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Plant survey could challenge golf course

A large volunteer effort could determine whether there are rare or endangered plants on Spirit Mountain. It will also give many residents the chance to get a firsthand look at the city's most controversial piece of real estate.

A large volunteer effort could determine whether there are rare or endangered plants on Spirit Mountain. It will also give many residents the chance to get a firsthand look at the city's most controversial piece of real estate.
Last week, both the City Planning Commission and the Parks and Recreation Commission recommended approving work permits for the proposed golf course and hotel.
The Environmental Association for Great Lakes Education (EAGLE) is organizing a citizen plant survey to look for threatened, rare and endangered plant species. The survey will focus on the area being proposed for development, which opponents say contains about 400 acres of old growth forest.
Organizers believe the survey is even more important now, since a state listed endangered plant was reportedly discovered on Spirit Mountain on July 15.
EAGLE's Craig Minowa announced Monday that the species known as pale sedge was discovered and documented during a Lake Superior Herbalist Guild herb walk.
Minowa said this plant was not discovered during the initial plant survey for the site, because in was done early in the dry spring of 1997.
"Anyone who gardens in Duluth knows you don't have anything growing in the spring," said Minowa.
He said that Gary Walton, the botanist who did the initial plant survey for the developers, will be leading the volunteer effort.
"The original plant survey was done quickly in the early spring during dry years, when these plants can't be found," said Walton on the EAGLE Web site. "Spirit Mountain has all the characteristics that would provide an ideal habitat for these threatened plants, and with enough volunteers in the field, there's a very good chance we will find some."
Minowa said volunteers do not have to have any experience and can volunteer for a day or more. Walton will instruct volunteers on what to look for including the blunt lobed grapefern, the triangle-leaved moonwort fern and the goblis fern.
"We're pretty excited," said Minowa. "It's (citizen survey) kind of a new thing that's catching on in the U.S. It has gotten going in Canada. It gets people pretty active."
The survey will run July 27-31 and Aug. 3-7. He said 12 volunteers are needed for each day, and about 50 people have signed up so far.
Minowa said finding any of these endangered species could change how the area can be developed.
For more information on the survey or to volunteer, contact Minowa at 726-1828 or Nancy Nelson at 728-1002.

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