News Briefs: Minnesota's troubled species lists are final
Editor's note: The following is a collection of news briefs from Forum Communication Company newspapers in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.
Minnesota's troubled species lists are final
The beleaguered moose has ambled onto Minnesota's growing lists of troubled species, while wolves, snapping turtles and eagles -- doing better than in past decades -- have soared off the lists entirely.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Monday announced the final versions of newly revised lists of endangered species, threatened species and species of concern, the first major changes in 17 years.
Moose are one of 66 animals, reptiles, fish, insects and mollusks added to the lists. The updated list also includes 114 native plants on the list for the first time that botanists say are declining.
The moose, which has experienced a dramatically declining population, is listed as an official species of concern.
The little brown myotis bat, now facing a devastating attack from white-nose syndrome fungus recently found in Minnesota bat caves, is being added to the list as a species of concern in advance of any major downturn, as is the big brown bat for the same reason.
The DNR proposes to end state designation for 15 plants and 14 animals that are doing well and to upgrade others. The peregrine falcon and trumpeter swan both are being upgraded from threatened to species of concern.
Lake Park mayor freed on own recognizance
DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - The mayor of Lake Park has been released on his own recognizance after a court appearance on criminal charges he financially exploited his sister, a Down's syndrome patient.
Aaron Wittnebel, 32, was charged Aug. 6 in Becker County District Court with financial exploitation of a vulnerable adult and failure to provide care, a felony.
Court documents state Wittnebel, who was his disabled sister's guardian, had failed to pay for more than $6,000 of her care at Divine House in Detroit Lakes, and that about $5,409 of her money was missing.
Wittnebel has denied any wrongdoing, and said in a previous interview he will continue his mayoral duties as the case progresses. His next court appearance is set for Sept. 23.
Dakotafest could set records
MITCHELL, S.D. -- A new owner, better weather and an even bigger farm show.
That's how show director Ray Bianchi summed up the 18th edition of Dakotafest, which runs today through Thursday at the Schlaffman Farm just southeast Mitchell. Bianchi said the show has signed 685 vendors this year -- up from 585 last year.
"I'm excited. We're anticipating the largest Dakotafest we've ever had. We're sold out and our projections are at 109 percent of budget," Bianchi said.
Dakotafest will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. today and Wednesday and from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday. Gate admission is $10. Children 18 and younger are admitted free, and parking is free.
The American Farm Bureau Federation acquired Dakotafest and other farm shows this month in a deal with Cygnus Business Media, the former owner.
Search looks for signs of pregnancy
GRANITE FALLS, Minn. -- Authorities are investigating whether the Clarkfield woman interviewed last week is the mother of the two newborns whose remains were found last fall in rural South Dakota.
A search warrant in the South Dakota homicide case was executed last week for various cellphone, photo and computer equipment plus DNA swabs from Kelly Jean Anderson, 34, of Clarkfield, formerly of Hendricks.
According to the search warrant and supporting affidavit filed in District Court in Yellow Medicine County, authorities were seeking photos of her in a state of pregnancy between 2008 and 2011 and photos of her wearing a South Dakota State University shirt found with the remains. The warrant also details a search for literature, notes or other computer searches related to pregnancy, self-delivery, home delivery, abortion, concealing pregnancy and disposing of human remains.
The South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation has been conducting the homicide investigation since the November discovery of the remains in a tree grove on farmland by Fish Lake, near Astoria, S.D. The Deuel County land is owned by a family member of Anderson, and there is a cabin there which she has permission to use, according to the affidavit.
During last week's search warrant execution and interview at a Clarkfield home, Anderson produced a handgun and pointed it at herself, the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension said in a statement Friday. The South Dakota officers struggled with her and the gun fired, but no one was injured.
Court documents detail various leads that pointed to Anderson after the discovery of the remains, including from people who said they had talked to her about appearing pregnant. One person reported Anderson saying she had a tumor removed, another that she said she was simply fat and not pregnant, and another that she said she had suddenly lost weight due to illness.
Suit filed against Red River diversion
FARGO - After more than a year of considering a legal challenge, Red River diversion opponents south of Fargo filed a lawsuit on Monday in U.S. District Court against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
The lawsuit accuses diversion leaders of unnecessarily expanding the scope of the flood protection, which the Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority alleges will multiply its estimated cost and damage farm lands that fall in the so-called staging area where water would collect in the event of a severe flood.
According to the suit, it would protect land closer to Fargo for future development at the cost of communities upstream.
"This new design would intentionally flood large areas of valuable high ground, including communities and prime farm land," which may damage the tax bases in the two counties and hurt property values, the suit alleges.
The suit says lawmakers in Washington, D.C., have been given "the false choice between building a vastly overpriced, unnecessarily expansive project, or providing no protection at all," the lawsuit says.
The Richland-Wilkin Joint Powers Authority is made up of 20 cities and townships in North Dakota's Richland County and Minnesota's Wilkin County.
Aaron Snyder, a project manager for the $1.8 billion project, said the corps is still reviewing the lawsuit.
NDSU linebacker pleads guilty
FARGO - North Dakota State University starting linebacker Travis Beck pleaded guilty Monday to resisting arrest charges in Cass County Court, a move his attorney said was designed to allow him to put this summer's legal woes behind him without a trial interfering with the Bison football season.
In a surveillance video, Beck can be seen walking away from arresting officers responding to the fight. The video also seems to show Beck may have acted in self-defense against the other man in the fight, Matthew Aanenson, who police found lying unconscious in a nearby downtown parking lot.
The video evidence pulled from city surveillance cameras and local businesses led prosecutors to drop more serious felony aggravated assault charges against Beck.
The resisting charge is a B misdemeanor. Beck was sentenced to 10 days in jail, with all time suspended, and 360 days unsupervised probation, plus a $225 fee.
2 ex-Bison complete community service
FARGO - Two former North Dakota State University football players have cleared their community service obligations to Cass County court after being accused of failing to complete their sentences for misdemeanor election fraud on time.
Don Carter, 21, told a Cass County judge he completed his 50 hours of service to Restore Inc. at an order to show cause hearing in District Court Monday.
Carter and 12 other people pleaded guilty to forging signatures on two petition forms last summer for North Dakota ballot initiatives.
Aireal Boyd was also accused of failing to complete his 50 hours of community service. At an order to show cause hearing last week, he said he had completed his community service, according to Cass County prosecutor Cherie Clark.
A bench warrant has been issued for D.J. McNorton, a third former NDSU football player accused of failing to complete his service.