Friday, February 19, 2010

In the past month, some folks are making history (in a good way)

One of the Pacific’s great waterways goes natural. I’ve been spending the off-season watching various sources for news about various conservation projects. One of the biggest—in history—might be this week’s story about the Klamath River, which is shared by Oregon and California. Interested parties have agreed to a $1.5 billion restoration project, which involves the removal of four dams, with the goal of restoring Salmon habitat. There was a lot of coverage, but I liked this story from the New York Times for its factual manner. Many of the other releases were from various groups claiming credit for the pact. The fact is, when something like this is accomplished, lots of people deserve credit. Another perspective is offered by the San Francisco Examiner.

How about an international win-win for British Columbia and Montana. The Flathead River Basin will be without mining as the future unfolds, due to an agreement between provincial, state and federal governments. This story is now probably more than a week old, but you can read more about it in this summary from Google.

Closer to home, I discovered a new site this week. Introducing the Lake Pepin Legacy Alliance… a group created last year with the goal of slowing the deterioration of this amazing water body on the upper Mississippi River. (The deterioration has to do with the deposit of sediment and fertilizing agents in the lake.) Their web site is interesting, but it is also useful, loaded with the kind of information that helps people understand both the science that impact water quality, as well as the laws which are intended to prevent the erosion of that water quality. Nice to meet you, LPLA.

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

Monday, February 15, 2010

From a natural point of view, sometimes headlines can look pretty stupid

Easier to prevent than repair. Industrial pollution dumped into the Hudson River decades ago arguably led to the whole environmental movement back in the late 60’s and 70’s. Still, nearly forty years later, the mess is being worked on. But dredging to remove PCBs from the river bottom is basically causing the harmful contaminants to be re-suspended in the water; a complication which is now being used by G.E. as a reason to suspend, stop or slow the clean-up. (I’m among those who would argue to the contrary; the complexity of this clean-up stands as proof that it should not be bequeathed to future generations to deal with.) See this story from the Poughkeepsie Journal.

The previous story makes me wonder how stories like this one can possibly be happening. A power plant in Vermont is apparently leaking an isotope that is “not as serious as some other isotopes are.” They don’t know where or why the material is leaking from the plant, and they have no intention of shutting the plant down while they look. Apparently, they’re afraid that if they shut the plant down, it won’t leak anymore, so they won’t be able to find…

Oh, never mind. For one of those stories that asks “how can this possibly happen,” click here to visit the Times Argus report.

I was struck by two articles in Sunday’s Minneapolis Star Tribune. One had to do with observations about the ability of some wildlife to hide in plain sight. The other was an example of people’s ability to hide their common sense and courtesy.

The first article was about an upcoming hearing of the Lake Minnetonka Conservation District; the group will hold a hearing to discuss whether the size of docks should be regulated on the heavily populated Lake Minnetonka. The question is whether large docks are killing aquatic weeds and flora. It was not the story, so much, that was unnerving, but the comment section, where a number of readers left less-than cordial remarks. (Click here to read the story.) I shouldn’t be surprised; the comments found under many stories at that site are intended more to amuse the contributor than to add perspective to an issue. But in this case, the name-calling and rudeness cannot even be called childish, as children are generally more polite and intelligent than that.

As for me, the story simply states that the Conservation District is looking into whether they should see if aquatic life is being harmed by large or numerous docks. If there is no harm, no one should have anything to worry about. If harm is discovered, they the group is simply dispatching the care they are charged with. My limited understanding of the matter is that landowners do not own lake property in this case… just the land that is adjacent to that lake. Navigable waters and certain wetlands are under the public domain, and nobody has the right to use those lands or waters in a manner which could compromise the publicly-owned resource. Disagree if you will, but please be more civil than those who left comments at the Strib website.

So as to leave on a positive note…

Bill Marchel’s story about the natural camouflage of owls, weasels, the snowshoe hare and other regional wildlife was brief but very good read. (Click here to read the story.) Again, I’m reminded that of all the wildlife I’ve seen, the number of critters that have seen me on a trip down the river or a walk through the woods is likely far greater.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2010

And the learning continues: Conservation news from all over

Considering the possibilities of a restored river. The Mississippi River has long been close to the heart of this project. So I enjoy staying in touch with the progress being made with regard to the renewed stewardship she seems to be getting lately. Here’s a recent update from the South Washington County Bulletin. What makes this project significant is that it considers the greater watershed, including the impact of water quality in the Vermillion and Minnesota Rivers, in relation to the Mississippi River and Lake Pepin downstream. I look forward to hearing more about this project, known as the Mississippi Makeover, as it flows along.

I enjoy reading any story that shares genuine appreciation for natural resources. And this story fits the bill, as written by Ed Godfrey for the Oklahoman. He is describing the Blue River in southern Oklahoma. Enjoy.

And this story makes it worthwhile to share a second item from Oklahoma. Read this piece from Tulsa World, about a young man who fully intends to explore the Grand Canyon and the Colorado River in spite of challenges like impaired vision and extreme sensitivity to sunlight.

Eco-tourism as economic development. I came across this story in the Wall Street Journal quite some time ago… but I’m just getting around to sharing it now. It’s about some rural villages in Cambodia that have turned he environment into an industry… protecting some really cool places, and giving the region a much-needed economic boost. It’s a long story, but it is fascinating.

The Friant Dam lets it flow. I’m still intrigued by the restoration efforts on the San Joaquin River. Here’s another story from ABC30 in Fresno.

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

Friday, February 5, 2010

Notes of interest worth some of your weekend

Recycling, simplified. One of the most frustrating thing about river clean-up is that, by nature, every chunk of trash in the water was utterly preventable pollution. (Especially the floatables!) That said, you’ll understand why I appreciate a website that was forwarded to me by friend Scott Bretey. The site is called “” It turns the task of recycling—even hard-to-recycle items, like electronics—into a more easy, convenient task. You type in the trash you’d like to recycle, along with your zip code, and it takes you to the most convenient options. Thanks for sharing, Scott!

Some pages of Mississippi River history. I stumbled across an interesting blog entry this week, a product (and project) of the Pennsylvania Historical Society. (Click here to take a look.) It gives us an idea of how young this part of the country really is, and how crude (but effective) early methods of measuring flooding and flow really were. I shared the link with my brother Kevin earlier, who happens to live in PA, and who has recently been studying some history about railroad crossings over the great river. In a response, he wrote that he enjoyed “…the subtlety of the colors in these old lithographs. And though they are just basic landscapes, there is something romantic about them. [It] was not that long ago at all that this continent was largely unexplored and unmapped. Compared to most of the world, we are a young nation still.”

Another story on river and habitat management. From the Deseret News, regarding the restoration of sand bars through artificial flooding. Gosh, I have to wonder whether human intervention is the more the source of the solution… or the problem. (I’m just sayin.’) Click here for more. I appreciate the work of the USGS. But long range problems like those being experienced now on the Colorado River and it’s tributaries… are precisely the kind of thing we should be very careful about the dams, dikes, levees and developments are built in the first place. I’m not here to judge… only to suggest great care in future development decisions which could alter where a river wants to go.

Let it flow, let it flow, let it flow. I’ve been watching progress as water is again released from the Friant Dam on the San Joaquin River in California. Here’s a story from an ABC affiliate KFSN-TV in Fresno about the resumption of flows earlier this week.

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

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If conservation starts with appreciation, some great things are starting upstream on the Crow River

Since moving to St. Michael, I've met a number of new friends who are involved with the task of conservation, through a wide variety of projects. I'd like to introduce you to one of those people... and a project that has effectively connected hundreds of youth with the outdoors.

The group is called "The Crow River Trail Guards," and it was founded in 1992 by Paynesville resident Tom Koshiol.

Rather than explain this program to you, I'm going to suggest that you visit the Trail Guards website (, after watching this fantastic video produced by and aired on Life to the Max:

When you consider how Mr. Koshiol has influenced so many young people to connect with their natural surroundings... you can only conclude that the impact of this project is beyond measure.

Thanks, Tom.