- Associated Press - Saturday, April 19, 2014
Emerald ash borer spreads to Winona

WINONA, Minn. (AP) - Officials in Winona say they have found the devastating emerald ash borer inside city limits.

The Winona Daily News reports (https://bit.ly/1llFvXw) that an ash borer-infested tree had been confirmed in the southern part of the city. It’s the only known infestation in the city, and the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is now looking for others.

Authorities knew the beetle would make its way to Winona at some point.

As part of an ash borer management plan in 2012, the city preemptively treated about 930 publicly owned trees. About 70 ash trees have been removed and 100 new tree varieties were planted.

The emerald ash borer kills off ash trees. It was discovered in Minnesota in 2009, and is in Houston and Trempealeau counties and the Twin Cities metro area.

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Post-rehab, injured snowy owl released into wild

SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) - A rare snowy owl that was apparently hit by a bus in the nation’s capital flew back into the wild on Saturday, after weeks of rehab in Minnesota and procedures to replace its flight feathers.

Officials with the Raptor Center at the University of Minnesota released the owl at about noon Saturday outside Superior, Wis., near the Minnesota and Wisconsin state border. That location was chosen by a biologist because snowy owls have been spotted there in recent winters, indicating there is good habitat for hunting.

“The snowy flew off with strong steady wing beats, showing off the new flight feathers,” Julia Ponder, The Raptor’s Center director, said in a statement. “He is in great condition and will hopefully head back north in the coming days.”

The owl was found injured in downtown Washington in late January and taken to the National Zoo before being transferred to a Washington, D.C., wildlife rehabilitation center. It was then sent to The Raptor Center, which has expertise in replacing damaged feathers. It has since completed about a three-week exercise program and regained physical fitness before it was deemed ready for release.

Snowy owls are native to the Arctic but were seen all along the East Coast this winter, as far south as Florida.

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Lumberjack Days official sentenced on check charge

STILLWATER, Minn. (AP) - The man who organized the Lumberjack Days festival in Stillwater was sentenced to 240 hours of community service and a year of probation man after pleading guilty to a check charge.

David Eckberg was sentenced Friday in Washington County District Court.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reports (https://bit.ly/1tlC20Rhttps://bit.ly/1tlC20R ) Eckberg had pleaded guilty to issuing a dishonored check. He apologized in court and acknowledged he caused hardship to others.

The 62-year-old has already repaid the $37,000 he owed to many after writing them checks that didn’t clear following the 2011 Lumberjack Days festival.

Eckberg and his wife had put on the annual festival along the St. Croix River since 1994. The Stillwater City Council canceled its contract with Eckberg’s company in 2012. A new festival will be called Stillwater Log Jam.

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Oil transport draws cry for disaster training help

STAPLES, Minn. (AP) - North Dakota’s oil boom has safety on the minds of many Minnesota towns as the volatile crude rumbles through town aboard long trains.

Officials are mindful of fiery derailments in the past year, including one in Quebec that killed 47 people. State lawmakers are mulling bills that would have railroads help pay to train and equip emergency responders.

Scott Braith leads a volunteer fire department in Staples, where trains were passing before the town even existed. He says nothing would get his force ready for a catastrophe like the one in Quebec, but it would help if railroads were more proactive.

Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Canadian Pacific aren’t fighting the Minnesota legislation. But they say they are already working with first responders.


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