Friday, September 21, 2007

Addendum to "Residents Express Opposition to Burning Caribou Rock"- Burning not the Only Way

If the USFS goes ahead with their proposed Caribou Rock prescribed burn it is likely that much, if not most, of the old-growth pine along the historic Caribou Rock hiking trail will be destroyed. The Forest Service hopes to protect the pines along the trail by limiting their burn to a ground fire. However, based upon pasted experience with proposed ground fires- what is hope for is not always what happens. On Seagull Lake's Three Mile Island most of the islands beautiful ancient pines were burned when the proposed ground fire crowned. Gunflint District Ranger, Dennis Nietzke in explaining what went wrong on Three Mile stated, "what we hoped would happen didn't but what we thought would happen did."

The residents that are objecting to burning the Caribou Rock trail are concerned that like Three Mile Island what is hoped for will end up being what they all feel will happen - those beautiful pines along the trail will be destroyed.

Granted the Three Mile Island burn may have played a role in protecting residents during the Cavity Lake Fire. And granted along the Caribou Rock trail their is a build up of fuels from the blowdown that should be removed. But burning these fuels is not the only way to remove them.

The most important portion of the Caribou Rock Trail to the area residents is the first one and half miles and, guest what? This part of the trail is outside of the BWCA where mechanical means can be used to remove the blowdown. Mechanical equipment was used to remove the accumulated fire hazardous of brush, balsam and blowdown in the past to protect the old growth stands of white pines at the Pines near the Landfill turnoff, by the Lullaby Creek Road and other places along the Gunflint Trail.

Therefore the question to the Forest Services is- since the pines along the Caribou Rock trail are historically so important to area residents and since the most significant portion of that trail is outside the BWCA, why not remove the fuel hazard using a method that is least likely to destroy those pines- mechanical equipment. Then after that portion of the Caribou Rock Prescribed Burn area outside the BWCA is cleared mechanically the Forest Services could go ahead and burn the remainder of the area inside the BWCA. The result would be that, at least, the must significant portion of the trail's pines would likely be preserved.

Several residents have already requested that mechanical equipment be used on the portion of the planned burn outside the BWCA but like a speeding out-of-control freight train the Forest Service appears to be unable to even slow down enough to consider other alternatives.

by Ted Young

Thursday, September 20, 2007

DNR Withdrawns Hungry Jack Land Exchange

In a Letter received this past weekend by Nancy Seaton, Hungry Jack Outfitters, Doug Rowlett, Minnesota DNR announced that, "After listening to local input and after much consideration I have decided to withdraw the state land parcel by Hungry Jack Lake in Section 4-64-1W from the proposed DNR land exchange."

Upon Hearing news Hungry Jack resident Sue Focke stated, "never underestimate the power of the Hungry Jack Lake landowners - many thanks for the latest victory!

Saturday, September 15, 2007

First Frost at Poplar Creek

This Fall's first frost arrived at Poplar Creek Guesthouse B&B this morning. The temperature is hovering at 30 degrees. Yesterday the season's first snow arrived. While it snowed quite heavy off and on during the day, none of the snow stayed on the ground.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Residents Express Opposition to Burning Caribou Rock and Rose

About thirty residents turned out at the Mid Trail Fire Hall to hear from the Forest Service about what prescribed burns they plan to do this fall. The Forest Service told those present that, if weather conditions allow, they hope to burn Dawkins Creek, Mead Lake, Caribou Rock and several others in the mid-trail areas this Fall.

Richard Fink, a cabin own on Hungry Jack Lake and Wayne Anderson, from Grand Masais voiced their concern that burning the Caribou Rock trail could destroy one of the areas must scenic hiking trail. Several others in the audience agreed. Concerns were also express concerning the planned future burns on Duncan Lake, which would include the Stairway Portage and overlooks at Rose.

Dennis Neitzke, District Ranger, obviously upset by these comments, took over the "floor" and stated, " I do not like the way this meeting is going." He then when on to explain that he has a mission to complete all the prescribed burns that were planned following the 1999 Blowdown. - including the Caribou Rock and Duncan burns.

When Neitzke was asked if due to the large number of wildfires that have taken place already in the Mid Trail area- the Ham Lake this year, the Famine and Redeye last year along with a number of smaller fires over the past few years, if he even bothered to consider these other burns in the planning of this Falls planned prescribed burns. Ignoring the question, Neiztke re-stated that the planned prescribed burns had to be completed.

Tim Bassett, who lives on Portage Lake, then stated that, " some people apparently are only interested in protecting their own little self-interest". Bassett then expressing his own little self-interest went on to say, I want to see the burns to take place around me to protect my property.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Residents Oppose DNR Land Swap Near Hungry Jack Lake

Hungry Jack Lake residents are up in arms over a proposed Minnesota DNR land trade with land developer Larry DeWester. The proposed land deal would swap 440 areas of logged over land in the Hovland area for 106 acres south of Hungry Jack Lake along with, what looks to be, an additional 280 acres of land along the Caribou Trail and the County Landfill Road.

According area resident the valuation of the proposed land to be traded to DeWester is way out of balance. Residents claim that even without including the Hungry Jack parcel DeWester would be getting a great deal. The Hungry Jack land according to the resident is valuable because it has easy assess through the South Hungry Jack Road on the north and Bunn Road on the South and ready access to electrical and phone services. But they argue it should remain in State hands and not be develop.

The Hungry Jack land proposed in the trade is located on a hill-side slanting down towards the lake. Any more develop here, according to the residents, would only add more stress on lake's fragile eco-system.

The lake residents expressed their concerns about this proposed swap to Minnesota DNR representative Doug Rowlett at a meeting of the Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway Committee meeting at old Swanson's Lodge on Hungry Jack Lake on Monday, September 10. Rowlett took note of their concerns.

DeWester land is the same land he previously proposed to trade to the DNR for State land located on the hillside and Gunflint Trail above Grand Marais. This proposed trade was "shot-down" by local opposition last December.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Gunflint Drought Ended by a Flood

The Gunflint Trail long lasting drought was ended on Thursday, September 6 with 9.6 inches of rain recorded by Dave Clutter's, Poplar Lake official weather recorder. In fact the month of September thus far has now recorded 12.7 inches of rain far exceeding the past ten year average for September of 2.92 inches. Thursday's rain flooded basements and washed-out many gravel roads throughout the Gunflint.

The USFS and Minnesota DNR, no surprise to anyone, has removed camp fire restrictions throughout Superior National Forest including the BWCA.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

County Commissioner Johnson Speaks Out on Forest Recovery

The following is from Commissioner Johnson's - newsletter #27-

"After the presentation by Lee Frelich last week it was clear to me that much of the recently burned pine forested areas will regenerate into aspen, birch, balsam, and spruce. The pine component will be significantly reduced. Planting and/or seeding pine in the next two years, before the brush gets too thick, would help to give the pines a better chance to get started.

Fall is a good time to plant trees. Trees under power lines are always looking for a new home.

You can obtain seeds from Red and White Pine cones by placing this year’s newly dropped closed cones into a bucket in a warm place, and let them open up. The seeds will drop to the bottom of the bucket. Jack Pine seeds can be obtained by heating the closed cones in a “coffee can” (campfire or oven) until they open and the seeds can be shaken out. Massive reseeding of the forest may be difficult politically or economically, but by seeding and/or planting, each of us can leave a pine tree legacy on our own property or at our favorite picnic or campsite spots.

Seeds and Trees: Mark you calendars for the first weekend in May next year. The Gunflint Trail Association is planning a tree planting event for the anniversary of the Ham Lake Fire."

Monday, September 03, 2007

Expert rues humanity's effect on BWCAW forests

A University of Minnesota forest scientist says it's time to take a proactive approach to minimize humans' rapid toll on the wilderness.

Date: March 23, 2006
Byline: JOHN MYERS, Duluth News Tribune

Change is constant in nature, but it used to move more slowly.

Over the past 150 years, humans have been changing the forest of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness faster than during any time in the previous 3,000 years.

And we're doing more every day, says Lee Frelich, a University of Minnesota forest scientist.

First, it was logging more than half the BWCAW, allowing aspen to become a dominant species where pines once ruled.

Then it was Smoky Bear and the end of fires that regenerate naturally.

Now exotic plant species are creeping in. So are European earthworms, reducing leaves on the forest floor and pushing out native wildflowers.

Whitetail deer have replaced native caribou and are growing in number, munching on white pine faster than the trees can grow in some places. New tree diseases and insects, most brought here by people, are taking their toll.

Global climate change may seal the deal, pushing some of the species we associate with trips through the Boundary Waters out of the area.

Suddenly, the federal definition of wilderness, "untrammeled by man," loses some meaning.

"We're changing it so much that you really need to question what wilderness means," said Frelich, who will speak on the subject tonight at Vermilion Community College in Ely. "The Boundary Waters (forest) as we've known it won't be here 50 years from now."

Frelich said it's time to reconsider the official federal "hands-off" policy of wilderness management and begin taking a proactive role in reducing humans' impact.

"What's more of a wilderness, to have an exotic species like buckthorn take over for the native species, or to go in there and start fires and regenerate species that belong there?" Frelich asked. "What the wilderness is going to look like from now on is more of a social choice than a biological choice. Humans are impacting it every day whether they admit it or not."

Frelich is proposing large changes in federal wilderness policy to retain or return to a more natural forest.

First and foremost is a more liberal policy of letting fires burn in the BWCAW. Though federal policy has slowly changed to allow more wildfires, it hasn't been enough to allow widespread natural regeneration of keystone species such as jack pine.

The Forest Service is burning small chunks of the 1.1 million acre wilderness to help get rid of trees blown down in the 1999 windstorm. Where those fires have occurred, natural regeneration of pine and paper birch has been successful. But Frelich believes the agency should keep going and burn part of the wilderness each year.

By burning jack pine often, not only will new cones open and sprout, but the species will regenerate under warmer climates each generation. Without encouraging that adaptation, jack pine will be pushed out of Minnesota as our climate continues to heat up, Frelich said.

Barb Soderberg, public service team leader for the Superior National Forest that oversees the BWCAW, said fire policy has evolved to appreciate the role wildfires have in forests. Slowly, the agency will allow lightning fires in the BWCAW to regenerate the forest -- but only if they don't threaten developed areas.

"The law says we can intervene only to allow the natural process to happen," or for public safety, Soderberg said. "But we can't go in there and do vegetative manipulation because we don't like a certain species that's thriving."

Soderberg said the Forest Service may have to take a closer took at what role to play as forests change because of a warming climate and exotic species brought by humans.

"It gets to be an interesting discussion, trying to bring the wilderness back to some sort of earlier state," Soderberg said. "But what do you try to bring it back to? 1600? 1800? 1920? What would the natural process (of change) have brought us to at this point without the impact?"

Frelich, director of the University of Minnesota's Center for Hardwood Ecology and the leading authority on the natural history of Minnesota's boreal forests, said the Forest Service also needs to look at reseeding and planting species such as white pine in areas where they are not regenerating naturally.

And Frelich said the agency should start collecting seeds from species like ash that are doomed to extinction if imported pests such as the emerald ash borer continue to rout the nation's forests.

"We expect to see all of the nation's ash species extinct within a couple decades because of the emerald ash borer," Frelich said. "If we don't try to preserve something, we'll never get them back."

Originally posted at:

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