Thumbs up to a nearly $600,000 five-year grant from the federal Drug-Free Communities Support Program going to a local anti-drug coalition.

Adolescent Chemical Wellness Advocates is a group of representatives from area schools, health-care organizations, law enforcement agencies and others seeking to address youth substance use in the area. The grant will be used in part to hire a coordinator dedicated to advancing coalition initiatives.

As more drug overdoses spring up in the area, it’s clear more attention needs to be paid to this growing problem among teens and young adults.

Among Minnesota residents in 2020, there were 14,475 nonfatal drug overdoses treated in hospitals, according to a state health department report. Minnesotans aged 15-34 experienced the largest number of nonfatal overdoses.

Like every big problem, building awareness and educating are key to combating it.

The coalition’s educational events for professionals and the public next week are a solid step in the right direction.

The Tall Cop Says Stop community event is 5:30-7 p.m. Thursday at the Mayo Clinic Health System Event Center. Registration is requested at

The ‘Lord God bird’ is gone

Thumbs down to the continuing extinction crisis and the planet’s rapidly decreasing biodiversity.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced this week that it intends to move 23 species of flora and fauna from the “endangered” list to “extinct.” Most prominent of the species for which there is deemed no realistic chance that it still survives is the ivory-billed woodpecker, once an icon of old-growth forest from North Carolina to Texas. That habitat is essentially gone, and despite decades of rumored sightings, the giant woodpecker is gone with it.

The proposed delisting would more than triple the number of species declared extinct since the passage of the Endangered Species Act almost a half century ago, from 11 to 34. And biologists say about a million other species are likely to fall out of existence within a decade, from loss of habitat, climate change and other acts of humans.

The ivory-billed woodpecker is said to have been nicknamed the “Lord God bird” because that was the reaction of people seeing it for the first time. If the wildlife service is correct, no one will ever see it again. It’s a shame.

Cutting ash

Thumbs up to the cities of Mankato and North Mankato for taking a proactive approach to emerald ash borer disease.

Both cities have laid out plans to remove ash trees on boulevards and parks in a methodical manner each year. Ash trees in distress or those already infected with the emerald ash borer will go first, but hundreds of healthy trees will go each year, too.

While it’s sad to see stately, mature trees cut down, removing the ash trees in a planned, multi-year manner makes sense. The ash borer is here and continuing to spread and they will kill each tree they infect, which will eventually be all ash. (Homeowners who want to spend the money can have ash trees routinely treated to keep them healthy, but that’s not feasible on a large scale.)

With ash such a dominant species in the state, there are a lot of them to remove. It’s a sizeable cost for cities and labor intensive. Spreading out the cost and work over multiple years ahead makes more sense than waiting until large numbers of trees are dying and trying to deal with the problem then.

It also allows for a greater diversity of new trees to be planted, sooner rather than later.

Women work Habitat program

Thumbs up to Habitat for Humanity of South Central Minnesota for its program that works with women volunteers to help build its homes in a program called “She Nailed It.”

It’s a newer initiative to not only builds bonds among female Habitat building crews but also introduces women to a volunteer activity some might not automatically sign up for.

Scheels, HomeTown Bank, LIV Aveda, Pioneer Bank and The Free Press fielded teams in the recent efforts. Encouraging women volunteers for Habitat likely increases the overall pool of volunteers for these worthy causes.

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