And In The News, September 14

Early stirrings of environmental awareness:

Bayfield County Press, September 14,  1928

Braun Shoots Eagle

About 2 o’clock Tuesday while delivering groceries out the Red Cliff road Fritz Braun was hailed by Mrs. Frazier who told him a large eagle was sitting on the fence looking over her chickens and refused to leave the premises, evidently staying with unfriendly designs upon the poultry.

Mr. Braun procured a shotgun and landed a charge in the bird, which then flew away a short distance toward the lake, but with effort, being badly wounded in the wing.  The eagle showed a fight and it was no child’s play to finish him off with the club with which the valiant Fritz now attacked him.  At length, however, he gave up the ghost of eagledom, and at present writing is still a very dead corpse awaiting burial.

And suddenly, a shift in direction and a lighthouse connection:

While Madame Frazier is to be excused in suspicioning the motives of her visitor and while Fritz may be commended for his valour; yet the writer gladly joins with Mr. Ed Lane of Michigan Island in mourning for this noble bird who met thus his inglorious end.  Mr. Lane, when told that one of his friends had been killed, was measurably perturbed and wanted to know why anybody one wanted to shoot an eagle.

If anybody here about knows eagles, Lane does. For 27 years he has neighbored with them on Michigan Island, where there has been an eagle’s nest near the light station as long as there has been a federal light on the islands. These eagles, says Ed are good neighbors, minding their own business and asking nothing more than that their human neighbors do the same. Lane has had 200 chickens running about loose there and in plain site of the eagles all summer, to which the mighty birds of the air pay no attention whatever.

Michigan Island Keeper Ed Lane

This article appeared during a critical period of transition in the north country. Just one month earlier the Press ran an article headlined, “Commercial Fishing Is Passing on Lakes,” lamenting that “Fish are now less abundant than they were 50 years ago,” and noting that “more nets are needed to catch the same number of fish.” Four summers before, the great Bayfield lumber mills of the Pike and Wachsmuth companies had shut down forever, the “inexhaustible” forests of the region all but cut clean.

Two years after this article, the first serious attempt to create an Apostle Islands national park would end in frustration… for the time being. The writer’s concluding paragraphs hint at the recognition of the value of wild nature as an attraction to the visitor:

This is still one of the few places in the present populous and civilized world were eagles still soar with the grace and freedom of ancient days.  They are a picturesque addition to the natural beauty of the region.  What  more appropriate as a tourist offering than the promise of a glimpse of  wild wooded shorelines like unto those the fur traders and voyageurs knew two centuries ago and with the eagles still sailing over them?

So we feel for Mr. Lane in the loss of one of his friends and lift our voice in protest against the destruction of the remnants of what little wildness still lives in our landscape.

Noble bird!  Symbol of American freedom! Yet, what is liberty in the land of thy feathered fathers; when every American except your friend Ed Lane has a shotgun pointed at thy innocent heart?

Incidentally, years later, the keeper’s daughter, Edna Lane Sauer, confirmed her father’s affection for the great birds of prey:

There was one HUGE Pine tree – partly on the (lighthouse) reservation that one lumber company wanted Dad to sell to them – they didn’t know MY DAD! That tree was where the Eagles always nested. When Dad would be fishing, lifting a net, the Eagle would watch him and Dad would wave a nice trout then throw it in the air – Mr. Eagle never missed it.

I hope Ed would be pleased to see how his island is looking these days.

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