local features

Ben Meyer/WXPR

At Mole Lake Casino near Crandon, a machine greets visitors even before a person does.

After visitors lower their faces to a camera, the machine scans their forehead, offering an automated invitation to advance if their temperature is below 100.4 degrees.

A security guard checks for mask wearing and asks some health questions before allowing entry to the casino floor.

The sights of the flashing lights and sounds of slot machine jingles are familiar. But there’s something else, too, the faint scent of disinfectant, with wipes and sprays stationed all over.

Wisconsin Historical Society

The Indian Termination Act of the 1950s was a misguided attempt to alleviate economic hardship on Reservations by terminating tribal sovereignty and relocating Native peoples to urban areas where they could find work and be assimilated.  The act had a significant impact on Wisconsin’s Menominee Tribe.  It also led to the founding of the American Indian Movement.  

Story of the Snowmobile

Feb 10, 2021
Wisconsin Historical Society

The town of Sayner promotes itself as the “birthplace of the snowmobile” and the community has a legitimate claim to that title.  However, as with so many historical topics, the story is a bit more complicated than that.  

Carl Eliason’s hand-built 1924 motor toboggan is on display in Sayner’s Snowmobile Museum, and Eliason’s design was the prototype for the modern snowmobile.  While Eliason’s model became the most successful, it was not the first, and Northwoods residents experimented with all sorts of snow machines before settling on Eliason’s toboggan.

Using Wood as Fuel

Feb 9, 2021
Scott Bowe

Humans have used wood as fuel for millennia. It has been used for cooking, heating, and more recently power production. I thought this topic would be timely given that we are experiencing our first real cold snap of 2021. In fact, I’ve had our wood stove burning all weekend – enjoying the fire inside while looking out our frosty windows.


If you’ve ever attended a public meeting to testify, you probably have noticed there is a broad range of testimony types that yield varying results. The Masked Biologist gives a few pointers for effective testimony.

I have been watching a lot of meetings lately about natural resource issues, from wildlife hunting seasons to land acquisition or sale. Meetings have been a big part of my life in a career as a public servant, and it occurs to me that there are numerous simple ways that people can make their brief time testifying at the podium more effective. Here are a few.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The words “Mellen State Bank” are etched into the sandstone façade over which Jeff Peters ran his right hand on Tuesday.

“It feels like history,” he said. “It almost feels like the history of connecting this area.”

Those carved words and the one-story façade look just like they did when the Mellen State Bank opened in 1902.

The sandstone was quarried on Basswood Island in the Apostle Islands, the same sandstone used to build fashionable brownstone homes in East Coast cities.

Wisconsin Historical Society

The early history of Phillips in Price County is primarily one of the railroads and logging industries.   Like other Northwoods communities, Phillips had a healthy economy based in logging, and that industry helped contribute to a catastrophic event in its early history.  

The town of Phillips is in the center of Price County and serves as the county seat of government.  It was a logging town but originally came into existence because of the railroad.


Recently three dogs were poisoned, one fatally, while on a walk in the woods with their owners. Do you know what poison does to dogs and other animals? What can you do to protect your dogs? Is there any way you can help? The Masked Biologist tries to help with answers in this week’s Wildlife Matters.

Michelle Reed

Pandemics are nothing new to Ojibwe people. Neither are isolation or cold winters.

“Long ago, the arts and crafts, they kept our people from going stir-crazy,” said Greg Johnson, a Lac du Flambeau artist. “Our culture was definitely there for us. It’s almost like insurance for bad times.”

The current pandemic has put that spirit on display for Ojibwe artists. It has led to a resurgence in cultural exchange, Johnson said. A glance at traditional moccasins being produced and dances being taught makes that clear.

And it’s all happening online.

Wisconsin Historical Society

The Northwoods economy was focused on the logging industry in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  However, mining was just as important to the economic growth of the region, and in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and Michigan’s Upper Peninsula mining for copper and iron brought economic prosperity to many communities.  It also brought hardship and tragedy.  


The gray wolf has been on and off the federal endangered species list for years. Right now, it’s off the list. But designation on the endangered species list can be politized, and politics have shifted. The Masked Biologist has more about what’s happening with this year’s wolf hunt.

Last week was a crazy week. There was a lot going on, and everything felt rushed. In Washington DC, President Trump rushed to finish some things before he left office, and the same day, President Biden rushed to undo many of the things that his predecessor had done, or left undone.

Image Courtesy of Josh Swan


Have you ever stopped and admired an old wooden canoe or an early motorboat on a lake? If you have, you are not alone as the beauty and craftsmanship of these early watercraft captivates many including boat builder Josh Swan who is keeping the tradition alive.

Ben Meyer/WXPR

The World Bank has offices in more than 130 places and staff from more than 170 countries.

Starting more than a decade ago, one of those staff members worked from a wood-paneled office overlooking a small lake outside Mercer.

He was among the first telecommuters in Iron County, Wisconsin, a part of the first wave of work-at-home employees whose number has now spiked in the area.

Gary Theisen had lived for years in Washington, DC, working at the headquarters of the World Bank and traveling internationally.

Wisconsin Historical Society

Cornelius Harrington, a native of Hurley, grew up in the Northwoods and maintained a lifelong dedication to the land he loved.  Before his career could take off, his forestry skills made him invaluable to the U.S. Army in World War I.  Before getting there, however, Harrington survived a harrowing shipwreck.  


Have you thought about your funeral plans and their impact on the environment? It is not a pleasant topic, but it is one the Masked Biologist thinks deserves some extra thought, as he shares in this week’s Wildlife Matters.