Updated: 02/17/2014 9:03 AM
Created: 02/17/2014 8:55 AM WDIO.com
Just west of Cotton, MN lies the Sax-Zim Bog. It has been well known in the birder community as a great place for winter bird watching. A new Welcome Center is currently under construction with some unique ways to stay environmentally friendly.
The Sax-Zim Bog covers almost 150-thousand acres of black spruce and tamarack. A wide variety of terrain ranging from open prairie to swampy waters makes for habitat suitable for winter aerial predators.
"I'd say 85% come in winter because that's when these boreal birds come south from Canada," says Sparky Stensaas, Executive Director of Friends of Sax-Zim. "These are the ones they to add to their life list or get a photo of."
In the heart of the bog, just down Owl Avenue, is the construction of their new Welcome Center, just about finished, set for a grand opening on March 8th.
"We decided to build an off the grid environmentally friendly building," explains Stensaas.
Being off the grid, they have to find unique ways to preserve the landscape. One way is by using aspen for the siding instead of cedar. Stensaas says aspen is a shorter rotation tree, and is a lot more in abundance.
However, the aspen used for the project is no ordinary wood. This siding has been thermally modified to make it stronger and more durable. A process that's gaining steam at the Natural Resources Research Institute in Hermantown.
"We wanted some experience cooking aspen," says NRRI Program Director, Pat Donahue. "It gave us the opportunity to cook about 12 loads, and we gained a lot of knowhow."
The NRRI is providing the aspen for the Welcome Center as a sort of pilot project hoping to open new markets for modified wood. Donahue remarks that aspen is a perfect candidate for modification because it's not known as being very durable, especially when exposed to weathering elements.
The wood is placed in a special kiln, cooked at high temperatures and high pressure for 24 hours. The finished product looks as though it has been stained.
"The two things where decay starts, water and sugar, we eliminate those," explains Donahue. "We do this all without the addition of any chemicals. Just the addition of a very specific cooking recipe."
Donahue says his team is currently in the testing phase, and are using the kiln for other projects to make doors, window frames, and decking. Stensaas and the Friends of Sax-Zim Bog say they are grateful, knowing their Welcome Center will be around for a long time.
"We want everybody to see these birds," adds Stensaas. "We want to share with the public. It's just a fascinating habitat and we want to see it preserved."
Thousands Flock for Two Harbors Beargrease Marathon Start
About 45 teams of mushers and dogs took off on the John Beargrease Marathon trail in Two Harbors Sunday afternoon to cheers from thousands of spectators, despite a departure from the traditional race start at Duluth East High School...
Wisconsin Lawmaker Hopes to End 'Vaping' Indoors
Lawmakers are set to reignite conversations this week about whether vaping - using electronic cigarettes and other vapor smoking devices - should be included in Wisconsin's smoking ban. The ban took effect in 2010. It outlaws smoking in all public indoor locations, including restaurants and bars.
Campground Fees Rise this Year at Michigan State Parks
Fees at state-operated campgrounds in Michigan are going up this year to cover higher costs and pay for maintenance projects. Parks and recreation chief Ron Olson of the Department of Natural Resources says the amount of the increase at a particular site depends on its popularity.
Minnesota Guard Not Going to Liberia After All
Members of the Minnesota National Guard have learned they won't be going to Liberia to help the U.S. military's response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Soldiers from the Rosemount-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division were supposed to go to Liberia this year in support of Operation United Assistance.
One Man Dead After Car Accident in Aitkin County
A 47-year-old man died after his vehicle was broadsided in east-central Minnesota on Saturday night. The incident happened at the intersection of Highway 18 and Highway 65 in Aitkin County at 9:35 p.m.