Audubon Chapter of the North Woods Receives Century Farm

By Anne Hanley | January 11, 2018

By Bryan Wood, Audubon Center of the North Woods

Ruby & Roger Trapp

Once in a while, an act of generosity leaves you humbled by its magnitude. You can’t help but take a step back, astounded by the goodness of people and their desire to want to leave the world a better place. You marvel at the kindness individuals can show through an organization transformational gift and during these times saying thank you to them simply isn’t adequate. They deserve much more as you try and adequately express your profound gratitude.

Roger and Ruby Trapp are those people. With the substantial help of Audubon Center of the North Woods Board Member Susan VanGorden, Mr. and Mrs. Trapp this summer completed a land transfer of their 101-acre century farm to the Audubon Center of the North Woods. This land, which marks the north boundary of ACNW’s property, has been in Roger’s family since his grandfather Alfred McKay purchased it in 1900. Roger was born there and grew up on the farm that produced flowers, produce, pick-your-own raspberries, chickens, turkeys and cattle. The farm is still in operation today, producing corn.

Of the 101 acre tract the Trapps gifted to ACNW, 48 acres is tilled farmland, with the remaining 53 acres a mix of beautiful hardwood and conifer stands. This land gift would be met with great enthusiasm at any time, but is especially exciting now as it fits into ACNW’s larger plan to have a working educational farm in the future. Food in many aspects is where we each have the largest impact on our planet. Indeed, 70% of all human land use is for food production and the current food system is heavily reliant on fossil fuels for fertilizers, insecticides, herbicides, production and distribution. The average item on an American’s plate has traveled 2,000 miles. With our population expected to reach over 9 billion by 2050 and climate change threatening to reduce crop yields by 25%, our ability to feed the world, while caring for our planet is of paramount importance. A United Nations study concluded that the only way to sustainably do that is through local, polyculture farms that are more resistant to disease and less energy intensive.

Over the coming years, ACNW plans to turn the 48 acres of farmland into an organic, polyculture farm where produce, permaculture, pollinators, free-range poultry and grass-fed beef intermingle to provide food for our meals served at the Dining Hall. With the farm contiguous to our existing property, it easily allows for myriad educational opportunities with our K-12 schools, summer camps, post-secondary courses and adult programs. This all will require funds to build up the farm and its infrastructure and efforts will now begin towards securing those funds.

In a way, the Audubon Center of the North Woods is coming full circle. Our existence is due to the generosity of the Schwyzer family donating their farm to become a nature sanctuary and in our first 48 years, environmental education has been taught primarily through nature study.

Today, there is increasing interest in society on where our food comes, the impact it has on our land and water, and how we can make more environmentally conscious choices. As we approach our 50th anniversary, we are poised to expand our environmental programs to include agriculture through a working, educational farm that will provide learning opportunities for individuals and empower them to grow or raise more of their own food and make informed choices. And we have Roger and Ruby Trapp to thank for that. Their farm and legacy will live on as it educates and inspires for generations to come. “We believe in getting kids outside, and want others to enjoy the farm as I have.” Roger said. We invite you to join us in expressing our deepest gratitude to Roger and Ruby, and to join us on this exciting journey ahead.

Birders and Birding

By Bob Janssen | January 11, 2018

The older I get the more I like birders, the younger ones especially. Yes, we older birders are OK, even with our faults and some of us, who are really old, with our ignorance of the digital age. I would like to ask your indulgence while I do my best to relate a story of a recent bird trip made up of young birders and one old guy.

In early September I was leading a bird class for North House Folk School at the end of the Gunflint Trail. Josh Watson of Grand Marais was my very able and experienced “young” assistant. Josh did a great job in finding birds like a Golden-crowned Kinglet which I can no longer hear because of their high pitched song. A few weeks after the class my phone rang and it was Josh saying “let’s plan an October trip to Cass County to get your list for the county up to 225”, I replied “That would be just great”. The phone call ended with Josh saying, “I will get the guys (John and Chris Hockema, and Shawn Conrad) together and we will go to Cass County at the end of October and get you three species”. I didn’t have a single scoter species for Cass County so they would be the target birds for our trip. Our plans were to go to Cass County on October 26, 27 and 28.

October 26 came and it was snowing but that did not stop our heading north. I picked up Josh at his grand-mothers house in Ham Lake and we headed for our motel In Pine River, Cass County and the meeting with Shawn Conrad. The three of us headed for Walker and the sewage ponds to look for the reported Harlequin Duck, a really “choice” bird for Cass County. It didn’t take long for us to find the Harlequin Duck, # 223 for Cass County. A Harlequin Duck, a good dinner in Walker and a sound night’s sleep in Pine River really were a good start for the trip.

Early the next morning we were joined by John and Chris Hockema and to my surprise we were joined by Becca Engdahl and her friend, Alex Burchard, two young, up-and-coming and enthusiastic Minnesota birders. Our first stop was the Walker Sewage Ponds to look for the Harlequin Duck which Chris needed for his list. A long search proved futile, we could not find the bird, our first disappointment.

To make a long story short, we spent the rest of the morning touring Leech Lake, Cass Lake, and the Cass Lake Sewage Ponds in hopes of finding any species of Scoter, no luck. Shawn knew of some bogs in the area where we might find a Boreal Chickadee. Beautiful Pine Grosbeaks and Gray Jays were present but no Boreal Chickadees. The day wore on and my list stayed at 223. We were all concerned that our target species, scoters, had all but disappeared or were just not here as we had hoped. Shawn said “let’s try Lake Winnibigoshish, I know some good spots where there should be scoters”. On the way to “Winnie” we traveled through some beautiful wooded evergreen areas, all of us were thinking Black-backed Woodpecker. Mile after mile no luck, all of a sudden Shawn said “STOP”. I wondered why, I hadn’t seen or heard a thing. We stopped and we were all quiet when we heard the tap of a Black-backed Woodpecker stripping bark from a tree. We had difficulty pin-pointing the sound but finally we saw the bird on a downed log, # 224 for Cass County. It was a life-bird for Becca and she crept within 15 feet of the bird, and took wonderful photos and she said it was one of the most rewarding birding experiences she had ever had. Her experience with the woodpecker was a real treat for all of us.

Then Shawn said once again “Let’s go to Winnie, there have to be ducks on there”. We searched the bays and shoreline for over an hour without finding a single duck. Finally our luck changed and we found a bay full of water birds, grebes, both Red-necked and Horned plus a few Pied-billed Grebes and a few Long-tailed Ducks and Lesser Scaup. All of a sudden Josh hollered “there is a scoter”, all scopes went to that spot and there was a White-winged Scoter, #225 for Cass County. This turned out to be the only scoter we saw on the trip but it was a “big” one.

The light was fading but we still had time to check further on “Winnie” but to no avail. There just were not any more waterfowl to be found. We had a great meal together in Walker that evening, a few bottles of beer, lots of bird talk and then a great night’s sleep in spite of Chris’s snoring which shook the whole motel at times.

The next morning we tried the Walker Sewage Ponds again but the Harlequin had disappeared. Birding strategy was discussed and it was decided that we would go over to Lake Superior and look for the reported Red Phalarope in Lake County and the Pacific Loon in Cook County. We failed on the Red Phalarope and then we decided to split up, the young birders would go north for the Pacific Loon and I would head south for home. They got the Pacific Loon and I stopped in Two Harbors where I spotted a small group of birders looking through scopes. They were looking at a Mountain Bluebird which was a new Lake County bird for me. I drove back home a very happy birder, 225 for Cass County and a new county bird for Lake County!

Driving home from Two Harbors I was thinking about how fortunate I was to have young birding friends who were great companions and most helpful with their enthusiasm about finding and enjoying birding, it was a good ride home!

Matthew’s Musings

By Matthew Schaut | January 11, 2018

Happy New Year! I’m glad it’s a little bit cold and some places are getting snow. There was snow in Texas and Florida, lake effect snow around the Great Lakes. All that moisture in the sky due to the added heat in energy. Speaking of which, the upper Midwest has seen the largest Winter temperature gains as a result of climate change in the continental USA. Canada – an upper Midwest writ large, has even higher gains (along with its peninsular appendage, Alaska. And that other appendage, Antarctica???).

As I write, the US Congress may pass a particularly grim trickle-down tax “reform” bill. I pray the Senate and the House of Representatives will be unable to reconcile their versions. Patagonia has gone to war against the Trump administration and its Interior Department hatchet men in reaction to the “decision” to shrink Bears Ears and other national monuments to benefit uranium salesmen and fossil fuel speculators. Fossils, native art and artefacts, animals and ecosystems – be damned, all of you. You just don’t monetize well.

The oligarchs on the national scene play for big money. The money at the Minnesota State level can’t be as good, yet our US Representatives continue to be whittle away at our environmental legacy to benefit Chilean multinationals. I speak of Representatives Nolan and Emmers (different sides of the aisle, but, hey, you know… there’s dark money talking) efforts to bring sulfide mining to the Boundary Waters, while at the same time eroding the environmental review process and our rights as citizens to have input.

Our own good governor Dayton, of late, has raised his voice in favor of “some kind of sulfide mining” which is a position I can’t fathom. Dayton had seemed a friend to Minnesota’s waters after his efforts to establish standards for buffers along waterways. Now he appears willing to risk the Boundary Waters and the Great Lakes. Attrition may be at work, and the socialization of the wealthy wherein manliness is established by “making deals.” We don’t joust or duel anymore, we make deals. Early socialization is hard to overcome. It also matters who we spend our time with.

Corporate (and oligarchic) attrition is relentless, as corrosive force as powerful as water. The wealthy can afford to continually scratch at a door until a “no” becomes the “yes” they want to hear. To maintain a no is difficult. Obama seems to me to have been a master at avoiding the hard “no”, since that then becomes ammunition for manufactured media outrage. Yet a hard no is justified to prevent sulfide mining in Minnesota or a Line 3 pipeline “expansion.” The soft “no” enables endless cajoling by oligarchs with bottomless reservoirs of wealth – even more corrosive in our current dark money post-Citizens United environment – until eventually, enough decision-makers – lawmakers, executives, judges, — are turned and a project moves forward to its inevitably disastrous consequences. But who cares about that, the oligarchs have already left town before the clean-up starts, and their pockets seem to have gone empty!

We must stand strong against these corrosive attempts to destroy our environment. It might already be too late to prevent our dying in the currently accelerating climate change catastrophe. That is a just comeuppance to our complicity in creating the mass extinction event currently decimating the world’s flora and fauna.

Or, maybe, just maybe, we’ll have converted to solar and wind power and have absolutely no need for any more fossil fuel and water destroying nonsense. We can’t let what remains of our environmental rights and natural world be destroyed in a last, absurd, corrupt feeding frenzy at the dying of the fossil fuel age? It’s a shame we can’t count on our local representation to protect our neck of the woods. A hard “NO” would be kind of refreshing, like cold and snow in winter.

Call for Trumpeter Award Nominations

By Matthew Schaut | January 11, 2018
Mark & Becky Lystig receive the 2016 Trumpeter Award

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 January 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:

Completed applications can be submitted online, emailed to Becky  at, 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

Holiday Auction & Give to the Max Raises Money for Educational Projects

By Bob Williams | January 11, 2018

We had a very successful and entertaining Holiday Auction at the Refuge Visitor Center on November 17. We raised $2753 which is just a bit less than the $3000 we raised last year.

Our fabulous auctioneers, Mark Lystig and Scott Clark sold at least 100 items donated by members as well as these generous companies:

  • All Seasons Wild Bird Store – Bloomington
  • Cornerstone Copy Center, Burnsville
  • Eagle Optics
  • Great Harvest Bread Company
  • Lakewinds Natural Foods – Richfield
  • Lunds/Byerly’s
  • Nothing Bundt Cakes, Eden Prairie
  • Valley Natural Foods Co-op (Burnsville)

We also raised about $630 on Give to the Max Day ($1400 less than last year).

The chapter has also received $30 in the mail from the appeal in the Trumpeter and $325 from my Facebook fundraiser.

We want to thank everyone who donated either at the auction or online.


By Tracy Albinson | November 9, 2017

“East Side Takes Flight! The Minnesota Flyway as a Whole Family Experience”

MRVAC donated $3000, in addition to some support from MOU, for this project.

The East Side Neighborhood Services (ESNS) project journey began in mid-September with a family overnight field trip to the annual Hawk Ridge Festival in Duluth, Minnesota. Families of the Glendale Townhomes traveled to Hawk Ridge and participated in the free family activities which introduced them to bird watching and bird appreciation. They stayed overnight at the East Side Neighborhood Services campground, Camp Bovey, in Gordon, Wisconsin.

In addition, throughout the fall, there will be after school programs on dynamics of flight, wing technology, and the geographical relevance of the Minnesota River Valley through an education series that will involve 6-site visits by staff from Silverwood Park (Three Rivers Park District).

Youth will work on bird-related art projects, observe local bird wildlife within the Prospect Park and East River Parkway, and study bird artifacts with naturalist twice weekly for three weeks. They will participate in a field trip to Silverwood Park with activities facilitated by Silverwood Park Staff.

Meanwhile, in Northeast Minneapolis, the after-school program Mulberry Junction will construct a bird habitat viewing area outside the windows of the East Side Neighborhood Services Adult Day at Friendship Center, a program that provides daytime care and support for 20-25 seniors weekly.

On two separate weekends (October 7 and 14), families from the Luxton Learners and Mulberry Junction programs were invited to attend a family bird watching hike along the East Bank trail system near the Glendale Townhomes. Board members of the Minnesota River Valley Audubon Society (Monica Rauchwarter and Greg Burnes) will lead bird-watching hikes equipped with binoculars and appropriately translated bird-identification guides in Somali and Spanish so as to bridge any language barriers otherwise inhibiting immigrant families from fully benefiting from the experiences.

All three programs will culminate in a joint family night meal and bird appreciation festivity at Luxton Community Center on November 2. Families of students who attend the programs will be invited to share photos, students’ written stories, and art projects detailing their bird-related family and afterschool program projects.

Jean Emmons, the co-leader of the weekend, informed me that everyone who went was part of a multigenerational family: grandparents with grandkids, parents with children, blended families. Everyone was from an underserved population.

They spent two nights at a small camp, Bovey, in northern Wisconsin that Eastside Neighborhood Services has managed to maintain. None of the participants had ever canoed before or seen the star-filled night sky. None had ever been to Duluth, experienced hawk migration or seen Lake Superior. They hiked at Hawk Ridge, met banded hawks and received quality attention from staff on the Ridge. Sparky Stensaass met the families and donated materials to the ESNS program. One young lady spent hours learning about dragonflies.

The kids and their parents exulted in Lake Superior – some even swam in the lake! Everyone got ice cream on the ride home. As Jean said — “you get the full experience!”

People of color learn they aren’t permitted the same rights to nature white people take for granted. These people were able to experience nature, have adventures, meet and immerse themselves in Lake Superior, be turned on to birds and dragonflies and the night sky.

This grant definitely fulfills MRVAC’s mission in the most glorious way!

Matt Schaut


Dear Matt, Steve, Greg, and Monica-

The Luxton Takes Flight project is off to a strong start! We just completed our weekend family trip to Hawkridge and Camp Bovey, WI. Though I’ll be sending you a more detailed recap toward the end of the month, I was too excited to wait and wanted to drop a quick line of gratitude immediately!

In the last 16 years of working with youth and families, I’ve participated in very few events that have even come close to the fun and the beauty of this weekend. Thank you for giving our East Side community this special experience. I so appreciate the willingness of both your agencies to work together and each fund a portion of the same project — without your willingness to work together, we truly could not have made this happen.


James Taborda-Whitt, Youth Program Manager

East Side Neighborhood Services, 1700 2nd Street NE, Minneapolis, MN 55413

Chip Notes: November-December, 2017

By Matthew Schaut | November 9, 2017
Kirland’s Warbler, Joel Trick, USFWS

My son and I took an epic road trip this August through Canada using Parks Canada’s national park pass. The day we arrived in the Yukon Territory the temperature was 94 degrees Fahrenheit. In the Northwest Territories, I swam in the Great Slave Lake. It was warmer than Lake Superior. The Native Dine people speak about the ominous heat of the last two summers. We did a big figure eight, came back from the high latitudes via the national parks in southern Alberta and British Columbia.

Dry dry dry.

Smoke from fires in British Columbia prevented a clear view of the mountains. Sections of Yoho and Mount Revelstoke National Parks closed due to active fires. We walked on the Columbian Icefield in Jasper, thrilling, but much diminished. We ended our national parks tour in Glacier National Park, Montana. Glaciers there, but so diminished they didn’t really make the experience for us. I feel we threaded a needle; we could see a couple of small fires the park was “keeping an eye on.” After we left, they turned into conflagrations.

Dry dry dry.

Canada bears a lot of the blame for global warming, despite its small population. You can’t drive through the prairie of Saskatchewan or the oilfields of Alberta and British Columbia without being confronted by agribusiness and petrodollars. Public radio is complicit. Every news item concerning Native Americans was preceded and followed by oil industry ads.

We all know the Earth has passed the threshold into a new reality. The hurricanes of 2017 are historic, and will be followed by the hurricanes of 2018 and 2019 and 2020 . . . . The Caribbean Islands and Gulf Coast may become uninhabitable. Will even the wildlife be able to survive if islands are continuously scoured of vegetation by hurricanes? There go wintering songbirds. There goes the Kirtland’s Warbler. The historic wildfires of 2017 throughout western North America. The high temperatures and new (lack of) moisture regime will continue. There is no refuge.

We could still do much to mitigate the impacts. But our leaders play. Truly they are execrable. We won’t mention the travesty that is our Presidential politics, and the damage currently in the EPA and the Agricultural Department, etc. I will mention just how diligently Rep. Nolan – DFL, is working tirelessly to desecrate Minnesota’s water’s, and Minnesotan’s right to due process and public input in environmental affairs — all to benefit the avarice of a multinational corporation.

What makes a public servant go rogue like this? It’d be nice to think the Democratic party politicians would be allies; few Republicans (name one) currently are. Nolan has apparently found a more rewarding constituency?  Being a steward of the environment, thinking unto the 7th generation so our descendants have a world to inherit. Doesn’t seem rewarding to so many in politics and industry. Why? Imagine if our governor was not an honorable public servant? We could have Flint’s water throughout Minnesota as well. Michigan’s governor simply does not care. Neither does Nolan, apparently.

Our leaders play games.

The heat rises.

The oceans roar.

The world burns.

Species go extinct.

Cultures die.

Fight people. Fight with all you’ve got!

Matthew Schaut

We Need Good People! Volunteer Opportunities

By Anne Hanley | November 9, 2017

MRVAC can always use volunteers for both short term projects and longer term commitments.

Treasurer  Bob Williams will retire as Treasurer in May 2018. He is willing to coach the new Treasurer through the first year. Duties include checking the PO Box, depositing checks, paying bills and reporting on account balance, income and expenses and keeping current with state and federal filings.

Board members  meet once a month. During the meetings, the board makes decisions about spending money (i.e. the grants offered by the chapter – see more about past awards on the web: ) responds to requests. The board also plans ways to raise money, attract members and increase diversity.

Board members periodically take on a special project approved by the board like helping with the fundraising auction, planning a special celebration, finding volunteers to help with an event at the refuge, attracting new and retaining existing members, recruiting speakers, helping partner organizations (e.g. 2 board members led 2 field trips for East Side Neighborhood Services, related to their grant).

There is no immediate opening on the board, but interested persons could start attending meetings now to get up-to-speed! Contact Rick Magee, MRVAC secretary or any other board member:

Membership chair  – welcome everyone attending the monthly meetings (make sure someone is at the nametag table) send the annual renewal mailing to local members and work with National as needed to keep membership list up to date. (Greg Burnes is filling in for now.)

Newsletter editor  – Anne Hanley would like to take a break for 2 years until she retires. If someone could fill in, that would be marvelous!

Field trip leaders and assistants  If interested, contact Cheri Fox at

MRVAC 50th Anniversary Celebration Report

By Anne Hanley | November 9, 2017
Bob Janssen introduces speaker Al Batt

The 50th  Anniversary celebration on September 28 was a wonderful evening. It included delicious snacks including Italian bruschetta trays, fruit plates and caprese skewers from Kowalski’s, organized by Betsy Magee and Robin Kutz. In addition to the savory snacks, there was a magnificent cake – marble with white frosting and a teal MRVAC logo in the center.

As people checked in, they had an opportunity to get their photo taken in front of their favorite Chef Eric Gideon Baker’s photo in the gallery.

Thanks to our photographer-extraordinaire for the evening, Media Mike Hazard!

Bob Janssen introduced Al Batt with a story about how Al promised to show him a black billed cuckoo in Freeborn County but somehow Bob never did get see a black billed cuckoo – and is still missing one for his Freeborn County list.

Al Batt told delightful stories about how his love of birds started along with moving examples of how individuals have made a difference, making the world better for people and birds.

He describes Freeborn county residents enlisting local business to clean up Albert Lea Lake (including pulling a quarter of a steer out of the lake and depositing it in the Hormel board room), Owen Johnson’s persistence in building local support and persuading the legislature to create Myre-Big Island State Park to his father taking time out from milking cows to watch a Snowy Owl with young Al, as well as Al’s own commitment to taking children out birding.

His talk ended with ‘Thanks for all you do’, reminding us again that we can each make a difference.

Robin Kutz wheels in the food.
Betsy Magee sets up in the Visitor Center.

Mmmmm . . . Treats!

By Anne Hanley | September 2, 2017

Treats Needed for Upcoming Meetings 

If you can bring a few dozen cookies, bars or some easy-to-eat snack to share at the October or subsequent meetings, please call Robin, the Social Chair, at 612-723- 2632 or email to