MRVAC News

What Hath We Wrought?

By Tracy Albinson | January 11, 2017

By Don Arnosti, Isaak Walton League 

Of all the people in these United States, we Minnesotans should have some understanding of what just happened politically at the national level. Those of us older than 35 remember the 1998 election for Minnesota Governor, which brought us Jesse Ventura. He, too, ran “against the system” as a plain-speaking regular guy. He was a skilled public performer. We were sick of “same-old, same-old” and went for the outsider in a last-minute emotional wave.

The danger is to think that “it will be alright” just like in 1998. To paraphrase, “Donald Trump is no Jesse Ventura.” The reality is, almost no one knows what Donald Trump believes, much less what he’ll do with regard to the environment. (I think “no one” includes the President-elect, himself.)

What we do know, is that because this wave of populism swept one party into power at all levels from President (and therefore Supreme Court) to Congress, to both houses in Minnesota, we are very likely to get a strong push to fulfill every wish of every major donor to that party.

In Minnesota, we can only guess what the single-party legislature will propose? Last year, we witnessed roll backs of pollution requirements for the taconite industry, unnecessary subsidies to the Koch Refinery, and strong efforts to eliminate energy efficiency and renewable energy requirements for utilities (which support solar and wind generation across the state.) In a democracy built on a complex system of checks and balances, we have lost nearly every check…

Except the people of this great nation.

There are two essential forms of power in our country. We are all aware of the great, distorting power of money in our political system. I have personally witnessed this here in Minnesota, at work in our legislature, just this year.

The second form of power exists in organized groups of citizens working together with purpose and determination. Nothing can resist this, even concentrated money.

At times of crisis, our nation rises to the challenge. Our history is replete with examples. The flaming Cuyahoga River galvanized a nation to demand the Clean Water Act. Must we see more “flaming rivers” to unite in our defense of clean water? Clean air? Wildlife and habitats? Action to preserve a livable earth for our grandchildren?

We must now step forward, united, to guide our new political establishment to understand that an election “rejecting the status quo” does not mean turning over our public lands for resource extraction. It does not mean rolling back or failing to enforce environmental standards. We must unite and speak firmly to power.

Join the MRVAC Conservation Committee to stay informed and to join with people across Minnesota to stand up for conservation. Contact Greg Burnes at gburnes@comcast.net or keep an eye on the MRVAC Facebook page for updates

In addition, consider joining the “Ikes and Friends” Conservation Committee to stay informed and to join with people across Minnesota standing up for conservation. Contact me to get involved: donarnosti@gmail.com.

Support Lead-Free Public Lands and Waters

By Tracy Albinson | January 11, 2017

Ashley J. Peters, Audubon Minnesota 

Bald EagleAudubon has a long history of working to remove toxins from our environment and toxic lead shot is no different. Every year, eagles, swans, ducks, and other birds get sick and die when they ingest lead shot that remains in wetlands, waterways, and injured or leftover game after a hunt. Just one or two lead pellets is enough to kill a Bald Eagle.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has proposed a rule change that would ban the use of toxic lead shot within certain wildlife management areas (WMAs) and when hunting rails and snipe statewide. Audubon Minnesota supports this proposed rule change because it allows for a reasonable, phased-in approach toward minimizing unintended bird deaths and reducing lead shot deposited on our public lands.

As the DNR works to finalize the rule change next year, we’ll need you to advocate for the use of nontoxic ammunition on WMAs. Learn more about this issue by visiting mn.audubon.org and watch for updates in the next newsletter.

Audubon Minnesota in Action at the Legislature

By Tracy Albinson | January 11, 2017

By Molly Pederson, Executive Director, Audubon MN & Kimberly Scott, Legislative Liaison 

Minnesota is a better place for birds and people because of your commitment to fighting for clean water, reducing carbon pollution, and making homes and communities more bird-friendly. Regardless of political affiliation, we must continue to work together as conservationists to address issues that impact us all.

The Minnesota Legislature kicks off the 2017 legislative session on January 3rd. Your voice is needed to protect, restore, and conserve our natural resources.

What to Expect 

This will be the first year of the legislative biennium, which means legislators will focus on funding the state’s budget. In order to pass a new budget or make other legislative changes, Republicans will need Democratic Governor Mark Dayton’s approval. Gov. Dayton has signaled his continued desire to support clean water programs and policies and Audubon Minnesota will assist those efforts by advocating for budget outcomes that promote clean water.

The 2017 legislative session is not a bonding year, however, both majorities have expressed interest in passing a pared down bonding bill.* An important project that was included in the 2016 bonding bill was funding for the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program (CREP). CREP benefits clean water by helping landowners install and maintain perennial grasses and flowers on their most erodible acres. Many of you wrote and encouraged your legislators to support bonding for CREP last May. Because of your action and others, CREP was included in the 2016 bonding bill for $10 million. Disappointingly, the overall 2016 bonding package failed to pass the Legislature, but we will need your help again to appeal for the inclusion of CREP in any bonding bill considered this session.

Whether you are supporting clean water, habitat for birds, or renewable energy, your voice will make a difference. Audubon Minnesota will endeavor to keep you informed of relevant actions at the Minnesota Legislature and assist you in making your voice heard.

We can help by scheduling and facilitating discussion between you and your representatives at the State Capitol.

Watch for calls to action and consider meeting with your legislators in person to advocate for these important issues.

You can also make an impact by writing a personal letter or phone call.

The best way to support policies and state funding for birds is to get involved. Let us know how we can help you participate in our joint mission.

As a result of the election, below is an update on the make-up of the House and the Senate: 

Senate 

  • ? Republicans have a new majority, led by Majority Leader Paul Gazelka.
  • ? The Senate majority will be held by a single seat (34-33) which will likely necessitate a higher level of cooperation with the Democratic Farm-Labor minority, in order to, pass most legislation.
  • ? Senator Tom Bakk will serve as Minority Leader for the DFL.

House 

  • ? Republicans have an expanded majority in the House (76 seats), led by Speaker Kurt Daudt.
  • ? The DFL will hold 58 seats and be led by Minority Leader Melissa Hortman.

*Bonding dollars generally go towards repair, renovation, or replacement of publicly owned buildings, property, and land. The state raises money for these projects by selling bonds on the bond market and then pays debt service to pay off the bonds over time.

Call for Trumpeter Award Nominations

By Tracy Albinson | January 11, 2017

Each spring for 14 of the past 16 years, MRVAC has presented the Trumpeter Award to one of its members for outstanding long-term contributions to MRVAC. We are soliciting nominations from you; tell us who you think should be our next recipient. Please send in a nomination by Jan. 31. The selection committee, which is composed of the previous years’ recipients, will review the nominations and forward their choice to the Board. The award will be presented at a subsequent meeting.

There are two ways to get a nomination form:

  1. Find the nomination form at www.mrvac.org.
  2. Call Becky Lystig (651-452-1133) to have a copy mailed to you.

Completed applications can be sent to her at markbeckylystig@comcast.net or mailed to Becky Lystig, 1741 Sartell Ave, Eagan, MN 55122.

Previous Trumpeter Award recipients:

  • 2001: Karol Gresser
  • 2002: Joe White
  • 2003: Pat & Jack Telfer
  • 2004: Edith Grace Quam
  • 2005: Craig Mandel
  • 2006: John Rehbein
  • 2007: Lois Norrgard
  • 2008: Jack Mauritz
  • 2009: George Tkach
  • 2010: Bob Leis
  • 2011: Anne Hanley & George Skinner
  • 2012: Steve Weston
  • 2013: Bob Williams
  • 2016: Mark & Becky Lystig

Annual MRVAC Auction – Great Success

By Greg Burnes | November 18, 2016

Over 45 people attended the annual MRVAC auction last night.  They enjoyed a lot of back-and-forth bidding for a number of great items.  A few highlights were bids made on custom dinners two of our members will be preparing for parties of 4, many wonderful food items, wine, optics, books, and much more.  All of the proceeds from this auction go to support youth educational activities and other important causes that support conservation.  Thanks!

Birds of Western Ecuador: A Photographic Guide

By Tracy Albinson | October 25, 2016

by Nick Athanas & Paul J Greenfield. Princeton University, 2016

Review by Anne Hanley

birds-western-ecuador-bookIf you are planning a trip to Western Ecuador, you should check out this field guide. If you’ve never birded Ecuador, you’ll want to after seeing this book.

The first thing you’ll notice are the very appealing photographs. The occurrence maps are on the same two page spread as the photo so you can see the expected range. The text includes the bird’s elevation range and some plumage description, particularly field marks that don’t show in the photo.

Compared to the Birds of Ecuador Field Guide (Robert S Ridgely and Paul J Greenfield), you will find the text abbreviated and if you are used to carrying only the plates from Birds of Ecuador, the Birds of Western Ecuador weighs more – but less than the complete Birds of Ecuador.

Cat Wars: The Devastating Consequences of a Cuddly Killer

By Tracy Albinson | October 25, 2016

by Peter P. Marra and Chris Santella. Princeton University Press, 2016.

Review by Mark Lystig

cat-wars-bookCats in America are an invasive species. Like other invasive species, free-roaming (feral and pet) cats impact native species of birds, mammals, and reptiles. Read this concise book to learn more about free-roaming cats and their diseases and why we must reduce their numbers. The authors are not anti-cat, but are concerned about native wildlife.

We own cats but don’t let our cats out. We keep the cats healthier and keep the cats from killing birds. If you must let your cat out, use a leash. Your cat(s) should be neutered and get rabies shots. Infected cats may spread rabies to other animals or humans. Cats have become the number-one domesticated species passing rabies to humans. Cats may have other diseases that may be transmitted both to other animals and to humans: plague and toxoplasmosis (a possible cause of schizophrenia).

Cats are genetically programmed to be hunters. Cats hunt and kill whatever they can. They don’t need to be hungry; cats hunt because they are hunters. One study concluded that cats kill 1.3-4 billion birds, 6.3-22.3 billion mammals, 95-299 million amphibians, and 258-822 million reptiles annually in the United States. While out hunting cats may also spread diseases that may kill any species that does not have resistance. The diseases may kill animals much larger than cats. You can learn about what cats kill, that Trap-Neuter-Release sounds good but doesn’t work, and also learn about the diseases cats can carry and the threats those diseases pose to wildlife and humans.

This book may change your mind about allowing free-roaming cats.

Life is Good: Pass it On!

By Tracy Albinson | October 22, 2016

Support the outdoors by supporting candidates who do, too

By Don Arnosti 

2016-10-19-13-05-59A Minnesota fall – it doesn’t get any better than this. Warm days, cool evenings, fall leaves coming on. Canadian cold fronts drive waves of migrating birds through our backyards – the other day it was a flock of Kinglets and Brown Creepers. Geese “W’s” can be seen and heard at all hours heading south in their ragged lines.

The urgency of the season leads me to take care of chores I’ve been putting off all summer: painting, garage cleaning, working for candidates who love the outdoors as much as I do. Yes, that is an important and necessary “chore” – not just voting, but actively supporting candidates that will work to assure that all I love about Minnesota’s outdoors is available for my as yet unborn grandchildren to enjoy.

We have a real problem in our body politic – you could say a sickness. Partisan gridlock is celebrated by some who believe that a government doing nothing at all is better than one that involves itself in our lives in many ways.

In a year when we are celebrating 100 years of national parks, I heard some at the state legislature browbeating DNR officials who announced that because visitors to the state park system were hitting record levels – they needed more money for rangers and other staff. “Why are the parks losing money?”

When state and federal agencies were ready to work together to pay farmers for 100,000 strategically-located Minnesota River valley acres along ditches, streams and rivers for expanded buffers to improve water quality, the state failed to pass its share of the funds.

Just as Minnesotans have petitioned the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to intervene to assure the Minnesota mining industry is actually regulated under the Clean Water Act (the legislature persistently passes legislation hindering this) – we have a major presidential candidate promising to abolish the EPA if he is elected.

Elections do matter. And our action or inaction has consequences.

Put up your storm windows – check.

Take a fall bike ride to enjoy the colors – check.

Call up your favorite pro-environment candidate, tell them why you support them, and ask, “What can I do to help assure you can represent me?”

Then do it. Contribute that time to knock on doors, put up signs or to call your neighbors, even if it’s hard for you. Do it for your grandchildren.

Then vote on November 8th knowing you’ve done your part to share the beauties of future Minnesota falls with those who as yet have no say in the matter.

Book Review: Birds of New Guinea

By Tracy Albinson | August 31, 2016

by Bruce M. Beehler & Thane K. Pratt

Book review by Mark N. Lystig 

Birds of New GuineaOne of the (many) delights of amateur birdwatching is the opportunity to learn more about where to find the birds, why you find birds where they are, what are the birds doing in the places where you find them (what are they eating, how are they adapted to eat what they are eating, how do they construct—if they construct—their nests, and how old do they have to be when they are able to nest), and to learn more about the environment in general. But as you can see from this list, the opportunity to learn a little soon turns into a quest to learn a lot.

Birds of New Guinea, by Bruce M. Beehler & Thane K. Pratt, is a checklist of the birds of New Guinea, intended as a supplement to the authors’ earlier field guide, Birds of New Guinea, Second Edition (Princeton). Whereas you might wish to carry the field guide with you if you go birding in the New Guinea region, you will want to leave this book behind as it is quite heavy

Part I is an introduction to the area studied, but also to the scientific terminology and the difficulty of determining how to identify birds by family, genus, and species or subspecies. There’s an explanation why DNA studies may not be the final solution to identification that many may believe it to be, and the authors explain their choices in their treatments of species and subspecies. The interesting introductory section may be reason enough to consult this book (28 pages).

Part II is the bulk of the book, and contains the accounts of each family, genus, species, and subspecies the authors have identified (485 pages). There are brief general family and genus descriptions, then more specific species and subspecies descriptions for making distinctions. A comprehensive introduction to the birds of New Guinea, this may be more than you need to know.

Two Bluebird Monitor Positions Open

By Tracy Albinson | August 31, 2016

Eastern BluebirdMonitors wanted for next spring at two established Birdbird Recovery Project bluebird trails: Southview Golf Course in West St Paul and TPC Golf Course in Blaine. Training will be provided. In both locations, a golf cart is available for the monitors’ use if you would prefer not to walk. For more information, please contact Jack Hauser at 952-831-8132 or email jgshauser@gmail.com.

  • Southview Country Club, 239 Mendota Rd E, West St. Paul, MN 55118
  • TPC Twin Cities, 11444 Tournament Players Pkwy, Blaine, MN 55449

Upcoming Events