Fire crews igniting prescribed fire unit and patrol along control line with hose line and back pack pumps.
DULUTH, MN – April 2, 2015 Multi-tasking is a common term in our culture today but do you thought about how this applies to management on a national forest? Imagine having a daily task list that includes: manage fuels and respond to wildfire; provide motorized and non-motorized recreation and roads for hundreds of thousands of visitors; maintain habitat for thousands of species of plants, wildlife and fish; provide a sustainable flow of timber, minerals, and other forest products; protect air, water, and wilderness quality; and more. In Forest Service lingo, we use the term ‘multiple-use’ and it is the basis for management on the Superior National Forest.
The task list and overall guidance for day-to-day management across the Superior National Forest is provided in our Forest Land and Resource Management Plan. A key component of the Forest Plan involves management of vegetation within the larger landscape through site-specific project decisions. Past practices such as such as fire suppression and widespread harvest of mature pine forests in the late 19th and early 20th centuries affected the forest landscape in northeast Minnesota. The Forest Plan takes into account these conditions and identifies vegetation management goals to restore a productive, healthy and resilient forest landscape that supports a wide range of uses and values.
When weighing management options, Forest managers recognize that, in some cases, ‘doing nothing’ will not result in obtaining desired conditions described in the Forest Plan. For example, hazardous fuels building up in the Wildland-Urban Interface may continue to increase and threaten lives and property without management actions such as prescribed fire or mechanical treatment. Brush fields that currently exist where forest habitat used to be present may not be restored without taking steps such as prescribed fire, planting, or other management actions.
One example of managing the forested landscape in consideration of past effects, present realities and desired future conditions is the recent proposed decision for the Pearl Project on the Kawishiwi Ranger District. The Pearl Project would treat patches of forest vegetation totaling 22,000 acres of national forest system land within a 75,000 acre project analysis landscape located east of Babbit, MN and south of Ely, MN. The Pearl Project includes, among other management actions, prescribed fire and mechanical treatments to improve vegetation conditions and reduce hazardous fuels in the Wildland-Urban Interface.
The Pearl Project represents a step toward realizing the vision in the Superior National Forest Plan as well as overall management goals identified by other landowners in northeastern Minnesota in the Minnesota Forest Resource Council Northeast Landscape Plan. For example:
• Fuel loads would be reduced in the Wildland-Urban Interface to reduce risk to people and private property. This would help reduce the extent and severity of unwanted wildfires, whereas taking no action would result in increasing fuel load. Likewise, prescribed fire would also reduce fuel loads and restore this disturbance to forest communities that experience fire as part of their ecological function.
• Tree species such as jack pine would be restored to the sites that they are best suited to grow. By restoring tree species to the sites they are best suited to grow, the Pearl Project aims to improve both the productivity of the forest and its resilience to stressors such as climate change.
• Long-lived conifer would be added to riparian areas which will provide thermal cover to streams and eventually contribute coarse woody debris to aquatic habitat. Pine planting would improve fishing opportunities, bald eagle nesting habitat and aquatic community diversity.
• Browse for moose and deer would be provided in areas of young forest created by timber harvest, while providing sustainable forest products to the local economy.
Development of the Pearl Project and other resource management projects on the Superior National Forest are designed to include public involvement. Our ‘task list’ is developed with collaboration and input from members of the public; of Tribal, state and local government; and a wide variety of non-governmental organizations. We encourage people to contact their local Forest office to learn more about management activities being planned and implemented to restore the Forest landscape.
Information about the Pearl Project and other projects on the Superior National Forest, is also available on the Forest website: www.fs.usda.gov/superior . Select the ‘About Project Planning’ quick link. A copy of the Superior National Forest Plan is also available on the Forest website at: http://www.fs.usda.gov/main/superior/landmanagement/planning
About the U.S. Forest Service
The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit www.fs.usda.gov/.
Superior National Forest