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Izaak Walton League of America

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  • 04/07/2019 2:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto

    Spring brings a welcome explosion of operatic natural sounds. As daylight lengthens and temperatures rise, each day brings new voices from a huge cast of living organisms communicating about the most important things in their lives: feeding, defending territory, reproducing, and avoiding predators. Most of us look forward to hearing the overhead honking of geese, the trilling of red winged blackbirds returning to their wetland marshes and choruses of spring peepers chirping in ephemeral ponds. All these familiar sounds are aural evidence of emerging voices joining the opera that unfolds each spring. However, there is so much more going on in nature than we can ascertain with our naked ears.

    Soundscape Ecology is a new field of study that explores the acoustic relationships between living organisms, humans and other sounds of our natural and built environment. It allows us to probe deeper into the deeper complexities of our soundscapes. And, through scientific monitoring, scientists can monitor a place’s natural soundscape to determine a measure of its ecosystem health.

    Scientists categorize sound as arising out of 3 sources:

    • “Biophony” sounds created by living things;
    • “Anthrophony” sounds created by human activity like the sounds of traffic, airplanes and radios; and,
    • “Geophony” sounds created by non-living sources like weather, wind and water.

    By using scientific methodology and collecting sound recordings from sensitive outdoor microphones, acoustic spectrograms can be evaluated and analyzed. Analysis of acoustic spectrograms can tell us about the well being of vocal individual organisms and the overall quality of biological diversity and ecological community health in an area. Such soundscape methodologies have led to new insights into the complex communications in nature both intra and inter species.

    I find it fascinating that there are many sounds occurring around us that we are not biologically capable of hearing. Sound frequency is measured in hertz (hz). A hertz is defined as one wave cycle per second. Human hearing starts at around 20 hz and tops out at about 20,000 hz; with best hearing range between 1,000 -5000 hz the range of human speech. (Perhaps that is why we love to hear ourselves talk!) So, for example, despite all your efforts to learn to listen better, you will still not be able to hear the ultrasonic sounds of bats emitting at about 110,000 hz or the sound of earth worms boring beneath your feet.

    But, even though high tech sound monitoring tools are not available for casual naturalists, if you listen more attentively, you can train yourself to hear much more. Unplug from your cell phone and ear-buds and try listening for the more subtle sounds of spring. Some studies claim that you can sharpen your sense of hearing by listening to music, especially alternating genres that are clearly distinct from one another. I find that actively listening can be cultivated by just finding a comfortable “sit spot” which I repeatedly return to at dawn and dusk. My favorite is out front of my house near my bird feeders (with a glass of wine in the evenings!) where I go to sit and listen with my eyes closed for about 10-15 minutes each sit. It is a meditation of sorts, but I promise you that it will put you more in touch with your soundscape.

    Izaak Walton would tell us “study to be quiet”. Let’s all commit to listening more carefully this Spring!

  • 03/05/2019 7:31 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto

    Sheltering myself from the biting January wind blowing across the flat expanse of what used to be endless native prairie, I crouch behind a huge Buffalo Rubbing Rock at Jeffers Petroglyphs. Jeffers Petroglyphs is located in southwestern Minnesota about 2.5 hours from the Twin Cities. Large rocks like this were used by buffalo to rub against to rid themselves of molting heavy winter coats and scratch irritating bug bites. The Rubbing Rock that I am leaning against is a huge glacial boulder, about 10 feet high, polished to a high sheen by the rubbing of countless American Plains Bison over the many years before they were driven to near extinction by the late 1800s. I grow somber thinking about the alarming rate that many other species across the globe are following the path of the buffalo towards extinction.

    The Rubbing Rock stands as a steadfast reminder along a trail through a small restored prairie at Jeffers. This Rock looks as though it came from outer space, an erratic, dropped atop the horizontal outcropping of pink Sioux quartzite by retreating glaciers millions of years ago. Jeffers Petroglyphs is a part of the Minnesota Historical Society’s network of historic sites. The horizontal rock outcroppings inscribed with pictorial petroglyphs from pre-contact Native Americans earn Jeffers Petroglyphs its name.

    Geologically striking places like Jeffers were deeply spiritual to Native Americans who believed that they were portals to the spiritual world. So, perhaps it is not surprising that I would feel haunted by the ghosts of the thunderous herds of Buffalo who once made these endless prairie lands of North America their home. I cannot help but think that there must be some deep wisdom to be learned from the spirit Buffalo as I sit huddled beside the Rock.

    Let’s clear up some confusion: there is no difference in North America between the American Plains Bison, the name scientists prefer, and the more generic “buffalo”. It is the same animal. Within the proverbial historical blink of an eye, almost 10 million Buffalo were hunted and driven to near extinction starting in the 1600s when Native Americans began to hunt buffalo on horseback, followed by the push of early U.S. settlers on the east coast buffalo range, to the loss of grass land habitat caused by droughts, and the plow for farming. The final slaughter occurred after the Civil War when the rail-roads were developing and buffalo were slaughtered by the millions to meet European demand for hides and just hunted for wasteful sport. We obliterated the species.

    Ironically, by the time President Theodore Roosevelt (determined to make U.S. coins more attractive) had the Buffalo/Indian Head nickel designed and minted between the years 1913-1938, the buffalo herds had disappeared and only about 1,000 buffalo are believed to have survived in the U.S. Adding further insult to injury, the buffalo image on the coin is reputed to have been modeled after a large ornery captive male buffalo named “Black Diamond” who resided at the Bronx Zoo in New York. Perhaps it is more historically accurate to regard the buffalo nickel as a “memorial token” to a species extinction.

    If the Buffalo, such an iconic symbol of our Nation’s great American west, could be hunted to the brink of extinction, what hope do other much less noticeable and less charismatic animals have today under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA)? And, with the Trump Administration’s assault on the ESA, there is even more reason to be disheartened. In the spring of 2018, there were no fewer than six Congressional bills pending aimed at gutting the protections of the ESA, ranging from undermining the scientific listing process of getting a species on the endangered species list to thwarting new listings based upon economic analysis based on projected losses to lumber, ranching, mining and other special interests. Nevertheless, we must not give up and lose hope. Environmental legislative battles are not won overnight; they are waged over many years. We Ikes are known for our tenacity to fight long term environmental wars. The spirit Buffalo urge us to remain vigilant about proposed changes to the ESA that weaken protections.

    While the American Plains Bison is neither on the Federal Endangered Species list, nor Minnesota’s Endangered and Threatened Species Act, it is “ecologically extinct” meaning that the species can not exist on its own without assistance from man. Buffalo need prairie grasses to graze to survive. At one time prairie habitat covered about one-third of the Minnesota. Unfortunately, today, little more than 1% of Minnesota’s prairie exist in fragmented parcels.

    Minnesota is proud to have approximately 140 Buffalo who are “wards of the State” in the Minnesota Bison Conservation Herd (MBCH). In 2012, the Minnesota DNR and Minnesota Zoo partnered together on establishing this Herd for the “public good”. The MBCH is an effort to maintain the high-quality genetics of at least the few remaining Buffalo survivors in Minnesota. It is managed at 3 different sites: Blue Mounds State Park, Minneopa State Park and the Minnesota Zoo. Additionally, a growing number of private landowners in Minnesota have begun to maintain small herds of Buffalo after learning about the benefit of buffalo to soil health and their important ecological role in the grassland environmental community.

    We must never forget the plight of the Buffalo.

    Images courtesy (from top) Minnesota Historical Society, Wikipedia, National Park Service.

  • 01/02/2019 7:54 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto, Chapter Historian

    Recently, I visited the new Bell Museum at the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul Campus in Falcon Heights. The Museum has reinvented itself from its cramped, dark and poorly accessible former home at the University’s main campus. With a construction and relocation budget of almost $80 million plus lots of creative thought, the Bell Museum has been transformed into a world class natural history museum of which Minnesotans can be proud. There is so much to learn and explore at the Bell for all ages, but it’s the Museum’s amazing wildlife dioramas that will transport you to another place!

    The Museum was originally created by the Minnesota legislature in 1872 to preserve a record of our State’s birds, wildlife, plant life and geology. It was named after James Ford Bell, the founder of General Mills and an early conservationist. The late 1800s were a time of ecological exploitation and rampant disregard for protecting the environment. Our buffalo herds (originally 25-30 million) across the Great Plains were slaughtered almost to extinction by the late 1800s. And, our skies were no longer blackened by passenger pigeons flying overhead. The women’s millinery (hat) trade alone wiped out millions of birds during this dark period. Even back then, people were becoming alarmed about the loss of habitat and polluted waters.

    Early naturalists like Minnesota’s famed birder, T.S. Roberts, and several young colleagues formed an informal group called “The Youth Naturalist Society” who collected nests, eggs and birds for the Museum’s first collections. They hunted and killed birds and wildlife. During these years, “shotgun ornithology” was the accepted collection practice for the Museum since there was an absence of legislation protecting birds and wildlife.

    Before dioramas, early natural history museums were uninspiring “dead zoos” of stuffed animal skins and dusty cabinets full of curious natural history collections. For those that are not familiar with dioramas, they are three-dimensional realistic life size views of nature enclosed by glass with naturalistically painted foregrounds and backgrounds that were very popular in the 1890s. Backgrounds painted on a slightly curved surface provide a perspective that allow viewers a sense of immersion in the scene depicted. Taxidermied animals posed in groups exhibiting natural behaviors make the scene come to life. The Bell Museum’s Dioramas are world class amazing works of both art and cultural history. The fine attention to detail in the Bell Dioramas is amazing having been painted and prepared by famous naturalists/artists of the times: Walter Breckenridge (an Izaak Walton League Member with a Izaak Walton Chapter named after him) and Francis Lee Jaques (illustrator of many of Sigurd Olson’s books, also the namesake of a Chapter). Originally, the purpose of natural history dioramas was to educate the public about the growing need for habitat conservation in a museum setting. Over 100 years later, the Bell Museum is still continuing that mission. The Bell’s Dioramas have been refreshed and audio sound tracks and other interactivity have been added to further enhance the experience.

    The story of the Bell Museum’s Dioramas, how they were made and how they were painstakingly moved from the old building to the new Bell is fascinating and is the subject of the co-production Twin Cities PBS-TPT/Bell Museum’s film: “Windows to Nature” (26 min). View it on-line free by clicking here

    Over 45 years ago, my mother took me to see the magnificent Akeley Hall of African Mammals at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. The experience profoundly changed my thinking about the world. The Akeley Hall Dioramas taught me that the world was a phenomenally beautiful and diverse place. My curiosity was kindled about far-away places that I could then only dream about. As I recently walked through the Bell Museum, I stopped and observed some young girls standing quietly in front of a large diorama of the shore of Lake Pepin (Sand Point at Frontenac State Park) showcasing a large assortment of birds calling to one another with the stunning beauty of the surrounding bluff lands across the expanse of the Mississippi River in the background. I recognized the same look of awe and wonder in their eyes! For children and nature lovers of all ages, we highly recommend a visit to the new Bell Museum!

    Lake Pepin- Background by Frances Lee Jaques, Foreground by Walter Breckenridge, Photo by Tom Nelson, University of Minnesota

    Lake Pepin Diorama Bell Museum Tom Nelson

  • 11/30/2018 8:59 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto

    Ikes (Izaak Walton League members) have passed on their Legacy of loyalty and commitment to the ideals and mission of the Izaak Walton League for almost 100 years. The more Ikes that I meet, the more I am reminded about how important the League has been to members who feel compelled to pass on their outdoor heritage and Legacy in the League to their family and friends. But, it seems that there are more challenges today than ever before with passing the torch to our next generation of Ikes. Speaking from personal experience, being married with two daughters, finding time as a family to be outdoors requires lots of planning and prioritizing to work around busy schedules and endless other options competing for free time.

    A “legacy” is defined by Webster’s Dictionary generally to mean something that is transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor from the past. Someone who I can’t remember once said: “It is what we leave in them that matters most. Possessions and wealth do not a true legacy make.”

    With this in mind, I think about what I can do to pass on my Ike’s Legacy. If you were to speak to my family and friends, they would likely relate a funny story: sitting for hours in a blind at Crex Meadows outside of Grantsburg, Wisconsin in the wee hours of the morning to see male sharp-tail grouse do his courtship dance, a spring expedition to Rainey River on a grey windy day bobbing in a small boat getting seasick while waiting for the behemoth sturgeon to bite, or our multiday dogsledding and camping expedition outside of Ely on a subzero February weekend when my family almost became human popsicles. We all have stories like these that we laugh about, retell over and over, and which over time become bigger than they were in reality. It is these shared memories of outdoor experiences that pass on our Ike’s passion to advocate for our natural world and allow us to pass on our Legacy. All it takes is time, planning and a non-selfish attitude to invite someone with less experience and skills to join you on such outdoor adventures.

    Those of us with hunting and fishing traditions may have an easier time of passing the torch. The annual duck hunt, deer hunt, or fishing trip is firmly ingrained in many family/extended family traditions. These multi-day activities create intergenerational social glue which forms the fertile grounds for Legacies to be created arising out of shared deep connections to nature and the outdoors. But, even for those who do not have hunting and fishing traditions, there are so many other opportunities that allow for intergenerational outdoor experiences: foraging for wild mushrooms and berries, nature photography, long distance hiking, snow-shoeing, cross-country skiing, or canoeing. And for those less physically active, perhaps a family trip to a nearby nature center, a road trip up to northern Minnesota to Sax-Zim Bog to go owling (looking for owls), or a spring expedition to the Platte River in Nebraska to witness the amazing Sandhill Crane and Snow Goose migration. The list can go on and on.

    And, for those non-sporting traditionalists, there are endless ways to make an activity unique and “Instagram worthy.” Why not rent a “princess palace” ice house on Lake Mille Lacs with curtains and a flat screen tv and plan a poetry reading with chocolate fondue and champagne? (Don’t judge, I grew up in Brooklyn, New York and that’s how I ice fish!) The times may require more creative hooks to entice less outdoorsy people to venture outside. And, I think it really helps to be open to using modern technology and nature related phone apps to bridge the generational gap.

    Heading into the holidays is the perfect time to give some thought to what you are doing to pass on your Ike Legacy. The gift of time spent outdoors as a role model or mentor to friends and family by inviting them to join you on an outdoor adventure will be far more memorable than another raft of wrapped presents under the tree. Or, what about gifting an Izaak Walton League membership to a friend or family member? The intangible memories and lessons that we pass on to others in the outdoors is part of being an Ike. I urge you to take some time to think about your Ike’s Legacy. If we don’t, we run the risk of there being no one to hand the torch to when we are gone.

    And, speaking of not being around forever, please do not forget the Izaak Walton League Bush Lake Chapter in your year-end charitable giving and estate planning. With so many funding cutbacks, your generous gift is more meaningful than ever before. Here’s to a Happy Holiday Season and many new adventures in the New Year!

  • 10/27/2018 10:32 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto

    Fall is a fabulous time to switch up your foliage tradition and view the leaf colors at our often forgotten statewide Scientific and Natural Areas (“SNAs”).   There are 168 SNAs scattered around the State of Minnesota and several in the Twin Cities metro area.  Minnesota’s first SNAs were established by the Minnesota Legislature in 1969 to preserve and protect unique lands and waters that have natural features, plants and animals of exceptional scientific and educational value. SNAs are public lands that offer some of the best of what Minnesota has to offer in the natural world. They offer opportunities for solitude and exploration off the beaten trail.

    Scientific & Natural Areas in our region. MNDNR 

    Ikes have always advocated for the establishment and protection of public lands, so in keeping with this tradition on National Public Land’s Day (Sept. 22nd), I decided to visit Lost Valley Prairie SNA in Hastings. I volunteered with a small group of like -minded folks collecting prairie seeds at this remarkable remnant prairie. I have driven past Hastings many times, but never knew that Lost Valley Prairie even existed.  What a hidden gem!  A beautiful bedrock bluff prairie featuring a series of limestone ridges and original prairie swales.


    Lost Valley does have a trail (SNAs frequently don’t) but like most other SNAs there is neither drinking water, nor restrooms. There was only minimal signage along with a small kiosk with a map and some information about the unique features of the SNA. 


    But, everything you need to know to get started can be found at the Minnesota DNR’s website:  https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/snas/index.html  The names, locations, and short descriptions of all of Minnesota’s SNAs,  along with area maps with how to access and where to park are all on-line. Consider getting involved in volunteer work and special events at an SNA. And, several SNAs are looking for a Site Steward. Site Steward applications are on-line and serving simply requires that you visit the site about once a month and submit observations 4X per year. Sounds like a dream volunteer job assignment to me.  There is also a great non-profit organization, Friends of Minnesota Scientific & Natural Areas, which was formed to advocate for the establishment, use, management, and perpetuation of Minnesota's SNAs in an undisturbed natural state. Many Ikes are involved in this organization- check them out and support their efforts here: www.snafriends.org

    SNAs are open all year round, but parking and access roads may not be regularly maintained/plowed.  Great snowshoe and cross country ski opportunities!  Bring a compass or GPS and be sure to access the DNR’s website for maps before you leave home in case your cell coverage is weak at the location. Be safe and don’t forget to wear your blaze orange during hunting seasons since many SNAs allow hunting. Leave your berry and mushroom baskets home because picking/harvesting is allowed only at a few areas. 

    Do your part as an Ike and help support our SNAs in Minnesota!  

    I am headed next to Wolsfeld Woods in Long Lake, a remnant Big Woods tract that should have some beautiful autumn colors. And, then on to Savage Fen in Scott County for a change of scenery.  Hoping I’ll bump into you at a SNA soon!   

  • 08/08/2018 8:13 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By Louise Segreto

    Watching the fierce green fire die in the eyes of a wolf that he had mindlessly hunted and shot in a remote Arizona rim rock canyon, Aldo Leopold had an epiphany. He came to the realization that humans have a moral responsibility to the natural world. Because we are a part of the broader natural community consisting of the complex interrelationships between soils, water, plants and animals (collectively, the land), we have an ethical duty to care about preserving and safeguarding the relationships to the land. This way of thinking was a major departure from the then accepted widespread mindset in the U.S., that humans must dominate the wild and that all that is wild should solely serve man for utilitarian purposes.

    Over the years, Leopold (1887-1948) a trained forester, conservationist, educator, philosopher and writer, refined his thoughts into a Land Ethic that needs to be rekindled in our troubled times of environmental assaults and looming environmental threats.  His timeless book of essays, “A Sand County Almanac”, published in 1949, is both a seasonal account of Leopold’s keen nature observations on a worn -out, 80 acre, farm outside of Baraboo, Wisconsin. Here he lived with his family for years, working with the land to restore it to ecological health. “A Sand County Almanac” is an impassioned plea for a wilderness philosophy and our need for a sustainable land ethic. 


    Join us for two evenings to learn more about Aldo Leopold!


    On Thursday, September 13 at 6:30 PM at the Bush Lake Chapter Lodge we will  screen the Emmy Award winning film: “Green Fire” (approx. 60 min).  “Green Fire” explores the life and legacy of Aldo Leopold and the many ways that his land ethic lives on in the work of people and organizations all over the country


    Chapter historian, Louise Segreto, will introduce the film and lead the first session of a two evening Ike’s Green Reads book discussion about “A Sand County Almanac”.  The second discussion evening will be held on another Thursday evening in October- date to be announced. 

  • 07/05/2018 5:12 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto

    Millions of acres of our public lands in southern Utah’s Redrock country are under attack. The risk of losing these world class wilderness lands is a National issue, not just a Utah issue. IKE’s have always advocated for public lands. And, as both an American and member of the IWL, you have a voice about conserving these lands for generations to come. The future of the Redrock wilderness rests upon the shoulders of all of us!

    The assault started in December of 2017 when Trump proclaimed a roll back in protections shrinking Bears Ears Monument by 2 million acres (an 85% reduction) and Grand Staircase-Escalante Monument by 1 million acres (almost a 50% reduction).  Both Monuments are strategically located very close to our National Parks:  Capitol Reef, Canyonlands, and Arches. This sensitive and unique area is our largest last remaining wilderness area in America. Making matters worse, several Utah politicians jumped on the Trump Administration’s land grab bandwagon. Utah Senator Orrin Hatch and Utah Republican Representatives Rob Bishop, Curtis, and Stewart are attempting to push through three different legislative bills to seize management of these lands to benefit: the energy industry, off-road vehicle users, livestock grazing, and mining interests. These uses and the spider network of roads that would ensue will have disastrous effects. Once lost, these lands will be gone forever.

    But, many Americans are pushing back hard to resist these changes. Including, at least five native American Tribes who have joined together to fight back to save their sacred lands in Bears Ears. Multiple legal suits are pending to block Trump’s unlawful use of the Antiquities Act and the U.S. Constitution to slash protections for the two Monuments.  And, as a back drop to the 2017 set -backs, coalitions of citizen activists and conservation groups have been working tirelessly for years to gain congressional support for the visionary proposed “America’s Red Rock Wilderness Act (ARRWA).” If passed, the ARRWA would protect 9,000,000 acres of Utah Wilderness.  


    What can you do to learn more? 


    ·          Consider joining the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), a non-partisan, non-profit organization whose mission is to defend Utah’s Redrock wilderness.  Check out their web-site:  www.suwa.org or on Facebook


    ·          Get involved with Minnesota Friends for Utah Wilderness, a coalition of people and groups here in Minnesota who are advocating for Redrock  wilderness protections.  Check them out on Facebook.


    Having just returned from spending several days this June at SUWA’s Redrock Grassroots Leadership retreat outside of Boulder Utah, I recognize that the battle to save these public lands will not be won quickly. Nevertheless, as the sun sinks over the vast Redrock canyonlands to the song of a cactus wren trilling, I feel compelled to Stand up and fight for Southern Utah’s Public Lands and I hope you do too! 

  • 05/21/2018 7:58 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    By Doug Claycomb, Outdoor Ethics Chair  

    May is a beautiful month in Minnesota. As the wildflowers pop and the tom turkeys strut, May is the month for morel hunting. It offers a perfect excuse to get out into the spring woods just in the nick of time before the mosquitoes arrive. The morel is a delicious wild mushroom found throughout the state, including the Twin Cities. Of course, a reasonable amount of prudence is necessary when harvesting wild mushrooms. But fear of dying should not be a reason to refrain from mushroom hunting. What are the chances? Besides, it makes for a great introduction to your obituary: “ate the wrong mushroom.”

    Nancy and I are hardly professional mycologists but we do enjoy getting out in the woods after these long Minnesota winters. We hunt morels every spring and we do it right here in Bloomington. There are literally hundreds of little patches of woods in the city and most of them, if searched, will render morels.

    Hunting morels is like fishing--you have to be ready to come back empty-handed, time after time, until you start to figure out how to do it. And even then, you’ll get skunked half the time. If you don’t have the disposition to find enjoyment in the serendipity of the sublime--like a colorful insect, beautiful sunset, ebullient flock of geese, or just the smell of damp leaves and soil--then morel hunting is probably not a good fit for you. Otherwise, keep reading.

    Fear of death keeps many of us from participating in this fantastic outdoor activity--and it shouldn’t. Sure, there are lots of “iffy” mushrooms which you need to be an expert to harvest. But the morel is relatively easy to identify. It is considered a “beginner mushroom” because it is not easily confused with dangerous ones. And it is also one of the most delectable and plentiful mushrooms the woods offers. If you like mushrooms, you will love morels--especially after you find them yourself. Here’s how to do it.

    Morels are available for only a few weeks each year--usually in May in this part of Minnesota. So the most important thing to do is to get out and get looking--don’t let the season pass. There are some natural indicators of morel time. They emerge at about the same time the dandelions first go to seed and the lilacs bloom. Also, morels tend to emerge a day or two after a rain when the nights are warm. If you find morels a few days too late, they’ll be brittle, ugly, bug-ridden and crumbly. Harvest them anyway. They all taste the same.  There is no such thing as a bad-tasting morel. 

    Identification of morels is relatively easy. Purchase a good field guide and use it. Other than false morels, which are easy to distinguish using 100 Edible Mushrooms by Michael Kuo, nothing else looks like a morel in Minnesota in May. A couple rules of thumb: morels are always entirely hollow inside (stem and cap form one continuous hollow chamber), they are never slimy, gooey, or sticky, they grow from the ground (never from a log or stump) and they have a fresh “earthy” mushroom smell (not foul or pungent).

    Where to hunt morels is every mushroom hunter’s secret. Nobody divulges their favorite spots, so you will have to find your own. With persistence, and several outings, you should be able to find success the first year you try. The darned things have a tendency to pop up almost anywhere--sometimes even in suburban lawns. Here are a few tips to get you started. They are almost always found in association with trees--especially recently cut, burned, or disturbed woods.  I often find luck near recently deceased trees--especially diseased elms with bark just beginning to peel. In general, just walk around the woods with your head down, scanning the ground. Eventually, they’ll show up. I promise. When you finally do find one, keep looking in the same area for more. There will usually be more. Morels are almost never solitary. Cut them off at ground level with a sharp knife and carry them home gently in a basket or sack. When bringing your haul out of the woods, conceal the bounty. Nosey people are everywhere. You don’t want competition.

    If you find a hot spot, return every few days. More morels sometimes emerge! After a few years, you’ll have several secret spots. Return to these spots but continue to find new ones. You’ll need new spots as old ones grow cold. Of course, make sure you have permission to hunt mushrooms on private property and consult the rules on public land.

    When done hunting, take them into the kitchen for preparation. Pare away any attached dirt and cut each morel in half lengthwise. Doing this, you not only verify that each one is completely hollow inside (if not hollow, it’s not a morel--throw away), but also allow the multitude of critters (especially pill bugs) to escape. Toss the halved morels into cold water and gently agitate them to release the sand and grit. Washed fresh morels are ready to be either cooked or dehydrated. 

    Unlike store-bought mushrooms, all wild mushrooms must be cooked before eaten. There are hundreds of on-line recipes, but I like it simple. I take clean, cut-up morels and sauté them in butter for maybe a minute at most. Don’t over-cook morels. They release a lot of water in the pan and I use it as the base of a white sauce by adding a milk-flour mixture, cooking another minute until bubbly, then salt and pepper to taste. That’s it! I pour the whole concoction over toast. Mmmm!

    If you have a really good foray and come home with too many morels, dehydrate them. A warm oven will work but a food dehydrator works best. Dried morels will keep for years in an airtight container. This way, you can enjoy morels any time of year. To rehydrate them, soak in a bowl of warm water for an hour or so and they are ready to cook. The water used to rehydrate them will turn to a brown liquor--a delicious base for mushroom gravy, broth or sauce. Enjoy!

    For more information:

    Kuo, Michael. 2007. 100 Edible Mushrooms. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.







  • 02/27/2018 9:23 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    DNR comments due March 6thhttp://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ polymet/permitting/ptm.html   MPCA comments due March 16th:   https://www.pca.state. mn.us/northmet

    See below for comment suggestions!

    The foreign PolyMet Mining Corporation has proposed to dig the first ever copper-sulfide mine in Minnesota on Superior National Forest lands, threatening local water supplies, the Lake Superior watershed, and downstream residents. Communities at risk include some of the largest populations in Northeast Minnesota – Duluth, Cloquet, and the Fond du Lac Reservation.


            Sulfide mining is highly dangerous and has been called “America’s most toxic industry” by the EPA, carrying much greater risks than iron ore mining, with a 100% track record of pollution. Toxic seepage from PolyMet’s copper-nickel sulfide mine pits, tailings, and other wastes containing sulfate and toxic heavy metals would last for centuries, if not forever. PolyMet's own environmental impact statement concedes that water treatment at the plant site would be required for 500 years.

            Pollution would contaminate Hoyt Lakes’ drinking water, the Embarrass, Partridge & St. Louis Rivers, kill downstream wild rice, and increase mercury contamination of fish.



            The DNR’s draft permit would allow PolyMet to use the same wet slurry tailings storage method that resulted in a catastrophic collapse and devastating pollution at the Mount Polley mine in British Columbia, Canada, even though better and safer technologies are available. A tailings dam failure would threaten downstream populations, including Duluth, Cloquet & the Fond du Lac Reservation.

            The recent tailings basin disasters of Canada’s Mount Polley dam in 2014 and Brazil's Fundao dam in 2015, whose toxic waste flowed over 400 miles downstream, demonstrate that large-scale mine dam failures are not only possible, but likely.



            The grade of the ore is less than 1%, resulting in 99% waste rock and tailings. A sulfide-mining district across Northeastern Minnesota would ultimately destroy and degrade the headwaters of Lake Superior, as well as the Boundary Waters and Mississippi River watersheds.

            The DNR draft permit would allow PolyMet to appropriate 6.175 billion gallons per year of water and drain the headwaters of the Partridge River. DNR draft permits don’t protect surface water, groundwater or the Lake Superior Basin.


            The DNR has estimated that mine closure and centuries of water treatment would cost more than$1 billon. But the DNR proposes that PolyMet would get a permit to mine by guaranteeing less than 10% of that amount up front, with almost no insurance for spills or dam collapse.

            Even though mining companies are supposed to provide financial assurance for clean up, the record from other states shows that cleanup costs exceed projections, with taxpayers footing the bill. In addition, financial assurance does not prevent the destruction of forests, wetlands, water quality, wildlife habitat, scenic areas, and biodiversity. Financial assurance does not cover catastrophic mine disasters such as those that occurred at Mount Polley in Canada and the Fundao dam collapse in Brazil which killed 19 people.


            Sulfates directly contribute to the methylation of mercury, with resulting fish consumption advisories. The old LTV taconite property purchased by PolyMet is already leaching sulfates and other metals into the watershed.

            In addition to an acute potential for Acid Mine Drainage (AMD) and the discharge of heavy metals to the St. Louis River watershed, the PolyMet mine would discharge sulfates at a level that could decimate wild rice stands downstream. Wild rice holds critical importance for Minnesota’s Native American tribes, and the St. Louis River watershed flows through tribal lands.


            PolyMet is pushing the false narrative that reverse osmosis technology can solve pollution problems. PolyMet cites no example where reverse osmosis has been used at a similar scale to control mining pollution.  

            A 2012 news release by PolyMet noted that in their pilot reverse osmosis test, they did not use actual sulfide mining wastewater.

            Perhaps most important, pollution that seeps into groundwater from mine pits, tailings, and wastes would never be treated. MPCA permits don’t control any pollution that seeps from groundwater into wetlands and streams.


            Permitting of the PolyMet mine would open the door to a flood of sulfide mine applications, setting the stage for an extreme extraction economy in Northern Minnesota.

            In the words of former Iron Range mine electrician Bob Tammen, “The coal mining industry is destroying West Virginia from the top down as it goes after dirty coal by mountain topping. The copper mining industry will destroy Minnesota from the bottom up as it degrades our ground water and surface water by mining in our lakes, rivers, and wetlands…. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, mining is less than 1 percent of Minnesota’s economy. Instead of destroying our wetlands, we should diversify our Range economy.”

  • 02/09/2018 1:01 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    by Louise Segreto

    Let’s admit it, sitting down to read “The Compleat Angler” can be very intimidating.  This revered book written by Izaak Walton and first published in 1653 is often cited, but seldom read today.  For good reason, I have over the years tried with solid resolve on severval occasions and given up…until just recently, when I changed my approach and finally did read it.  Now I understand why this literary masterpiece has inspired so many people over the centuries. 

    Here are 10 practical  tips to make your reading “The Compleat Angler” (the “Book”) fun, informative and relevant:

    1.       Say the title: “The Compleat Angler” out loud with authority.  Get over the archaic spelling of “compleat.”  It is just the old English spelling of “complete.” And, for that matter, relax and read or better yet skim at least 20 pages of the book before you put it down in defeat.  It is a lot like reading Shakespeare- go with the flow of the verse and prose.  And, just as you begin to get a bit lost, you will come upon a philosophical thought, a brilliant adage, or a keen observation by the master naturalist, Izaak Walton.   

    2.       Consider the historical context of when Izaak Walton wrote.  Just several years before the book was published, the English King, Charles I, was executed and the monarchy overthrown.  The Puritan movement with its austerity and religious extremism was in full swing.  Walton was about 60 years old when the book was published. He was a royalist (supported the monarchy) and a Christian moderate who took great pleasure in escaping to relax and fish in the English countryside as a relief from what was going on politically.  Today, with the political machinations in Washington,  I think that we all can identify with how Walton must have felt.

    3.       Don’t be daunted by Biblical references.  The Book is full of references to the Bible and unless you are a biblical scholar, my advice is simply understand that many of Walton’s fishing buddies were priests, that Walton was a religious man and that the Book was written during religiously turbulent times.  It is interesting to note that the clergy at that time did not hunt, but fished.  It was believed that the quiet contemplation of angling was more in keeping with the traditional path of religious life. Also, Walton subscribes to a naturalistic theology of sorts—finding God through the contemplation of his creations.

    4.      Select one of the many poems that Walton incorporates into the Book.  Copy it and put it in your tackle-box in a zip lock plastic bag.  I chose the poem about Spring by Sir Henry Wotton which appears in  Part I, Chapter V.  Reading it aloud while sitting on an ice bucket on the Mississippi River in Minnesota one sub zero January day made me feel smart.

    5.       Embrace the Book’s refusal to fit neatly into any one literary niche.  Yes, it is a practical fishing guide for anglers, but the information is presented in a poetical dramatic dialogue between 3 major characters:  Piscator-the Angler, Venator-the Hunter and Auceps -the Falconer.  The names are Latin for what the characters represent.  This style of writing was then common.  Literary scholars refer to such idealized descriptions combined with witty and rhetorical commentaries of the English country and rural life as “pastorals.”

    6.      Compare your favorite fish recipe with one of Walton’s.  Check out his recipes for Chubs in Part I, Chapter III; one for spit roasting and the other for charcoal broiling. Salt, butter and herbs.  Some things never change!

    7.       Highlight passages in which Izaak Walton describes his profound understanding of natural history and eco systems centuries before his time. You will find descriptions of his thoughts on regulating fishing during spawning seasons, the effect of carp as an invasive species to lake ecology, and detailed descriptions of insects and phenology.

    8.      Make a list of all the reasons why Walton believed that angling is an Art and what virtues a good fisherman must possess.

    9.       Find a philosophical musing that resonates with you.  I honed in on: “Angling can prove to be so pleasant, that it proves to be like virtue, a reward to its self.”  Translated:  it doesn’t matter whether or not you catch a fish or not.

    10.   Enjoy the illustrations.  The Book contains 6 small black and white copper plate engravings of different fish species.  The artist’s name is lost to history.

    Lastly, I lied, “The Compleat Angler” is not only the work of Izaak Walton.  Part II of the Book was written by Walton’s dear friend Charles Cotton.  The swashbuckling and adventurous Cotton was 37 years younger than Walton and admired and adored Walton with a fondness as a son for a father.  They fished together.  Cotton picks up Part II with the same characters that Walton began and continues their dialogue about how to stream fish for trout and grayling with great detail about different flies, what they look like and how they are made. It is somewhat tedious unless you are an accomplished fly fisherperson.

    Challenge yourself and read “The Compleat Angler” this year.  But, read it on your own terms.  Remember you don’t have to read and understand every word of the Book to get a big return on your time.  Perhaps a print copy may be a better choice than an electronic copy for purposes of notating and highlighting.   I’m looking forward to listening to the audio version.  I hope that the above tips help your reading journey. Great journeys are meant to be shared.  Pass your copy of the Book on to someone you know when you’re done. 

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