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50 years ago, wild lands in Northern Minnesota became the BWCA wilderness

In 1964 the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) was officially made a wilderness.

Although hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Northeast Minnesota had been set aside in the early part of the 20th century, it wasn’t until 1964 that the Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) was officially made a wilderness. And even that act wasn’t definitive when it came to contested details. John Myers of the Duluth News Tribune has a long but well-written essay on the conflicts that arose while making the BWCA and how they were settled. In a nutshell, everyone was on board with the idea of keeping the area pristine, but while some wanted a pure wilderness, others thought limited use of motorboats and snowmobiles, mining and logging was acceptable. Rep. Jim Oberstar fought hard for northern jobs, while Rep. Don Fraser fought hard for an untouched environment. Copious town hall meetings and op-eds ran on until the mid-’70s when, as Myers explains it, “several powerful lawmakers in Washington laid down an edict: The BWCA debate was among Minnesotans, and Minnesotans needed to settle it — once and for all. Two Minnesota attorneys — environmentalist Chuck Dayton and Ely City Attorney Ron Walls — were picked to hammer out a compromise that, in large part, set the boundaries and rules for the BWCAW as they stand today. On Oct. 21, 1978, President Jimmy Carter signed the compromise into law — the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness Act, formally adding the second ‘W’ to the title.”

It would be easy to overlook a small item like this if it weren’t for all the talk recently about the militarization of the nation’s police forces. A story headlined “Swiss military vehicle reported stolen” appeared in the Mankato Free Press. This is what it said: “A Swiss military vehicle was stolen from a Lafayette business sometime between 9 p.m. Friday and 9:30 a.m. Saturday, the Nicollet County Sheriff’s Office reported Saturday. The1975 Pinzgauer 710M is black in color and has a custom cloth top that is red in color, according to the sheriff’s office.” No word on whether it had a corkscrew or a fingernail cleaner.

Need to leave Rochester in a hurry? Now you have more options. Jeff Kiger of the Rochester Post Bulletin reports that Delta Air Lines (nee Northwest Orient Airlines) has begun daily nonstop flights to Atlanta and Detroit. Atlanta, as some might know, is the world’s busiest airport so Rochester boosters hope this means more growth. What about cost? “A round trip ticket on Delta’s Rochester-to-Atlanta flight on Tuesday costs $1,058 or $1,066 compared to $1,058 or $1,078 for the Minneapolis-to-Atlanta flight. The same holds true for the new Detroit flight. Booking a round trip from Rochester to Detroit on Tuesday lists at $1,220, compared to $1,206 in Minneapolis,” Kiger writes. Delta will continue to offer two flights daily to Minneapolis.

Everyone knows it costs a lot to go to college, but this time of year is a good time for a reminder, which is what Nathan Hansen of the Winona Daily News gives us. He focuses on Cassandra Habhegger, 24, a single mother of two who is in her third year of studying at Southeast Technical College to become a nurse. She gets thousands of dollars in state and federal grants, she works part-time, she gets money from her parents, but she will still be at least $25,000 in debt when she finishes school. Low-income students are those coming from a family that has less than $30,000 of income each year. Even with the additional financial aid such poverty provides, Hansen’s research shows “even the poorest students are expected to cover more than $12,000 of the cost at Winona State, nearly $14,000 at Southeast Tech, and more than $15,000 at St. Mary’s University.”

Speaking of needing money, the Brainerd Police Department warns that there’s a spate of counterfeit $100 bills floating around, according to the Brainerd Dispatch. The bills are about the same size and appearance as genuine $100 bills, but have a smoother texture. Other giveaways, according to the report: The counterfeit bill states, “This note is not legal, it is to be used for motion pictures;” The counterfeit bill reads, “For motion picture use only” in several areas, most noticeably in place of “The United States of America” and “Federal Reserve Note;” Benjamin Franklin is depicted as pursing his lips with a raised eyebrow; Instead of “One Hundred Dollars,” the top of the bill reads, “One Hundred;” The portrait watermark of Benjamin Franklin, located on the right side of the bill, is not visible on the counterfeit; blue strip down the middle is printed on the counterfeit, rather than the reflective ribbon that is woven into the genuine bill.

You know it’s a slow news week when a story like this gets ink: Carolyn Lange of the West Central Tribune reports that a kid in Atwater got a couple of chickens and ducks for his birthday. It’s against city ordinance to keep fowl on city property, but the kid kept them penned up and well fed. Unfortunately, one chicken kept escaping and making a mess. A neighbor complained. The kid’s mom was told to get rid of the birds, which she didn’t do. So the police chief gets another complaint from the neighbor, goes over to the house, sees the free-range chicken, gets a shovel and decapitates the yardbird. He removes the carcass, but somehow the head falls near the coop. The chief says he’s sorry about the head, but he was just doing his job when he killed the chicken.  “I still feel he owes my son an apology and he owes us a chicken,” the kid’s mom says.

And then there’s this: An 80-year-old man allegedly groped a retirement home employee, reports the Austin Daily Herald. Roger Thomas Jennings has pleaded not guilty to fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct in Mower County court. According to police reports, Jennings first told an employee at the Primrose Retirement Community that she had a “nice rack and a nice body.” A couple days later he allegedly gave the victim a note containing his phone number and a $5 bill. The next day he sneaked up on her in the freezer and groped her. The day after that he made an inappropriate comment when the employee was wet from a rain storm. Jennings will next appear in court on Jan. 23. Unfortunately, it’s too late for him to launch a bid to join the U.S. Senate.

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