Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Swapping trees for french fries

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird conservation Updated: November 14, 2013 - 8:49 AM

On a recent Saturday morning in the upper right-hand corner of the front page of the StarTribune was the story of the day: Forests in state give way to farmland.

Forests? TREES? Way up there in Cass County??? First it was grasslands, then wetlands, and now we’ve finally gotten around to our forests. The issue of the moment is 1,500 sandy acres in Cass County, perfect for growing potatoes once you get rid of the trees. Potatoes for whom? McDonald’s! Happy Deal!

Genetically modified potatoes, maybe, so that nothing interferes with harvest and profit. We’ve done to that corn and soybeans, which explains in part our continuing loss of grass and water. Easy grow. Easy sell. Easy profit.

Let's use genetics in our favor, either re-modifying the plants or modifying us so that when we even see corn or soybeans we gasp for breath. There must be a gene somewhere in our bodies that could be switched on or off to make these nemesis crops (and from an environmental standpoint that’s what they are) -- to make them inedible.

Of course, pretty soon it will be too warm here for corn to grow, and so to for the particular species of trees facing the plow in Cass County.

Below, a Canada Warbler. In a tree.

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