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Peregrine falcons are a success story

Minnesota boasts a wide variety of "feathered friends" that delight "birders" from around the country each year. Now, the warm days of spring have prompted the return of peregrine falcons to Minnesota skies.

Minnesota boasts a wide variety of "feathered friends" that delight "birders" from around the country each year. Now, the warm days of spring have prompted the return of peregrine falcons to Minnesota skies.

"After being almost completely wiped out by pesticides in the 1950s and 1960s, the peregrine falcon recovery represents one of the greatest conservation success stories in the nation," said Carrol Henderson, supervisor, Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Nongame Wildlife Program.

Peregrine falcon restoration began in Minnesota in 1982. More than 182 falcon chicks have been released at a cost of $3,000 per chick. The first successful nesting occurred in 1987 at the Multifoods Tower in downtown Minneapolis. Since then, the number has increased annually. Last year, 38 pairs successfully raised 84 young at traditional cliff areas along Lake Superior's North Shore.

"Minnesotans can take pride in the return of the peregrine because they made it happen through their support of the Nongame Wildlife Checkoff Fund on their state tax forms."

The successful restoration of the peregrine falcon, bald eagle and trumpeter swan population is just the beginning. Minnesota is home to more than 800 species of nongame wildlife, some of which are in jeopardy because of habitat loss and environmental threats.

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You may not have noticed in some areas of the state, but, spring is upon us and it's time to start cleaning up the yard. Spring is also when most of Minnesota's wildfires occur.

More than 40 percent of Minnesota's wildfires are caused by debris burning - those spring cleanup fires that get away from home and cabin owners. Spring fire restrictions have greatly reduced the numbers of wildfires and using alternatives such as composting can further reduce fires, according to Dave Schuller of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

"Before lighting a match to that pile of dead grass, leaves and other spring yard debris, check with the local fire warden or DNR Forestry office for burning restrictions, check the weather and consider alternatives like composting," Schuller said.

There are three simple spring clean-up activities that can improve the fire safety around the home:

- Clean leaves off the roof and especially out of rain gutters to improve the flow of rainwater and prevent a wildfire from jumping onto your roof.

- Clean leaves and other flammable debris off of decks.

- Clean all leaves, lumber, firewood and other flammable debris out from under decks and against the foundation of buildings, which are places a small grass fire can gain a foothold and ignite a home. Make sure lumber and firewood are moved at least 30 feet from buildings.

With wildfires in mind, it should be noted that the rapid loss of snow cover in north central Minnesota has prompted the Minnesota DNR to expand the spring burning restrictions to include an additional 19 Minnesota counties.

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Burning restrictions go into effect in nine counties at 8 a.m. on April 11; restrictions for the other 10 begin at 8 a.m. on April 15. That increases the total number of restricted counties in Minnesota to 36.

"It is extremely dry and with the warm weather and lack of moisture that makes the situation that much more serious," said George Meadows, DNR fire prevention specialist. "Fire crews have already been busy responding to a number of wildfires throughout the effected counties."

Historically, 80 percent of all wildfires in Minnesota occur during April and May.

Johnson, who works with the Minnesota Office of Tourism in St. Paul, can be reached at (651) 297-3488 or via e-mail at curt.johnson@state.mn.us

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