Years of work by various conservation groups, the Department of Natural Resources, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, Crow Wing County, the Legislature and Potlatch Corp. ended to wide acclaim Thursday when agreement was reached to protect 3 miles of Mississippi River shoreline and 2,000 acres of woods just north of Brainerd.
Called Mississippi Northwoods, the project concluded when the non-profit Trust for Public Land agreed to purchase the property for $11 million using Legacy Act money.
The land is expected to be transferred in the near future to Crow Wing County, which will manage it as a county forest open to multiple uses, including hunting.
A paved state trail might some day also be contained within the property.
The project overcame a number of obstacles, including the reconciliation of multiple appraisals that valued the property as high as $14 million.
In the end, the $11 million was agreed to by Potlatch.
“We’re delighted this spectacular piece of property will be protected after many, many years of work, considerable negotiations and great examples of leadership,’’ said Becca Nash, project manager for the Trust for Public Land.
The acquisition creates some 9 miles of protected shoreline when combined with nearby state trust land, county forest and a wildlife management area.
Fishing in the portion of the Mississippi River fronting the property can be excellent for largemouth bass among other species, and waterfowl hunters have used the area for decades to hunt ducks.
A series of DNR-sponsored Brainerd-area meetings held shortly after the Legacy Act was approved by voters in 2008 showed considerable support for protection of the land and shoreline.
Purchase of the property should close within two months.
A bill was introduced in Michigan last week to establish a wolf hunting season in that state.
If passed, Michigan would be the third Midwest state after Minnesota and Wisconsin to establish a wolf hunting season.
Reporter Agnieszka Spieszny of Outdoor Hub news says Michigan DNR Director Keith Creagh acknowledged in a visit to the state's Upper Peninsula that, "At the end of the day, there’s going to be a method of take and it’s the DNR’s opinion that you ought to be able to utilize hunters to help with depredation complaints in nuisance areas.”
The proposed legislation says, in part, that "“the sound scientific management of gray wolf populations in this state is necessary, including the use of hunting as a management tool, to minimize human and gray wolf encounters and to prevent gray wolves from threatening or harming humans, livestock and pets.''
Gray wolves in Michigan were delisted as endangered in January. Spieszney reports that proposed fees include a $100 wolf hunting license for residents, $500 for non-residents and a $4 non-refundable permit application fee.
Here are a couple of photos that show the devastation of the flooding up north, specifically the swinging bridge at Jay Cooke State Park, which has been evacuated.
The photo immediately below I took on a fall day a couple of years ago, while standing downstream of the bridge and while wading about knee-deep in the St. Louis River.
The second photo below is an aerial shot taken Thursday by Star Tribune photographer Brian Peterson.
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has issued a report saying that Monsanto's new drought-tolerant corn, DroughtGard, might not yield farmers the gains they hope for in dry years.
Conservationists have watched with deep concern as genetically modified crops such as DroughtGard are introduced, fearing — rightly, as it turns out — that fragile grasslands in the central and western Dakotas will continue to be plowed up and planted.
Historically, these lands have never been financially feasible to farm, in part due to a lack of rainfall in the area. Cattle grazing instead has been their primary purpose — thus preserving the same grasslands that ducks, pheasants, songbirds and other wildlife have utilized since time immemorial.
But high commodity prices and a federal farm bill that to date has virtually guaranteed farmers a return on their investments in breaking new ground — regardless of the ultimate yield — have driven farmers to open up new lands to agriculture.
Now the UCS has issued a report saying that improved breeding of seed types and better farming practices are better alternatives to improving total farm yields than projected developments in engineered crop genetics.
“Farmers are always looking to reduce losses from drought, but the biotechnology industry has made little real-world progress on this problem,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with UCS’s Food & Environment Program and author of the report. “Despite many years of research and millions of dollars in development costs, DroughtGard doesn’t outperform the non-engineered alternatives.
“If we were to conduct an apples-to-apples comparison today, we’d find that breeding and improved farming practices have increased drought tolerance in corn about two to three times faster than DroughtGard,” said Gurian-Sherman. “Classical and newer forms of breeding are also far cheaper.”
Arguably, the UCS has a dog in this fight, in that public research dollars it seeks in the new Farm Bill likely would trickle down to some of its members.
Photo by Dennis Anderson Star Tribune
Pheasants and pheasant hunters take note:
North Dakota's net loss of about 650,000 Conservation Reserve Program acres heads an all-star list of states with significant net losses of federal set-aside lands, following the latest program sign-up offered by the USDA.
Next is Montana, with 435,335 net acres lost, followed by Minnesota, with a net loss of 190,231 acres.
Minnesota lost about 66 percent of all CRP acres whose contracts expired.
The bailout from the nation's top wildlife and soil conservation program was also in high gear in South Dakota, where 169,284 program acres were lost.
High crop prices, corn particularly, are causing farmers to leave conservation programs and put their lands under the plow instead.
Grasslands throughout the Dakotas are also falling victim to high commodity prices, as new, genetically modified corn strains are now able to be planted in areas of little rainfall.
To see a spreadsheet showing details of the latest CRP signup, including number of acres offered and accepted, and net losses, state by state, click here.