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Whitefish Area Property Owners Association shares speaker highlights from annual meeting

Loon population and soil health were among main topics.

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Whitefish Area Property Owners Association
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CROSSLAKE — The Whitefish Area Property Owners Association's annual meeting Aug. 20 featured guest speakers and over 15 organizations providing information in booths in the narthex of Immaculate Heart Church in Crosslake about their water quality related programs and activities.

A short business meeting was held to review the financial reports, elect WAPOA board members, retire a board member and thank WAPOA individual members and business members for their support. Cinnamon rolls and coffee were provided to attendees.

Walter Piper, of Chapman University, updated the attendees regarding the ongoing research being conducted on the “local” loon population. This is a “mark and recapture” study that evaluates territorial behavior and breeding biology of the loons.

The research, supported by the National Loon Center, is being conducted by graduate students from the University of Wisconsin in 20 loon territories from Outing to Pequot Lakes, including the Whitefish Chain. They recapture, band and collect data on the size and weight and observe the behaviors of loons, including some that were banded in 2021.

By analyzing the data collected here they are learning whether Minnesota loons are declining in population and/or showing declining hatching rates and lower loon chick and adult male loon size, as has been observed in Wisconsin.

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Studying the loon populations in Minnesota and Wisconsin will help to determine what may be causing these changes in the loons' health and their behavior, and what could be done to prevent it.

Other guest speakers were Anna Cates, Extension specialist in soil health, University of Minnesota; and Randy Johnson, ecologist, University of Wisconsin-Madison and the U of M.

They presented information about the role that good soil health plays in protecting water quality – ground water, lakes and streams. Cates focused on describing the components of soil and the importance of having smaller aggregates within soil to hold water – to provide moisture to crops and to filter rainwater (and irrigation) before is flows into the ground water, and to prevent run-off of eroded soil and chemicals into nearby lakes and rivers.

Smaller soil particles also provide more space for roots to grow, which hold soil and prevent erosion from wind and rain.

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Johnson presented information about Grassland 2.0, a managed agricultural program that uses science to encourage implementation of agricultural practices that would reduce contamination of ground water with nitrates and phosphorus and organic materials.

The project helps farmers that raise cattle and plant crops to envision how they could modify their practices to restore natural grasslands, which would improve water quality, reduce flooding, help stabilize the climate and promote biodiversity. He showed examples of apps like Smart Scape and Graze Scape that can be used to identify “hotspots” in agricultural areas, and then lead to collaborative efforts with farmers to remedy problems.

Almost 100 people attended the meeting, and there were several questions and discussion points after the speakers' presentations.

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