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COL Minnesota ranked healthiest state

MINNEAPOLIS -- Minnesota has once again been named the healthiest state, maintaining a 15-year record that's kept it at or one spot away from the top in a nationwide ranking.

The annual survey sponsored by United Health Foundation weighs such factors as number of citizens with health insurance, heart disease rates and infant mortality.

"Minnesota has a lot to be proud of," said Dr. Reed Tuckson, an official with the United Health Foundation, which is based in St. Paul. "To rank well you have to demonstrate success across the board."

Since the rankings began in 1990, Minnesota has finished first nine out of 15 times and has never ranked lower than second. In 2003 it tied for first with New Hampshire.

Classes focus on numerous tree diseases

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MARSHALL, Minn. -- Common tree diseases, insect pests and their control is the topic of a series of classes across Minnesota.

Class locations and dates include: 9:30 a.m.-noon Nov. 22 in Rooms 4 and 5 in the Lyon County Government Center, Marshall; 4-6:30 Nov. 22 in Room R103 on the Minnesota West Community and Technical College campus in Jackson; 9:30 a.m.-noon Nov. 23 in the Snell Motors Community Room, Mankato; and 4-6:30 p.m. Nov. 23 in Room HC 118 in the Heintz Center, Rochester.

Numerous tree diseases and insects stress the growth and health of trees in Minnesota.

Tax collections higher than projected

ST. PAUL -- Tax collections were $991 million for September in Minnesota -- about 1.7 percent higher than what previously had been forecast.

For the first four months of the fiscal year that started July 1, tax collections were about 1.5 percent above the most recent official forecast in February, Finance Department officials said last week.

The next forecast, which will serve as a guide when Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature are drawing up their budget proposals, comes out in early December.

Crop pest short course planned

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ST. PAUL -- A Crop Pest Management Short Course Program is planned Nov. 22 in Room 135 in the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota.

The general session begins at 9 a.m. Topics will include understanding climate trends and associated effects on the agricultural landscape; low-level jet stream dispersal of green peach aphid; and aerial transport of rust fungi and detection in rain samples.

The keynote address will be delivered by Michael Swanson, senior economist with Wells Fargo Bank of Minneapolis.

Seven Important Bird Areas identified

ST. PAUL -- Seven more sites in Minnesota have been designated as Important Bird Areas by the National Audobon Society, as part of an effort to bring attention to critical places for birds suffering from habitat loss.

The areas include a string of sites on Lake Superior's North Shore, Felton Prairies Complex, Itasca State Park, Hamden Slough National Wildlife Refuge, the Lower Minnesota River, Springbrook Nature Center in Fridley, and Murphy-Hanrahan Park Reserve in Savage.

In addition, the Hawk Ridge Nature Reserve in Duluth -- a site where raptors concentrate as they migrate south -- received the Important Bird Area designation in September.

In time, Audubon, which oversees the program, hopes to boost the total number of state sites to 50 or 75, said Mark Martell, Audubon Minnesota's director of conservation.

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Report finds challenges ahead for U of M

MINNEAPOLIS -- The University of Minnesota has some long-term challenges ahead, including stiffer competition for students and faculty and fewer government dollars, according to a report delivered last week to the Board of Regents.

In the report analysts predicted that shifts in the student population and financial resources will require the university, and the state, to adopt new strategies to maintain its educational and economic standing, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported in Friday's editions.

"We're going to have to become very specific and very targeted in our planning activities," said Regent John Frobenius. "We have to find our niche opportunities and our strengths and exploit the heck out of them."

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