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Crosslake becomes state's fourth Bird City

Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Chair Cindy Nelson, Bird City Program Manager Katie Burns and John Andrews (Representing Mayor Dave Nevin) accept a plaque and wetherproof signs designating Crosslake as the state's fourth Bird City. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal 1 / 5
Amber Taylor of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center introduces a crowd at the Crosslake Army corps of Engineers to a bald eagle rescued by the center years ago. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal2 / 5
Katie Burns, Bird City Program Manager and overseer of Outreach and Education for Audubon Minnesota shows Crosslake City Council Member John Andrews a giant replica of an owl pellet and what animal parts could be found inside. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal 3 / 5
Amber Taylor of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center introduces a crowd at the Crosslake Army corps of Engineers to a Kestrel rescued by the center. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal4 / 5
Amber Taylor of the University of Minnesota Raptor Center introduces a crowd at the Crosslake Army corps of Engineers to a bald eagle rescued by the center years ago. Travis Grimler / Echo Journal 5 / 5

Crosslake earned the honor of becoming the state's fourth Minnesota Audubon Bird City.

The designation, awarded Saturday, May 18, is twofold, said Bird City Program Manager Katie Burns. It's about recognition for the city, but it's also about engagement.

"It's something that is designed to help communities that are doing great things for the environment and community be recognized for those things and provide a pathway for those communities that are already interested in doing these things to add to that as time goes on," Burns said.

The Bird City program is relatively new to Minnesota, but it is tried and true in Wisconsin.

"We had worked with Bird City Wisconsin to learn about their program and had done some piloting with a small number of communities in 2016 and then took what we learned from those pilot cities and made some adjustments," Burns said.

The program in Minnesota received a grant from the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund to make the program a reality in 2017, and since then organizers have worked to dub Minnesota communities with the Bird City title.

Crosslake became part of that picture when community members heard about the program and reached out. Among them was Paul Bunyan Scenic Byway Chair Cindy Nelson. Burns gave an introduction to those gathered to hear about the process, and from there the former mayor got involved as well as other members of the city council, the Department of Natural Resources and other groups. They held a meeting to get the plan off the ground.

"From there the individuals that are at the initial meeting end up being a great pool for pulling together community volunteers who are essentially the Bird City advisory group," Burns said. "It's a wonderful round table, very diverse in areas of expertise that help to collect information that feeds into the application. The application, in order to qualify, is broken down into core components focused on actions done within the community that educate and engage community members about birds and bird conservation."

The application then looks at future habitat improvements like establishing native plants in new construction areas, reducing hazards to birds like light pollution and pesticides, and strategic mowing of ditches to avoid disrupting nesting.

"It's really designed to foster new relationships and greater connectivity in the community and recognizing there are great things happening and being able to bring that all together to spotlight what's happening and that this is a great community not only for people who live here and come and visit, but also for the birds and wildlife we share our natural resources with," Burns said.

Burns said the bird community designation is good for all involved.

"I think one of the biggest takeaways is that Crosslake has shown that we have communities in Minnesota - Crosslake is a perfect example - that are beautiful and healthy to live in," Burns said. "They are great for people, but they are also great for the wildlife. We know that when it comes to things like clean water and air, healthy habitats - what's good for people is also good for birds."

Some of the outdoor features of the Bird City ceremony May 18 were canceled because of rain, including bird banding and various presentations, but the program included a bird watch walk, bird related displays at the U.S. Corps of Engineers building and a presentation by the University of Minnesota Raptor Center, including a live kestrel and American bald eagle.

To wrap up the program, Nelson and council member John Andrews (standing in for Mayor Dave Nevin) were presented with a plaque and weatherproof signs designating the city as a Bird City.