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4-Hers team up with local partners to build loon nesting platforms

Hubbard County 4-H Extension Educator Mari Jo Lohmeier said, “We had a terrific, very educational and hands-on class with our collaborators. It was such a great learning time.”

Ten Hubbard County 4-Hers built three loon nesting platforms, thanks to a partnership of four local organizations.
Contributed/Mari Jo Lohmeier

Loons on Daisy Lake, near Nevis, and Middle Crooked Lake will have new abodes this spring.

Hubbard County 4-H, U of M Extension at Crookston, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Hubbard County Coalition of Lake Associations (COLA) and Hubbard County Solid Waste Department all partnered to build three artificial nesting platforms (ANP).

Hubbard County 4-H Extension Educator Mari Jo Lohmeier said, “We had a terrific, very educational and hands-on class with our collaborators. It was such a great learning time.”

COLA president Sharon Natzel had a conversation with Lohmeier about a partnership that morphed into the ANP project.

“Sharon then brought in the rest of the partners,” Lohmeier said. “We did a lot of planning together. 4-H found the participants and offered space and a lot of the creating materials.”


By working with Christina Hill, Hubbard County’s GreenCorps member at Hubbard County Solid Waste Department, Natzel they were able to divert reusable materials from the landfill into the ANPs.

Hill said, “This is the first time these organizational partners have collaborated together. With the 4-Hers success in learning how to create and build ANPs, there are hopes to find more projects to support the Hubbard County community in the future.”

Eco-friendly design

Over the course of four sessions, Hill explained that 10 4-Hers learned about the common loon, how to protect them as their populations are in decline and the importance of reusing construction materials from the landfill.

Natzel added, “Steve Maanum, a wildlife photographer, retired teacher and volunteer on the Big Mantrap loon team, helped the 4-Hers understand the perils and predators for loons in nesting, incubating the eggs and hatching chicks. He did this through his wildlife photographs and stories of his experiences on Big Mantrap with their loon families.”

4-Hers then engineered 1-by-1-foot prototypes of ANPs. They tested and presented their design ideas to their peers, according to Hill.

After designing prototypes, the 4-Hers assembled three full-sized, DNR-approved artificial nesting platforms.
Contributed/ Mari Jo Lohmeier

In late March, the 4-Hers assembled three full-sized, DNR-approved artificial nesting platforms.

All teams repurposed material from the landfill.

The ANPs will be launched on Daisy Lake and others shortly after ice out.


Hank Makela, 13, and Cole Briggs, 11, both joined 4-H last summer.

Briggs said he was interested in the project because “I was thinking I could get my wildlife hours in for shooting sports. I thought it was going to be fun.”

Briggs said he learned the loons have dense bones, unlike most birds.

“I basically learned to work in groups,” Makela said.

COLA’s efforts to help loons

COLA has been involved in educating and establishing loon liaisons for Hubbard County lakes as part of the DNR Loon Restoration Project for the past couple of years, Natzel explained.

The DNR and their federal partners identified the need for a few ANPs for specific lakes in Hubbard County.

They also provided specifications for building platforms, based on Sandra Gillum's "Eternal" design.

Natzel explained that Daisy Lake was identified as an ANP site, but doesn’t have a lake association.


“I’m the volunteer loon liaison until such time as we identify a lakeshore owner on Daisy Lake that is willing to become their loon liaison,” she said.

A loon swims near a nest on Big Mantrap Lake.
Enterprise file photo

More loon liaisons needed

So far, 21 loon liaisons have been working on their drafts for their lakes' Loon Friendly Lake Management Plans with the DNR Loon Restoration Project team, led by Rob Rabasco, according to Natzel.

“We’re hoping to help the DNR identify loon liaisons for additional Hubbard County lakes. We especially need loon liaisons for Daisy Lake and also Middle Crooked Lake, as these are two of the lakes that need the ANPs,” she said.

Loon liaisons assist in guiding loon conservation on their lakes, partnering with the DNR to assist with loon monitoring through the Loon Watcher Survey program ( https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/eco/nongame/projects/loon_survey.html ), and sharing "Be Aware Loon" information and promoting the use of lead-free fishing tackle to protect loons through the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency’s "Get The Lead Out" program.

To get involved, email HCColaMN@gmail.com or visit www.HubbardColaMN.org.

For information about collaborative diversion projects with Hubbard County Solid Waste Department, contact Christina Hill at christina.hill@co.hubbard.mn.us or 218-732-2341.

For further information about 4-H clubs, contact Lohmeier at 218-732-3391 or email mlohmeie@umn.edu.


Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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