Friday, June 09, 2006

Forest Service's Burnings Roll on Despite Pleas for Change

USFS Dennis Nietzke, Gunflint District Ranger, and Patty Johnson, fire officer informed some twenty Trail residents on the District's planned prescribed burns proposed for this year's burning season. Among the most controversial of the burns current under consideration are the Meads Lakes, which the Banadad Ski Trail runs through, another burn around Seagull, which could burn much of the remaining unburned shore line around the lake and the burning of the Caribou Rock Trail. All these proposed burns are in the BWCA and they all would presumably be limited to blowdown "patch burns."

While Nietzke argued that when they burns the blowdown within a patch, the fire tend to burn only up to the edge of the patch where the blowdown is located. Then of course Seagull's Three Mile Island was a "patch burn" and the whole island burnt. Nietzek explanation on this one was that, "the island burnt as we thought it would; not as we would have liked it to be."

Nietzke stated that among the priority burns for this year is Mead lake. The Banadad Ski Trail runs through the full length of the Meads burn. According to the USFS there are fifty four burn patches of which eleven are direct on the Banadad. If the batches along the Trail are ignited, over a mile of the Trail in this one burn unit alone would be destroyed. Again at this meeting as another previous meeting Patty Johnson stated that to help protect the Banadad
they could simply pulled back from the Trail and not ignite the "patches" on or near the Trail. When asked have they decided to do this yet both Johnson and Nietzke said no decision on this has been made; this despite the fact that the Meads Lake burn, as a proposed priority, could begin anytime and maybe within weeks.

Many of the residents at the briefing were from Seagull and expressed concerned about another burn on their lake. Nietzke stated that they are re-examining the propose large Seagull burn and he has not yet decided what they are going to do - whether to not burn it at all, not burn along the lake or what or whatever.

Nietzke had a similar answer about the proposed caribou Rock burn. He stated that they have reviewed that burn many time and are still trying to figure out how to conduct this burn with out destroying the caribou Rock Trail.

Reforestation of the wilderness was another concerned express by several residents. Johnson had stated that when they burn the forest tend to regenerate with aspen, balsam and birch. Several in the audience added "and brush" and she reluctantly agreed. When asked how are they going to restore the white pine, spruce and cedar that are destroyed from their burning within the BWCA, Neitzky exclaimed that they are not allowed, under current legislated, to assist in the reforestation in anyway within the BWCA.

While the burns are being conducted to protect Gunflint resident from wildfires, the question was raised, how much protects is enough. Jim Raml from Seagull state"if you carry this concern of protecting us from fires to its logical conclusion then you simply burn the forest and the threat will be gone- no forest no wildfire threat. This is not what I want but is this what you want?" It was also stated that people that choose to live in the forest have always faced the threat of wildfires For those that can not accept this perhaps they do not belong in the woods.

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