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AM Community Calendar/photo by masochismtango on Flickr

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News & Information

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!


What's On:
Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: March 22

Sophia and Jack report the latest School News.


Scorpius_John Flannery_Flickr.jpg

Northern Sky: March 19

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.

The Spring Equinox and March winds; Jupiter all night long; in the predawn sky, Mars and Saturn with Scorpius; a full moon on the morning of March 23.



Wildersmith on the Gunflint: March 18

It’s frightful what’s been going on in the north woods since we last met on the radio. Over the past seven, with temps some twenty degrees above normal, there’s a scent of spring in the air, but it’s supposed to be winter! There’s just no seasonal bite anymore.  

All this being about six weeks early, the upper Gunflint is flat out into our icky ice and mud scene. Locally, we in the Wildersmith neighborhood are being terrorized with the worst case of slippery wet conditions in 17 years. Movement out of doors has been at no more than snail's pace, either on foot or in the vehicle, for fear of ending up on one's posterior or careening off into the woods on wheels.   

Improvements are slow to happen as areas along the shaded Mile O Pine have been spared the power of “Old Sol” to some extent. Slow melting has allowed daily oozing, which then has been refreezing to skating-like surfaces by the next AM. This is further complicated by a few open places where beaming rays have gashed the frozen surface with patches of bare road. So one moment, one can splash along safely, only to end up slip sliding along on water slick ice.

At the time of this broadcast/scribing, the Wildersmith driveway remains a slippery path to vehicle disaster with all friction applications being of little support. That in mind, the truck sits on high ground until further notice. 

The wilderness landscape has become a patchwork of white and brown. In our yard, it is interesting to assess how winter winds dispersed the snow. Spots where gusts had direct access, a thin coating has easily been whisked away by our meltdown. Meanwhile, protected places have substantial white remnants, in spite of being reduced by a considerable amount during the past days.

Observing sunrise on the morning before daylight savings time, confirmed to me spring is now in command. Beams of light lit up the forest and revealed the first return of arachnids. Their network of fiber optics is already strung between our coniferous appendages. It was quite surprising to see the filaments so soon.  

Even more startling, a couple creepy crawlers have made illegal entry into our house, yuck!  At ground level, a “murder” of crows has returned and is busy picking through winter remains while breaking silence of the neighborhood with raucous conversation.  

Another sign of more “Vernal” times finds tree juices thawed to resume the flow skyward. This is evident as the snow has melted away from the base of trees creating interesting tube-like exposures of bare forest earth in the white.

In another moment of flowing spring energy, a couple fellows down the road have tapped their way into several Mile O Pine maples. This collecting process is obviously in quest of sweet nectar for syrup making.

The fisher that had been making appearances at several locations down the road, recently made its way to the Smith place. This large version of a pine marten apparently knew its way around here, perhaps affirming a previous visit. Unfortunately, all the cupboards were bare as it arrived checking out each feeding station. With noses pressed to the window glass watching such an uncommon visitor, this ferocious critter seemingly gave a glance our way, as if to say “where’s the beef” and then scampered off into the forest.

A few days later the maple sap collectors mentioned earlier had an exciting moment when they happened upon a Canadian lynx. The handsome feline was caught in a sitting pose, either sunning itself along the county road, or doing a little hare reconnaissance. It was interesting the north woods cat did not make a move until the fellas were about six feet away before loping off into the trees toward Gunflint Lake.

In a sad note, “Dog Days of Winter” activities scheduled on Poplar Lake last Sunday, went for naught. A casualty of all this warm sloppiness, events had to be cancelled. Hopefully, energy for this event carries over to next year with hope for revival of a real “Northwoods” winter. 

Before signing off…after all this talk of spring being in the air, winter has come back.  A falling of some 12 to 14 inches of snow covered the Wildersmith neighborhood and has put things on hold once more.

This is Fred Smith, on the Trail, at Wildersmith. Regretting a winter lost, but savoring a rebirth of the forest! 

(photo by Phillippa Warr via Flickr)


When not chasing rabbits, pine martens can sometimes be found eating bird seed

West End News: March 17

Everyone was pleasantly surprised this week by the announcement from Cliffs Natural Resources that they would re-open Northshore Mining in mid-May.  The plant in Silver Bay has been in shutdown since December, causing the layoff of 540 employees.  The good news came because the domestic steel market has picked up a little faster than many industry experts were predicting. Even the threat of curtailing sales of below cost steel from foreign producers seems to have perked up the market, along with a number of other factors.
The bottom line for the West End, though, is that many of our immediate friends and neighbors will be back to work full time – and that’s a relief.
I was a little distressed to hear that the Silver Bay city council banned the sale of Bent Paddle Beer in their municipal liquor store. The reason given was Bent Paddle’s membership in the Downstream Business Coalition, which is a group of about 80 regional businesses that support clean water and sustainable economic development. Full disclosure: I’m a member of the coalition, so I’m biased on this subject. However, I think the city council would reconsider if they could have a good conversation with the fine folks at Bent Paddle Brewery. The coalition is very supportive of iron mining and doesn’t even oppose sulfide mining. It is just opposed to the risk of water pollution that historically accompanies sulfide mining.
It’s all a bit of a tempest in a teapot, but I would like to point out that the only purchase that I made in the Silver Bay liquor store this year was a couple of cases of Bent Paddle Beer. I do think, no matter where people stand on the sulfide mining issue, that spirited discussion is healthy for our communities and people should not be threatened with business retaliation for their honestly held political opinions.
Mining news continued last week with a couple of serious setbacks for the proposed Twin Metals mining project near Ely. Governor Dayton wrote a public letter to the company expressing his grave concerns about sulfide mining directly upstream from the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  The Governor said he was unwilling to allow the risk of pollution in the wilderness, calling it “a crown jewel of Minnesota.”
Just a few days later, the Bureau of Land Management denied automatic renewal of two key federal mineral leases that have been held by Twin Metals for decades. These two developments, along with a depressed global metals market, may well spell the end for the Twin Metals project, at least for the foreseeable future. Time will only tell.
The 2016 Great Place Project is accepting applications until the end of March. The Great Place Project a collaborative effort of the Cook County Chamber of Commerce and the Sawtooth Mountain Clinic’s Moving Matters initiative. The Great Place Project is a friendly, local opportunity for funding of high impact, low cost ideas to create great places in our communities. Funding amounts range from $250 to $1,250 per selected project. This year, the Minnesota Power Foundation has joined as a major sponsor of the Great Place Project.
The theme for 2016 is “playability.” Projects that enhance or create a place that welcomes people with a playfulness or whimsy, especially for children, will be favored. You can find more details, examples and some really fun and well-produced videos by googling “Great Place Project – Cook County.”
It was a good week for animal viewing on the back roads. I saw a pine marten chasing a snowshoe hare down the road. The pine marten ducked into the woods as I drew near, but the exhausted rabbit could barely climb over the snow-bank. Moments later I passed a second marten that was closing in on the rabbit from the other direction. I have little doubt that the rabbit became lunch not too long after I passed.
The next day I saw three lynx on the road. The largest of the three cats stayed on the road, but kept glancing toward the woods, where I spotted two adolescent kittens. Once the kittens ran off, the adult followed, disappearing with two effortless leaps.
It’s always a thrill to see wildlife in the woods. It reminds me why we love living here in the West End.


Construction on new Two Harbors location

"Hunger Hero" initiative will aid local residents

March is National Food Shelf Month and the North Shore Federal Credit Union is offering to match donations as part of its "Hunger Hero" initiative.

President Mark Summers spoke with WTIP volunteer Yvonne Mills about this initiative on North Shore Morning.



"What the Health?! How do we plan for Community Vitality?" presentation on March 23

"What the Health?! How do we plan for Community Vitality?" is the topic of an evening of improvisational theater, discussion and dinner. WTIP volunteer Yvonne Mills learns more in this interview with Kristin DeArruda Wharton and Tane Danger.

The Sawtooth Mountain Clinic is sponsoring “What the Health?! How do we plan for community vitality?” on March 23 at 5:30 pm at the Arrowhead Center for the Arts. Childcare will be provided, and RSVP by calling 387-2330, ext. 163.



School News from Oshki Ogimaag: March 15

Kiara reports the latest School News.


Birch Grove Community School

School News from Birch Grove: March 14

Goshi and Kalina report the latest School News.



New documentary on the North Shore steamer 'America'

Before the internet, telephones and even Highway 61, Minnesota's North Shore was served by water, with frequent visits by a steamer called the 'America.' WDSE from Duluth/Superior has now produced a documentary on the America. 
WTIP host LeAnn Zunker spoke with producer Karen Sunderman on North Shore Morning.

Documentary airs on WDSE:
Monday, March 14 at 7 pm
Wednesday, March 16 at 8:30pm



Superior National Forest Update: March 11

Hi. This is Chris Beal, wildlife biologist on the Gunflint District, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the beginning of March, here’s what’s happening on the Forest.

The main story on the forest this week is the end of winter and the beginning of the mud season. Winter recreation is coming to an end as snow melts and ground is exposed, and yet it still isn’t warm enough for most of our summer fun to begin. It is a good time of year though to go on a wander through the woods looking for signs of spring. The chickadees are singing spring songs, there’s a smell of moist earth in the air, and on a sunny day, you can tell that summer is just around the corner. Beware though, winter is still here on this side of the corner. It is actually easy to become hypothermic this time of year. People dress optimistically for the warmth of the middle of the day, but the temperature can drop quickly. Damp air and rain can cool a person much faster than dry winter air and snow, so your body may actually lose heat faster than in midwinter. Be aware that it ain’t summer yet, and dress according to what the weather is, not what you are hoping it will be.

Lakes are very slushy, and even if fish houses do not have to come off the lakes yet, it is a good idea to get them off early. The DNR has set a date of March 21st for most of the Forest, and March 31st for the Canadian border waters, but given the slushy conditions, it may be hard to haul houses off the lake by those dates. Be sure to check ice thickness before you venture onto the ice, particularly if you are using any equipment to move your fish house.

If lakes are slushy, roads are icy. Compacted snow on roads has changed to ice in many areas, and the clear portions of roads are very soft and muddy. Cook County has imposed seasonal weight restrictions due to the soft roadways, and shoulders of roads are becoming particularly untrustworthy. Some of our field going personnel have reported that there are many stretches of roadway where they’ve been forced to travel at 20 miles per hour or below due to the combination of ice and soft roadways. The weight restrictions do mean that there won’t be any timber hauling going on, so you shouldn’t have to worry about logging traffic.

If you are trying to squeeze a little more winter in, and decide to go skiing or snowmobiling, be prepared for the conditions. 4 inches of snow cover are required to legally run a snow machine cross country, and we are running out of snow fast. On trails, remember that it is easy to damage soft trails in the spring, and if you want nice trails next winter, you should treat them carefully now. It is harder for a skier to damage a trail, but skiers need to watch out for the trail damaging the skier. Trails in spring can be icy and fast, and when you are coming down a hill at top speed and hit a patch of bare ground at the bottom, you come to an abrupt stop. Through the years, several people have discovered that this is an easy time of year to break your leg.

If mud season is starting to sound pretty dangerous and gloomy, don’t forget that it is also the time of returning life to the forest. Eagles are on eggs, ravens are flying around with sticks in their beaks, and birds are starting to sing. It is great time to be outside, just be careful how you get there!

Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.