Friday, January 29, 2010

Ideas, Input, Idiots... and a Birdseye View

Ideas: About protection on the Minnesota River. Incentives for riverside property owners that would encourage buffer zones and other conservation practices. I came across this story in the West Central Tribune out of Willmar, Minnesota.

Input: For the Minnesota Water Sustainability Framework. Everyday people are being invited to provide input about the protection and care of Minnesota’s surface and groundwater, in meetings sponsored by the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources, and the Water Resources Center at the University of Minnesota. There are still several meeting dates around the state; get details and take an online survey when you click here to see the project summary.

Idiots: Creating a senseless trend. As someone with a deep appreciation for wildlife, a story this week in USA Today inspired anger, sympathy and disbelief. Click here to read the piece on “Thrill Killing” of deer, elk, raccoon and other critters. Warning: The story will leave you frustrated and confused.

A birdseye view. I am late in sharing this, but came across the item in one of my "save" folders. This was a story from back in December that I found in the Press & Dakotan newspaper out of Yankton, South Dakota. It offers a great "decade at a glance" about things imacting the Missouri River. (I find stories like this helpful, as they provide a context for how short-term behaviors and decisions can have a long-term impact. This one was particularly well done, I think.)

© 2010 Michael Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Two quick thoughts before the weekend ends

A story about the hidden headwaters. My brother Kevin was recently doing some research about early railroad crossings over the Mississippi River near Brainerd... when he found an interesting story online about the expedition of Captain Willard Glazier. The story is offered by a trading company representing a family that is selling one of the three canoes reportedly used in Captain Glazier’s expedition. I’m not in a position to buy such an artifact, but the story itself carried me away. Enjoy it by clicking here.

The discussion on the Red isn’t over yet. Recently, I wrote about the NY Times story on flooding in the Red River Valley. Last week, I learned of meetings intended to facilitate dialogue about flooding issues… from a story in the Grand Forks Herald (registration required).

I connected with an old friend from Bemidji this week. Bob Wagner and I met during a cleanup project on the Mississippi River (and worked together on a couple of other civic events) back in the early 90's. He's doing some VERY cool work in his woodshop, near his home on the Turtle River. Explore his talents at

© 2010 Michael Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cleaning or clouding the waters

Fundraising is a tricky business. One that I’m glad I’m not in at this point. (As I have written before here, is neither a non-profit organization nor a for-profit business. I’m a guy with a kayak and an attitude who picks up trash, takes an inventory of river sites that need attention, and shares conservation issues on a blog.)

This past week, two different conservation groups got two different kinds of reactions from their fundraising efforts.

First, the good news. The McKnight Foundation contributed significant sums to a variety of river restoration groups. The largest benefactor was the Mississippi River, as you can see from this BizJournals story. But another group to receive money was “C.U.R.E.,” short for “Clean Up The River Environment” out of Montevideo, Minnesota. I am not a member of C.U.R.E., but I’ve followed it for a while, and they seem to be doing some good work on the Minnesota River. So, congrats, C.U.R.E.! And congratulations, too, to the McKnight Foundation, which continues to be both thoughtful and generous in their donations.

Now, the not-so-good news. Another notable conservation group got pounded pretty hard in a story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune… for allegedly over-dramatizing the extent to which straight pipe pollution is a problem on the Sunrise River in a recent fundraising newsletter. I was really sorry to see that. If it is true that the problem was over-stated, it not only harms the credibility of the authoring organization. It harms any group that requests funds in the name of their work in conservation and environmental protection.

I am reminded that, where charities are concerned… it is best to contribute not based on an organization’s ability to state a problem, but rather, on the basis of the solution they bring to that problem.

© Michael D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

A footnote about the Riverside Inn & Tavern

Last year about this time, I wrote a blog posting about the Riverside Inn and Tavern, located in Woodland, Washington. The bar and grill had been owned by my Aunt Mary, who is now long gone. Someone researching the Lewis River came across that article, and was nice enough to leave a comment at the bottom.

This week, that visitor returned to the blog to leave another comment; and to let me know that the Riverside, and Aunt Mary’s home next door, had been torn down. In their place now stands Josiah’s, a new establishment that seems to already be quite popular with the locals. It’s nice to hear success has found its way back to that site along the river. I hope they really, truly enjoy it.

It was nice to get the comment and the update. It served as a reminder that none of us is bigger than Mother Nature or Father Time.
(I'm really glad I shot some pictures on that trip.)
© Michael D. Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Recent river- and conservation-related headlines

North of Fargo, they’re seeing Red. This story is close to my heart because I was raised on the Red River of the North, in Drayton, North Dakota. The spring flood has become an increasingly dangerous event there, as years of ditching and development to the south have led to more aggressive spring run-offs (and even unseasonal flooding). But to make matters worse, there is now a plan to re-route the floodwater around Fargo/Moorhead... complicating the situation for folks who live downstream (north) of that city. After all, the floodwater has to go somewhere. This is a great story of cause and effect… and a great reminder that it’s not nice to fool with Mother Nature. See the story here.

Recession impacts preservation… in a good way. Lots of organizations whose tactics include the purchase real estate to preserve important places are taking advantage of depressed land prices to make their move. See this story from the New York Times.

Fish fight. The Great Lakes states are feuding over the Asian Carp issue, according to another NY Times story. Michigan and other states are imploring Illinois to close the canals that could help the fish move from the Mississippi watershed into Lake Michigan. Click here for the scoop.

Air care. I’ve written in this space, recently, that the EPA is promising stricter enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Well, it looks like they’re taking their fight to the air, too, as they move to toughen standards for air pollution. Relative because almost everything we dump into the air is ground- and water-bound. Here’s the story.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Year-end report for Adopt-a-River

As a participant in Minnesota's Adopt-a-River program, I file a report with the DNR at the end of each season about the amount of trash that we've taken from the waterways we enjoy. This year, my haul was relatively small (compared to last year), which I blame on the move... and the health-related time-out I was forced to take in August and September.

Paul Nordell from the DNR responded to the report with a kind note, pointing out that there is merit in the effort; even if it has slowed, it has been steady:


Thanks for your report. It is always good to see persistence in the task. That is the ultimate goal of the program. Persistence is what changes things. Heroic results are always nice, but they are just flashes in the pan. Before AAR and its ilk enter an area, certain trash items remain on the landscape until nature itself either dissolves it, corrodes it, grows moss over it, buries it into a geologic strata, or simply washes or blows it away. If only a few items are out there, we think it is rustic, but when it is large, newly deposited, or appearing in great abundance, the damage to the view, the wildlife and the resource in general becomes clearly irritating. Thank you for reducing the irritation on our public waters. We [the Adopt-a-River program] have now tallied just over 5.7 million pounds of trash since 1989.

For the public waters,

Paul Nordell

About the same time, Eva Johnson from the DNR sent an email, noting our progress, specifically:

"...You have now removed 1,620 lbs over the course of 13 cleanups since your formal adoption began in early 2008."

Certainly, I should be able to clear the one ton mark by late spring.

© 2010 Mike Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Before I bid it farewell, a photo finish to 2009

Let me share a visual image of an experience I had on one hot July day last summer.

Not long after putting-in on the Crow River, near Hanover, I got hung-up in the rocks of some too-shallow rapids. Seeing any moment on the river as a privilege this year, the problem did not frustrate me. Instead of hurrying to climb out of the boat and move on, I just sat in my kayak, lodged in the rocks, and soaked-up the surroundings for a moment.

From that vantage point, I noticed a small doe, perhaps 150 to 200 yards downstream. It occurred to me that the breeze was coming from her direction, covering my scent… and the noise of the rapids was covering the sound I may have made paddling toward her. So, I dismantled my paddle and placed it in the boat… and then used my hands to “walk” the kayak out of my predicament on the rapids. Once loose, I ducked down a bit, took out my camera, and started shooting photos with one hand, while using my other hand to “rudder” toward the deer.

With this quiet approach, she allowed me to get within ten to twelve feet of her; close enough to note that she had been injured… probably by an automobile, as I could make out the grill marks on her rib cage. She did not dart away, but continued cooling herself in the river, until peaceably stepping up to the shoreline and into the woods. (Click on the photo above to enlarge, and then hit your “back” button to return.)

Having learned of a photo contest sponsored by the Joint Powers board of the Crow River Organization of Water (C.R.O.W.), I submitted the picture (along with some others)... and it won in the wildlife category. See the other winners by visiting the web site; the other categories include recreation, scenery/landscape, fishing, and unusual finds.

I’d like to salute Diane Saunder and the whole Crow River watershed organization for this really good example of conservation outreach. A simple photo contest? Perhaps. But it’s another way of getting more people to notice—and share—some great sights from a river that many people might otherwise take for granted.

© 2010 Mike Anderson, St. Michael, MN. All rights reserved.