Winter Buckthorn Treatment is Underway

Common and glossy buckthorn are common invaders in native landscapes; common buckthorn grows mostly in upland environments while glossy buckthorn grows in wetland environments. ACD is working to control buckthorn at sites that still have intact native plant communities and rare plants to ensure those quality sites do not become further degraded. Work this winter is taking place at Robert and Marilyn Burman WMA, Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, and Blaine Preserve SNA with funds from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment.

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207 Hits

Welcome Supervisor Werdien!

Colleen Werdien is a Minnesota native, growing up with her family in Mounds View before moving to Anoka County 25 years ago. She settled first in Columbia Heights, but seven years ago when she saw an article in the paper about an old house for sale that was originally built in 1852, she decided to move to the city of Anoka very near the banks of the Rum River.

Growing up, nature was always easily accessible for Colleen. In her childhood home, Colleen fell in love with the knee-high prairie grasses and small creek running through her backyard and the forest right across the street. Colleen carried these experiences in nature throughout her life, naming several significant places in Minnesota she loves to visit today including the Boundary Waters, Jeffers Petroglyphs in the southwest, and the prairies of Pipestone.

Her home in Anoka sits on ¾ of an acre that is largely shaded by mature trees. In her sunny boulevard, Colleen tends to a variety of native plants that are beneficial for pollinators while working to keep the invasive weeds and buckthorn at bay. If she's not out in her yard, you are most likely to find Colleen pursuing one of her many artistic interests from pottery to felt and wool, and from drawing to playing the ukulele and piano!

Colleen is already an active member of her community working with several local organizations and volunteer groups. She is an active member of the Andover Pollinator Awareness Project as well as the Anoka County Master Gardeners, both of which allow her to work with and advocate for the native prairie plants and flowers she adores. In addition, Colleen volunteers for her church and serves on the HRA Board working to purchase and revitalize homes that have fallen into disrepair.

Still, Colleen felt the desire to do more for her community to make an impact. She has been concerned about the state of our natural resources her whole life and when she learned of the work ACD does, she knew she would be able to make a big impact in conservation work throughout the county as a supervisor.

We are thrilled to welcome Colleen Werdien to the ACD Board of Supervisors representing District 1. 

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Hold the Salt to Protect Minnesota’s Waters

Minnesotans love their lakes, but we've got a growing problem with salt pollution. In this brand new short video produced by our partners in Washington County, the problem of chloride pollution is explained with easy-to-understand cartoon graphics and fun narration. The video also offers suggestions on what the general public can do to help protect Minnesota's waters from salt pollution!

The video is a great outreach tool for school or youth group sessions or for sharing on social media. Enjoy!

https://youtu.be/Io-zTw5Yb6g

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169 Hits

Look Out for Oriental Bittersweet

Now that there are no leaves on the trees, it is a good time to look for Oriental Bittersweet (Celastrus orbiculatus). This invasive species is on the ERADICATE list. It is a vine that girdles and smothers trees and shrubs. Look for the bright red fruit with yellow capsules.

Be sure to check your ID with the native American bittersweet, which has orange fruit capsules instead of yellow. American bittersweet fruits are found only at the end of the vine while Oriental bittersweet has fruit at the leaf axils.

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231 Hits

Comprehensive Planning Just Got More Comprehensive

Ten-year comprehensive plans are the foundation for many agency operations. We embarked on our planning process in the fall of 2018. It has been a long journey, with unexpected turns. Where we landed is not anything like I originally imagined. It is a product of the process, made better by the expertise and insight of many partners. While we may be situated in a landscape dominated by shifting sands, we are poised to have our operations solidly grounded in our 2021-2030 Comprehensive Plan.

Managing natural resources is a complicated endeavor. They are all interconnected. Changes to one resource cascade into changes in the others. As we set out on this journey, we grappled with how to compartmentalize natural resource management so we could structure a plan. Should it be by habitat type: lakes, river, wetlands, prairies, savannas, and forests; by land cover: agriculture, residential, commercial, open space; by what we value and use: drinking water, recreation, wildlife, food, or by what we need to fix: invasive species, flooding, contamination, erosion, depletion? With guidance of ACD's Board of Supervisors, we distilled it to the most fundamental elements of ecosystems: land, water, air, and biota. After dropping 'air' for lack of jurisdiction and programs to act at the necessary scale, and splitting water into surface water and groundwater, we had the foundation for discussing and managing Anoka County ecosystem components.

We engaged technical panels of experts to discuss each of the four topics: soils, surface water, groundwater and biota to discern sixteen root benefits provided, both intrinsic and anthropocentric. A vote on the relative importance of these benefits provided a ranking; shown below in order of priority from left to right and top to bottom.

Thereafter, the Technical Advisory Committees identified the fundamental threats to those benefits. The ensuing list to contain or diminish the threats became our twenty-four objectives. Those objectives split into 70 strategies. This is where it got complicated. Because each objective could apply to multiple resources, and each strategies could apply to multiple objectives, the number of cross-connections was mounting, and not in a way that we could manage or represent in our comprehensive plan. At that point, someone suggested that the spreadsheet, wherein this complicated matrix of resources, threats, objectives and strategies was growing, should be part of the plan; published in its current form. This idea took root and empowered us to keep building onto what we've come to call The Matrix. Now, fully incorporating 281 actions along with coefficients of efficacy at multiple levels along with unit costs, The Matrix provides a means to consider the return on investment of every potential action for every resource benefit. The nearly 3000 rows of actions can be displayed quickly in countless configurations employing easy-to-use data analysis tools. The structure facilitates the creation of annual plans and can be easily modified to integrate new technologies and practices as the science and practice of natural resource management evolves. Over the next four weeks we will be unveiling this work product and look forward to receiving input from our partners and stakeholders as we strive to improve the way we serve Anoka County residents.

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258 Hits

Thanks to Outgoing ACD Supervisor Steve Laitinen

ACD thanks Steve Laitinen for his service on our board of supervisors since 2016. Steve's term ends at the end of 2020. His passion for natural resources management has been an asset and contributed to numerous projects.

Steve has represented District I. This area includes Anoka, Coon Rapids, Nowthen, Oak Grove, Ramsey and St. Francis. It also includes several natural resources, such as the Rum River, that are of particular importance to Steve and the residents he represents.

Steve's passion for the Rum River is particularly apparent in his work at the ACD. Within Anoka County, he has sought collaborative water quality efforts as our liaison to the Upper and Lower Rum River Watershed Management Organizations. Beyond Anoka County, he has been ACD's representative on the Policy Committee for the Rum River One Watershed, One Plan (1W1P). That Policy Committee consists of elected officials from 18 counties, SWCDs and watershed organizations from Lake Mille Lacs to Anoka.

During Steve's leadership, ACD has prolifically completed projects for the Rum River. Accomplishments include 31 riverbank stabilizations and six projects that treat stormwater that previously drained untreated to the Rum River. ACD will continue or increase this pace with recently secured grants for over $1.5M in riverbank stabilizations, stormwater treatment, public outreach, and other projects.

"I'd describe Steve as engaged and helpful," says Jamie Schurbon, ACD's Watershed Projects Manager. "As an example, Steve often has arrived to board meetings early, then used the time to come to my office to chat about projects. He wasn't 'checking up' on me, but rather was 'checking in' so that he could make informed decisions in his role."

"We'll miss Steve's broad knowledge base and analytical skills," states ACD District Manager Chris Lord.

We wish Steve all the best in his next community service endeavors! 

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304 Hits

What is an As-Built, and Why is it Important?

ACD recently led a project that improved the water quality benefits provided by two stormwater ponds adjacent to Martin Lake in Linwood Township. The project increased the size and depth of the ponds to the maximum extent practicable within the limited spaces available. The projects were a great success, and were recently highlighted in an outreach article titled, 'Water Quality Improvements Constructed for Coon and Martin Lakes'. They're worth mentioning again in order to highlight a critical piece of successful construction management that most people never see, the as-built survey.

As-built surveys, also commonly referred to as record drawings, provide formal documentation of exactly how a project was installed. They document the actual results of the construction project rather than the planned layout shown in the project design and are critical for project closeout.

As-built surveys ensure the project was built to meet the specifications in the original plan set. This allows the project engineer to confidently sign-off that the project was installed as per the plan. If any deviations from the original plan were approved during the construction process, the as-built survey will show the changes as they were installed and provide an opportunity to formally document those changes. Final payment to the contractor is also typically withheld until engineer sign-off on the as-built survey.

The as-built survey also provides a formal record that can be used to standardize how a project should be maintained over its lifespan. In the event of these stormwater ponds, accumulated sediment and debris should be periodically removed to achieve the original design depths in order to ensure the ponds continue to function at maximum efficacy.

Depending on the type and scale of a project, multiple as-built surveys may be completed throughout the construction process to confirm critical elevations and layouts are being met prior to approving advancement to the next construction step. They are typically shown as an overlay on the original plan sheet to allow a direct comparison and easy identification of any significant deviations from the original plan.

The 228th Place stormwater pond as-built (see plan sheet below) documented key elevations around the pond to ensure safe side slopes were achieved. It also documented the stabilized outlet and controlled overflow elevation to ensure neighboring properties were not at risk of flooding as a result of the project.

As-built surveys and the associated formal documentation they provide can sometimes be neglected because project installation went smoothly and according to plan, but they are a critical component to successful construction management and project closeout.

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243 Hits

2020 Anoka County Outstanding Conservationist – City of Blaine

The Anoka Conservation District selected the City of Blaine as the 2020 Anoka County Outstanding Conservationist. The City of Blaine has over 800 acres of dedicated open space throughout the City creating greenway corridors, opportunities to protect and restore biological diversity, and outdoor education and recreational opportunities. The Blaine Wetland Sanctuary is one of the City's open space sites serving many functions. The northern and central portions of the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary are being restored to increase diversity and are enrolled as wetland banks, which will generate funds for the City to maintain and update the city's parks, trails and open spaces. The protected open space is a refuge for the rare plants currently existing there and also has a diversity of micro habitats to accept salvaged rare plants. The City of Blaine has promoted and facilitated environmental education at the Blaine Wetland Sanctuary and public engagement with invasive species work parties and planting salvaged rare plants. The City of Blaine has had the difficult task of turning once ignored and undesired wetlands into a community resource. A special thanks to Rebecca Haug for her collaboration on projects of mutual interest, and city council member Swanson and Mayor Ryan have been strong advocates for conservation work.

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299 Hits

Clean Water Funds for Eroding Rum Riverbanks

The Board of Water and Soil Resources (BWSR) is recommending $440,000 in funding to ACD from the Clean Water Fund[1] competitive grant fund for stabilizing eroding Rum Riverbanks. This funding will be used in conjunction with funds already received from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council[2] ($816,000 to ACD) and the DNR Conservation Partners Legacy[3] grant ($185,000 to Anoka County Parks) for Rum Riverbank stabilization and habitat enhancement projects. These three funding sources will cover projects of all sizes, from small banks only needing cedar tree revetments to large failing banks requiring sophisticated engineering and reconstruction. The funds from the Clean Water Fund grant will be prioritized for the latter.

With additional matching funds from Anoka County, the Upper and Lower Rum River WMOs, ACD and landowners, over $1.5M-worth of streambank projects will be installed over the next three years to help the Rum River. The Rum River is a highly prized resource in Anoka County, but it is on the brink of impairment for phosphorus concentrations, and it has extensive bank erosion. The sediment washing into the river from these eroding banks dirties the water, increases nutrients, and smothers habitat for aquatic wildlife. ACD performed a streambank erosion analysis[4] from 2017 to 2019 that led to this concerted effort by ACD and Anoka County to secure state grant funding and local matching funds to make a big push to help the River. 

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334 Hits

Christmas Tree Care and Fun Facts

Ever since I was a young girl, my family has had a 'real' tree. Our trees were cut from our farm and some were 'Charlie Brown' trees but I have great memories of going out into the woods.

With my own family, we have a tradition of going to our local Christmas tree farm. It's definitely a memory-making experience and my girls always enjoy marching down the rows of firs, spruce, and eventually a white pine, which also happens to be my favorite conifer. I even manage to teach the girls a thing or two about how to identify the different species.

Why buy a real tree vs. a manufactured one?

  • An acre of Christmas trees can remove 8,000 pounds of carbon from the atmosphere.
  • Are biodegradable and recyclable (into mulch).
  • Provide more than a holiday decoration:
    • Habitat and shelter for birds and small animals.
    • Shade and cool the soil.
    • Help prevent erosion.
    • Provide year-round beauty in our Minnesota landscape.
    • Buying locally gives us a fresh tree and supports local businesses. Here's a list of local tree farms from the MN Christmas Tree Association: https://mncta.com/choose-cut if you don't have a favorite already.


Christmas Tree Care

Make a fresh cut. Before you bring the tree into your home and place it in a stand, re-cut the trunk at least one inch from the bottom just before putting it in the stand. Even if you just cut it, this re-opens the tree stem so it can drink water. Christmas trees are very thirsty! It is not unusual for a tree to drink 2 gallons of water the first day it is in the stand.

Choose a spot away from heat sources. Heat sources like heat registers, space heaters, fireplaces, wood stoves, televisions, computer monitors, etc. speed up evaporation and moisture loss of the tree.

Water immediately. After making the fresh cut, place the tree in a large capacity stand with warm water. The stand you use should hold at least one gallon of fresh water.

Don't add anything to the water! Research has shown that plain tap water is the best. Some commercial additives and home concoctions can actually decrease a tree's moisture retention and increase needle loss.

Check the water level daily. Do not allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut or the stem will reseal and be unable to drink.

What can I do with my tree after the holiday season?

In Anoka County, Christmas trees can be dropped off for free once they've been cleaned of all tinsel, ornaments, lights, etc. Check out this link for more information. https://www.anokacounty.us/359/Compost-Sites

These trees are chipped and recycled into mulch. Mulch moderates soil temperatures, suppresses weeds and helps hold soil moisture.

After removing indoor decorations, you can also set your tree in its stand outside and decorate it for our winter birds. (No need to water it). The Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust recommends a variety of homemade treats such as suet cakes, branches of berries, popcorn, pinecones smeared with peanut butter, and other treats. We simply set ours out by our bird feeders and the birds love the extra cover from wind, cold and predators. In early spring, we bring it to our local compost site.

Will we ever run out of trees?

The National Christmas Tree Association reports that for every tree that is cut, 2 to 3 trees are planted the following spring. So the more trees sold, the more that are planted. And the more trees planted, the more carbon dioxide is removed from the atmosphere, releasing even more oxygen. This helps reduce our carbon footprint.

This information was adapted from MN Extension https://extension.umn.edu/yard-and-garden-news/christmas-tree-care-and-fun-facts 

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225 Hits

Smart Salting Display at the Northtown Library in Blaine

Chloride is virtually impossible to remove from a waterbody. Once it's there, it's there for good. Just one teaspoon of salt contains enough chloride to pollute five gallons of water forever! And according to the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, we apply an estimated 365,000 tons of salt in the Twin Cities metro area each year. And what's even worse is that research shows that 78 percent of that salt is either transported to our groundwater supplies or remains in our local lakes and wetlands.

For the whole month of December, a display all about smart salting is up at the Northtown Library in Blaine. The display is a collaboration between the Anoka Conservation District and the Coon Creek Watershed District. It provides information about chloride pollution in Minnesota along with easy ways for residents to reduce their salt use while remaining safe this winter. When done viewing the display, library patrons can virtually sign the Smart Salting Pledge to reduce their salt use this season.

Learn more about smart de-icing practices here: https://www.mwmo.org/learn/preventing-water-pollution/snow-ice-removal/ 

Sign the Pledge here!

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184 Hits

The Recovery of the Wild Turkey Population in Minnesota

Wild Turkey - MN DNR

Did you know that wild turkey had gone from a native population of millions of birds to being almost extirpated by 1900 in the United States?

The restoration of the American wild turkey is one of the greatest wildlife conservation success stories.

That success story began in 1973 in Minnesota. The MN DNR traded a flock of its homegrown ruffed grouse for 29 turkeys from Missouri. The Missouri-born birds were released in Houston County in southeastern Minnesota and the population grew rapidly. Many partnering turkey advocates aided in their return, including members of the National Wild Turkey Federation who helped transport the flocks to new habitats. The restoration of the wild turkey over the past 25 years is one of Minnesota's greatest conservation success stories. Once rare, today wild turkeys are becoming a common sight throughout southern and western and even central Minnesota.

Wild Turkeys live year-round in open forests with interspersed clearings. They nest on the ground in dead leaves at the bases of trees, under brush piles or thick shrubbery, or occasionally in open fields. Wild turkeys are omnivorous, and their diet changes by the season: in spring and summer, they eat insects, seeds, and leafy vegetation; in fall and winter, they eat tree nuts, seeds, and berries. They will also eat small amphibians and reptiles. Poults, young turkeys, feed heavily on insects.

The Anoka Conservation District with funds from the Outdoor Heritage Foundation and National Wild Turkey Foundation is enhancing turkey habitat at the Robert and Marilyn Burman WMA and Gordie Mikkelson WMA. Tree thinning and buckthorn removal will open the forest and promote oak regeneration. Acorns are a favorite fall food. Increased native plant diversity in the woodlands, savanna, and prairies will attract a diversity of insects, providing a high protein food source.

Give thanks to the many conservationists who worked to restore wild turkey populations and their habitat. 

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Top Ten Winter Bird Feeding Tips

White-Breasted Nuthatch

10. Make sure seed is accessible and dry. Hopper or tube feeders are good at protecting seed from wet weather. Sweep snow off of platform feeders, or clear a place on the ground where you can scatter seed for ground-feeding species such as sparrows, towhees, juncos, and doves.

9. Make a windbreak. Make a windbreak using your old Christmas tree or the remains of a brush pile. Consider planting shrubs next to your feeders where the birds can rest out of the wind and escape from predators. Consider clearing a small area of snow off the ground to scatter seed if it's too soft to support their weight.

8. Keep extra feeders for use in bad weather. We keep an extra-large-capacity tube feeder in the garage for use when nasty weather comes. It not only gives the birds another place to eat, which means more birds can eat at one time, but it also cuts down on our trips outside for refilling the feeders. Other extras to consider having: peanut feeder, suet feeder, satellite feeder (for the small birds to use), and a hopper feeder.

7. Scatter seed in sheltered places. Not all birds will venture to your feeder. Some species prefer to skulk in the thickets, brambles, and other secure places. For these species, consider scattering some seed (black-oil sunflower, sunflower bits, peanut bits, mixed seed) under your deck, in your hedges and bushes, or even along the edge of a wooded area. Dark-eyed juncos especially prefer to feed on food scattered on the ground along with tree sparrows and white-throated sparrows.

6. Put out high-energy foods such as suet, meat scraps, and peanut butter. Fat gives the biggest energy boost to winter birds and without enough energy to keep them going, many songbirds would not survive a cold winter night. Suet (the fat removed from processed beef), meat scraps, and peanut butter all provide fat to birds that eat them. If you don't have a suet feeder, use a mesh onion bag. Suspend it from a tree branch or iron feeder hook. To feed peanut butter, drill one-inch holes in a foot-long section of a small log. Insert a screw eye into one end of the log. Smear peanut butter into the holes and suspend the feeder from the screw eye. And, no, peanut butter will not stick to the roof of a bird's bill and choke it to death.

5. Use a birdbath heater wisely. A water heater can keep your birdbath open in the coldest of weather, which is good but place several large rocks in your bath so there is not enough room for a bird to bathe, but still plenty of places for a thirsty bird to get a drink. When the weather warms up you can remove the rocks and let your birds get on with their hygiene.

4. Offer mealworms in a heavy dish or small crock. Use a heavy dish so the wind can't blow the worms and dish away. This is a high protein snack that many birds enjoy and can be found in most feed stores. They are relatively expensive so use them sparingly on the coldest days or in the spring when an unexpected cold snap can leave migrants without much to eat.

3. Furnish your bird houses. Imagine you're a bird roosting in a nest box on a cold winter's night. Wouldn't it be nice to snuggle down into some dried grass or dry wood shavings in the bottom of the house? Layer three to four inches of clean dry meadow grass in the bottom of bluebird boxes after the last nesting of the summer. Wood shavings work well, too. Don't use sawdust, however; it can retain moisture once wet, which does not help the birds keep warm.

2. Plug the air vent holes in your bird houses with removable weather stripping. We use the claylike weather stripping that comes in a roll (Moretite is one brand) to plug the air vent holes in our bird houses. Good ventilation is necessary on a scorching summer day, but it's a real liability for birds seeking winter shelter. Think how cozy the birds will be in a well-sealed house.

1. Be ready for big changes in weather. If you keep abreast of the weather developments you'll know when bad weather is coming, and you'll be able to stock up on seed, suet, and other goodies. You can also be ready to take on some of the activities listed above. Conversely, when the weather breaks, take advantage by cleaning and disinfecting your feeders (one part bleach to nine parts hot water). Whatever you do, don't let yourself be caught totally unprepared for harsh winter weather. 

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314 Hits

Thank You Water Monitoring Volunteers!

The Anoka Conservation District would like to thank our hardworking water monitoring volunteers for all the work they did throughout the 2020 monitoring season. Local volunteers install monitoring equipment near where they live and then take readings throughout the year. Water levels on a large number of lakes are recorded as well as tracking daily rain totals. This type of data is used in analysis and when making other natural resource management decisions. Data networks like these are not possible without the help of local residents. All of the data is available to the public through online databases operated by State of Minnesota.

Thank you Volunteers!


https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/climate_monitor/precipcharts.html

https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/lakefind/index.html

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241 Hits

Water Quality Improvements Constructed for Coon and Martin Lakes

One rain garden and two stormwater pond renovations were completed in November to treat stormwater before it reaches Martin and Coon Lakes. The projects will collectively treat 39 acres of residential development that previously were draining to the lakes with little or no treatment. They will keep 2,100 pounds of sediment and 5 pounds of phosphorus from reaching the lakes each year.

These waterbodies were priorities because both lakes are surrounded by homes and heavily used for recreation. Martin Lake is nearing the criteria for being removed from the State's list of impaired waters. Coon Lake has good water quality but is under pressure.

The rain garden was constructed in cooperation with a residential landowner along Hupp Street. Their property is a key location where drainage from 8 acres converged and entered a catch basin that piped stormwater to Coon Lake. Curb cuts on each side of the catch basin now intercept that water, allowing it to soak into the ground within the rain garden. Pollutant removal is estimated to increase by 52% compared to the pre-project condition. Mulching and planting of the gardens will be delayed until spring 2021 due to cold temperatures early in fall 2020. The property owners will maintain the garden.

The stormwater pond projects are redesigns and renovations of older ponds. Both ponds are on Martin Lakeshore within township-owned property. Both basins had filled with sediment over time and were providing little water quality treatment. Now, the basins are even larger than originally constructed to maximize pollutant removal. Pollutant removal is estimated to increase by 84% and 104%, respectively, at the two ponds. Linwood Township will own and maintain the basins.

These projects are part of a State Clean Water, Land and Legacy grant to the Sunrise River Watershed Management Organization. The Anoka Conservation District is managing the projects. Additional funds remain and will be used for similar projects in 2021.

Collaborators on these projects included the ACD, SRWMO, Martin Lakers Association, Linwood Township, and the City of East Bethel.

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277 Hits

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