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Where have all the baby loons gone?

Katie Kuefler, 16, of Glen Ellyn, IL, at right, is shown working on a loon nesting platform at the family's vacation home on Rabideau Lake. Watching are her sister Caroline, and father, Patrick, a St. Cloud native now with the federal Environmental Protection Agency in Illinois.1 / 2
One of 15 bluebird houses built by Katie Kuefler as part of a Girl Scout project. The Illinois girl is also constructing a nesting platform to be placed on Rabideau Lake with help from local state DNR personnel.2 / 2

Katie Kuefler is 16 and from Illinois, but with her family, she spends about a month each year at their Rabideau Lake vacation home.

Katie is a Girl Scout, and when she heard others talking about never seeing baby loons around as in earlier years, she got interested. Interested enough, as it turned out, to make a Gold Award project out of doing something about it.

In Girl Scouting, the Gold Award is about the same as a Boy Scout achieving the Eagle Scout rank.

A few days before Christmas, she began assembling a floating platform where loons could nest, lay their eggs, raise their young. With a power saw and hand tools, she cut the 4x4 redwood timbers serving as the nesting platform frame. She also put together 15 bluebird houses, hoping to increase that avian population as well.

Kuefler is the daughter of Patrick and Judy Kuefler of Glen Ellyn, IL. A native of St. Cloud, he is a clean water specialist with the Environmental Protection Agency. His wife is equally involved, in her case, with clean drinking water regulations.

As she chiseled through a stubborn knot in the wood to mortise so a cross-piece would fit, Katie said the nesting platform will go at a Rabideau Lake site the local DNR people will help select. She's also gotten cooperation from local forest service personnel who furnished the lumber for the loon project as well as for the bluebird houses to be spotted in the Moose Lake area.

The project was carefully described in the proposal Katie presented to Girl Scout leaders saying the goal is "to increase the likelihood of producing successful loon chicks on a lake that has not had them for several years."

Beyond that, she hopes to show "the capability of an individual to act on behalf of the environment in one's personal life... and community involvement in local issues will be expanded."