Statewide: December 14, 2010 Archive
Posted at 6:00 AM on December 14, 2010
by Elizabeth Baier
A new invasive plant has made its way into the state this year.
It's called the Oriental bittersweet, and it looks much like its cousin, the American bittersweet.
Infestations have been found in the Twin Cities metro area, as well as in southeastern Minnesota, near Winona. Agriculture officials are urging Minnesotans to avoid using the vine as a holiday decoration this season.
Both plants have a bright red fruit that prompts people to collect it this time of year for use in wreaths and other holiday decorations.
But the Oriental bittersweet is bad news for forest areas.
What makes the Oriental bittersweet such a threat is its vines, said Monika Chandler, an invasive species coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. They can wrap around trees and strangle them. They also dominate the forest canopy.
"They shade the tree so that the tree doesn't get as much light," Chandler said. "They shade the forest floor so that fewer plants can germinate. And they also can add a lot of weight to the tops of the trees and break the trees off in cases of high winds and ice storms."
The infestation in Winona was confirmed in mid-November, according to Chandler. It's the largest in the state so far. She said officials with the agriculture department will meet with other agencies early next year to come up with a plan to contain and control this new invasive species.
"We're quite concerned about the Mississippi Riverway and having an invasive vine like this enter the Riverway because then it can really run unchecked in an area like the Mississippi River," she said.
The best way to differentiate between the two species is their color, Chandler said. The fruit of the Oriental bittersweet is released from yellow capsules on the vines; while the American is released from orange capsules.
The invasive Oriental plant spreads when people transport the vines or seeds, or plant them on their property, mistaking them for the American bittersweet. Since the infestations are still limited, there's a chance to prevent it from spreading throughout the state.
In addition to the Winona infestation, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has been monitoring smaller Oriental bittersweet infestations in Anoka, Dakota, Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
Posted at 9:30 AM on December 14, 2010
by Bob Kelleher
Filed under: Sports & Recreation
Time to plan that 2011 canoe trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
The annual entry permit lottery is already underway through Jan.15. According to the Superior National Forest, the lottery was established to fairly distribute available entry permit quotas for those dates and entry points where demand exceeds availability. You put in your request now; the computer picks the winners after Jan.15, and then -- should your choice get picked -- you're billed $12 for a non-refundable reservation fee and applicable overnight user fees.
The lottery is all online. There's no longer an opportunity to fax or mail in applications. Payments are online as well, with no checks or money orders taken for the lottery.
But, if you don't make it into the lottery, or don't win the entry you hoped for, there are several second chances to get into the Boundary Waters.
First-come first-served permit reservations can be made online beginning Jan. 20. Phone reservations (877-444-6777) can be made beginning Feb. 1. Of course, ideal entry places might already be filled from the lottery, and there are some limits on the hours for the toll free phone number.
You can also take your chances, and your canoe, by going to a permit-issuing station the day you hope to enter the wilderness.
The Forest Service issues permits from ranger stations in places like Tofte, Grand Marais, Ely, Isabella and Cook, while dozens of private businesses - mostly wilderness outfitters - also issue the permits. There's almost always something available, but it might not be the trip you were planning.
It always makes winter a little more tolerable to spend time planning a warm weather canoe trip.