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Bear Research & The Research Center; The Unsung Heroes

  • Blog Post by: T.R. Michels
  • June 9, 2011 - 9:51 AM

I received this e-mail this morning. I think it shows the struggles, and support, Dr. Rogers and the Research Center have gone through so far. Why not a little cooperation by the DNR and Legislators, who have said that (paraphrased) "if it is not done or supported by the DNR Commissioner, we won't do it" and "if it is not done or supported by the Legislature, I will not support it." What a great way of stonewalling the isseue - a regular "Catch 22".

Why doesn't someone see the benefits of protecting these bears for their research, educational and economic value, to the State of Minnesota and people around the world?

 

To Commissisoner Landwehr & theState Legislators:

In light of the fact that the DNR has made it illegal to kill the one and only White Colored Black Bear ever seen in Minnesota, for I belive a period of no more than two years ... which had absolutely no research, educational or economic value ... and,

If these bears truly belong to the people of the State of Minnesota, and not solely to the DNR or the hunters, and thousands of Minnesotan's want them protected. 

What is your objection to offering protection for these 9-20 research bears?

 

I think we would all like an answer to that question. Please - I implore you, answer that question.  

Why not listen to what the people want.- because they have spoken. I currently have 263 comments e-mailed to me from people around the world, asking, begging, for protection for these bears. And there are more on the way. The Lily The Black Bear page on Facebook has over 132,000 "likes". The Protect Minnessota's Research Bears has over 1000 likes. Does this not tell you any thing?

 

Here is the e-mail: 

 

.."unsung heroes of the success of the Bear Center and what it has done for Ely.."


The unsung heroes of the success of the Bear Center and what it has done for Ely are the public officials who had vision years ago.

In 1994, Mayor Mike Forsman saw the potential and wrote a letter to the Science Museum of Minnesota to get things started. Shortly, his brother Paul established an EADA committee to begin planning. Citizen Roger Skraba attended the first committee meeting and presented many ideas that have been put into action.

In 1996, EADA leader Bill Henning and Pro Bono Attorney Bill Campbell helped establish the Bear Center as an official nonprofit, and the North American Bear Center board of directors was born. Faithful members of the board met monthly for over a decade to keep things going.

In 2004, Bill Rice of Indiana sleuthed out the building location. Ron Svatos of the St Louis Land Dept was his usual helpful self in providing details. Jack Willis and the Morse Township Board passed a resolution allowing the City of Ely to manage purchase negotiations. Mayor Frank Salerno assigned City Attorney Larry Klun to do the legal work. For Larry, it was a labor of love to find the laws and process that would allow the City of Ely to sell the land to the Bear Center board. Larry presented his findings to the City Council, and members Jerome Debeltz, Paul Kess, Mike Hillman, Butch Pecha, Dan Przybylski, and Mark Zupec voted unanimously to make the Bear Center an official public purpose authorized to buy the land. County Commissioner Mike Forsman and the County Land Department facilitated the transfer. Through it all, Nancy Larson and Connie Christenson from St Louis County Community Development provided guidance.

When the Bear Center opened on May 5, 2007, Mayor Chuck Novak helped behind the scenes. He came through again in 2008 when misinformation brought the Bear Center under threat from the MN DNR. Chuck recognized the value of radio-collared research bears to the Bear Center, regional economics, and science. He went to bat for our area.

This past year, the vision of all these people came to fruition in a big way when the Lily Den Cam became a worldwide sensation, bringing thousands of people to Ely from across the nation and around the world.

At the same time, the educational value of the radio-collared bears leaped upward as hundreds of classrooms across North America began each day watching the Lily Den Cam and then incorporated the bears into their lessons through the day.

The bears' 200,000 fans found other ways to help the area they had learned to love. They used their numbers to vote Ely the "the coolest small town in America." Next, they voted Bear Head Lake State Park "America's Favorite Park," winning $100,000 for the park while beating Yellowstone National Park by over 1.5 million votes). Recently, a bear fan in Florida discovered a contest to name "America's Favorite School" and the fans are bringing $20,000 to Ely's public schools.

Lily the Bear fans also initiated the Annual Lilypad Picnic, which brought hundreds of people to the Bear Center and Ely's shops, outfitters, restaurants, and resorts this past July. The Ely City Council boosted the Picnic by naming July 31, 2010, Lily the Bear Day. Now, happy picnickers have reserved Whiteside Park for the 2nd Annual Lilypad Picnic in July 2011 and are anticipating at least twice as many participants. Having it at Whiteside Park will concentrate them close to merchants.

Meanwhile, the DNR is wondering if a dozen radio-collared bears wearing bright ribbons are worth protecting and if hunters should be required to look twice for ribbons before shooting bears in the study area west of Ely. Hunters are answering those questions in the affirmative. For years, hunters have been saying, "If you don't want radio-collared bears shot, make it illegal." Some say, "Why should I pass up a trophy radio-collared bear when a hunter who doesn't care about research can legally take it? Make it illegal so it's fair to all." Other hunters say, "Make it illegal so the people who shoot them are called lawbreakers, not hunters."

Regional benefits from the research bears are just beginning. Continued success depends entirely upon the radio-collared bears that hundreds of thousands are following worldwide. We all must do whatever we can to gain legal protection for the radio-collared bears that are the foundation for it all.

 

And then I received this e-mail:

Why protection of radio-collared bears is needed now:

 

1. The DNR asking hunters not to shoot radio-collared bears has not worked. Last year, 11 (23%) of 48 radio-collared bears were shot. That percentage is no different from the portion of bears that hunters kill in the overall population.

2. Responsible hunters say shooting radio-collared bears should be illegal. They say it is unfair to be asked to pass up a radio-collared trophy only to have the next hunter legally shoot it and be lauded because he turned the collar in.

3. The dozen radio-collared bears near Ely and the 2-3 dozen in the DNR’s studies are a tiny fraction of the 20,000 bears in Minnesota.

4. Minnesota’s bear studies are now about how bears live—not how they die. Radio-collared bears with data histories are too valuable to science to be shot like any other bear.

5. In the trust-based studies around Ely, the loss of any radio-collared bear in the single bear clan being studied is a huge setback. A collar cannot simply be placed on another bear. This study is providing more data on black bear behavior, ecology, social organization, language, and bear-human relations than any bear study ever has. The data histories on the older bears in that study make them irreplaceable in my lifetime. The data from these bears becomes more valuable each year.

6. The DNR study includes the oldest black bear on record—37 years old and counting.

7. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely are part of the biggest public bear education program ever done. Through social networking, these bears have acquired a following of over a quarter million (over 128 thousandon Facebook alone) that follow them on Den Cams and daily research updates on bear.org.

8. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely are part of the biggest classroom bear education program ever done. Over 500 schools follow these bears daily in their classrooms. Teachers and students watch the live Den Cam and read the daily research updates on bear.org. Individual radio-collared bears are part of their science,reading, and math classes along with the lesson plans, traveling Black Bear Boxes, and other educational materials now available on bear.org (click on Education).

9. The dozen radio-collared bears around Ely have generated a huge amount of good will. Their quarter million followers want to help the area where "their" bears live. They have donated thousands to the Ely Area Food Shelf, voted Ely the "Coolest small town in America," produced $20,000 for Ely’s Schools, produced $100,000 for Bear Head State Park as well as $600,000 to reduce debt for Ely’s North American Bear Center.

10. The radio-collared bears around Ely boost Minnesota tourism.

A. The annual Lilypad Picnic alone draws hundreds of tourists to Ely for extended vacations.

B. Thousands come to Ely specifically to see the North American Bear Center where the radio-collared bears are the basis for most of the exhibits and keeping those exhibits updated. Attendance in 2010 was 33,843.

C. The radio-collared bears are the subjects of a continuing series of TV documentaries, each with audiences of over a hundred million. These documentaries (4 in the last two years) advertise the area in a way that could not be bought.

11. In summary, Minnesota’s radio-collared bears have become too valuable to science, education, tourism, and regional economics to be killed like any other bears. This feeling is supported by the Ely City Council, 68 of 70 Ely business owners, the Ely Chamber of Commerce, nearly 4,000 petitioners, 679 of 685 people who wrote letters to Governor Pawlenty, ~800 of ~900 people who responded to the Duluth News Tribune’s opinion poll, etc.

 

 

 

 

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