eat fish to participate.  All participants who complete the study receive a $50 Visa card.
 
This is an important study that will lead to healthier lives for all of our children, so please help to reach the goal of 500 participants.  I would, if I were eligible!
 
To schedule your appointment, call Sawtooth Mountain Clinic at 387-2330 or Grand Portage Clinic at 475-2235.
 
If you haven’t stopped in to the Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte recently, you owe it to yourself to pay a visit.  The place has evolved into a vital gathering spot for the whole West End.  The building and facilities look good and a wide variety of opportunities and programming for West Enders of all ages is offered.  Wood fired pizza parties, community and senior lunches, fitness equipment, a lending library, farm fresh produce, pickle ball, community education classes and the list goes on and on.
 
If you have an idea for something you want to see at Birch Grove, talk to director Caroline Wood or one of the board members.  This vital community resource belongs to all of us, from Silver Bay to Grand Marais and beyond, so stop by and take a look.  I guarantee that you’ll find something to like.
 
According to a new report from the Minnesota think tank, Growth and Justice, income inequality in Minnesota is wide and growing.  The percentage of all income going to the richest one percent is the highest that it’s been since the 1920s.  Today the richest one percent of Americans own more than 40% of the nation’s wealth.
 
The brand new report, which you can see at growthandjustice.org, offers a look at Minnesota income inequality county by county. 
 
For Cook County, it is the proverbial good news, bad news scenario. 
 
The good news is that Cook County’s median income is right in the middle as compared to the statewide average.  Although average may not sound that good, we are actually much better off, income-wise, than other small, rural Minnesota counties.
 
The bad news is that we are among the highest Minnesota counties in income disparity.  This should be no surprise to anyone who understands the financial geography of Cook County.
 
In my opinion, the current level of income inequality is unnatural and unfair.  It’s not the result of free market forces, but the outcome of more than 40 years of so called trickle down economic theory.  It’s well past time to abandon that failed policy, get the big money out of politics and return to a system that fairly compensates people for their work. 
 
I sense that most employers in Cook County would like to pay their employees better, but competition keeps them from doing it on their own.  This is problem that needs to be solved at the national level.  We all need to keep this in mind during the next election.
 
The Forest Service has been doing a lot of work in the wilderness now that weather has turned summer-like.  On Wonder Lake, which was hit hard by the blow-down in ’99, they were concerned about some giant old white pines with dead tops.  They were afraid that if the tops broke off, they could potentially land in a campsite.  Normally, they would just cut down the hazardous trees.  This time though, they brought in some firefighters who have been trained in the art of topping trees.  They climbed the mighty pines and cut the tops off, leaving the magnificent tree for people and wildlife to enjoy.
 
My hat is off to people with the skill for that kind of work.  You just never know what kind of unique people we have here in the West End.
 
For WTIP, this is Bill Hansen with the West End News.
 
 
 

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Paddling to Sunrise by Dawn LaPointe, Hermantown, MN

Johnson Heritage Post opening: Fire and Ice, May 29

WTIP volunteer Tracy Benson speaks with director Don Davison about the Johnson Heritage Post and their new photography exhibit ‘Fire and Ice, No Ordinary Landscape’.  The opening reception is Friday May 29th from 5 to 7pm.  Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday 10am to 4pm; and Sundays and Mondays 1 to 4pm.  More information online.
 
 

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{Robyn Lee / Flickr}

FISH project approaching enrollment deadline

WTIP volunteers Yvonne Mills and Mary Manning, two FISH project enrollees, spoke with Joyce Klees of the FISH project on North Shore Morning­.  The purpose of the project is to help women and their families enjoy the benefits of eating fish while lowering their exposure to mercury.  
The FISH Project is a joint effort of the Minnesota Department of Health and the Environmental Protection Agency.  Local partners include the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic, Grand Portage Health Service, Grand Portage Trust Lands, and the North Shore Hospital.
More information about the Project is available from the clinic at 387-2330; or at Grand Portage Health Service, 475-2235; ask for a fish coordinator.  
 

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