A heartbreaking change (Five by 8 – 9/01/10)

1) A heartbreaking change. Being that I grew up outside of Duluth, I’ve spent my share of summer vacations in the Boundary Waters in northeast Minnesota. I learned how to paddle a canoe in the BWCAW’s icy clear waters, and more recently, taught others how to do the same.


Pine trees along (and in) the Isabella River this spring.

While the lakes of the Boundary Waters aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, its tall pine trees very well could be on their way out. As U of M ecologist Lee Frelich told a reporter in yesterday’s Star Tribune, a “perfect storm” of wind storms, invasive species (including earthworms), and climate change will lead to the “‘savannafication’ of many northern areas, which will become grasslands with scattered trees and brush rather than forests, and will resemble parts of central Iowa or even Missouri.”

Not exactly what I think of when I get the itch to drive north again.

In an earlier, similar study (pdf), Frelich warns:

“Letting nature take its course would likely lead to a scrubby, species-poor landscape. If maintaining a diverse, tree-dominated landscape is a priority, then large-scale regional assisted migration of new species into the BWCAW will be required.”

Paradoxically, wilderness management policies do not allow for the large-scale intervention Frelich calls for. When the wilderness acts were passed that protected the BWCAW in the 1960s and 1970s, “…it was widely believed that natural processes and species would remain intact within wilderness area,” Frelich writes.

So what is a conifer-loving outdoors enthusiast to do? Appreciate the change we apparently will see in the coming years, Frelich told Minnpost last month.

Related: I can’t leave you on that down note. Here’s some BWCAW-related humor, via the Duluth News Tribune’s Sam Cook.

2) Anti-social behavior on social media. President Barack Obama addressed the nation last night, saying that it is “time to turn the page” on Iraq. Seems like a topic ripe for conversation, yes?

I recommend you avoid the Facebook pages of a few major news organizations if you are looking for worthwhile discussion.


What is the key to starting a good discussion online? In my experience, it’s asking a direct, relevant question and staying involved in the ensuing conversation. Bob likes to brag that News Cut readers are a smart bunch, so let’s give it a try. Is combat really over for troops in Iraq? Read the AP’s take, then leave a comment below.

3) The continued rise of the tea party. Last night, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, conceded the Republican primary to tea party-backed Joe Miller, The Washington Post reports. Miller was relatively unknown until Sarah Palin offered her endorsement.

By conceding, Murkowski becomes the third incumbent senator to lose re-nomination this year and the second to lose a primary. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) lost a primary in April, while Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) fell at his party’s May convention.

I’m no expert as to what is going to happen in Minnesota’s political races this November, but if you’d like to go beyond the horse race coverage and learn a little bit about each candidate’s stance on issues, keep an eye on MPR’s Select a Candidate. We have a good list of issues in the governor’s race, and will be adding more races as the election nears.

4) For the thrift-store shopper. From PRI’s The World:

“Many of the things we buy come fresh out of the box, new and glistening. But get something second-hand, and that object has lived out at least one life with somebody else before you even see it. What would it be like to get a glimpse of that other life?”

Go ahead, give it a listen.

5) It’s a good thing that power outage at the Minnesota State Fair happened yesterday, and not last week. That’s when Duluth roots musician Charlie Parr sat down with The Current’s Mary Lucia.


Photo from Flickr user Kmeron

Parr plays a free show in Duluth most every week; if you want to find out where and when, you’ll just have to listen:

And you really should. After all, he’s huge in New Zealand.

Bonus: Bob is continuing his dutiful work at the State Fair today; make sure you stop by and say hello to him and the rest of the MPR crew if you find yourself at our booth at the corner of Judson and Nelson.

  • Not exactly what I think of when I get the itch to drive north again.

    Seconded. I love the pine forest of the north and will be sad to see it fade away over the next years and decades.

  • bsimon

    “Is combat really over for troops in Iraq?”

    If combat means playing an offensive role, then yes, combat is ‘really over’. But if it includes defensive actions, then, no; US forces will still be encountering hostile fire. So the milestone is important, in that it delineates a change in mission; but it would be a mistake for Americans to interpret that to mean that we won’t see any more casualties in Iraq.