Gunflint Green Up Sprouts New Life In Forest – And Community

Hundreds of volunteers descended on the Gunflint Trail outside of Grand Marais to plant thousands of pine seedlings last weekend. We first reported on the Gunflint Green Up HERE. Wilderness News Online caught up with Quetico Superior Foundation board member and Gunflint Trail property owner Dyke Williams, who had the opportunity to join the annual Gunflint Green Up for the first time. Read the Q &A:

Tell us a little bit about the Gunflint Green Up!
It was a great community event! 320 people pre-registered, and they expected walk-ins. It was the kind of day that requires fleece jackets, and a lot of lakes were still frozen. There was snow on the lakes and some snow in the woods near Lake Superior—but no frost up where volunteers planted. It was better than last year. There were 4″ of snow last year!

Volunteers planted at about six different sites, all on Superior National Forest lands. The Forest Service provided planting bars and maps, and they marked zones with ribbons so it was clear where to go. They worked for days ahead of time [to get ready]! Plus, the outfitters did a lot of work to create a great weekend event, with a green living fair, great dinners and dancing and a half marathon on Sunday! It was well-organized and great fun.

Did the event have special meaning for you as a Gunflint property owner?
It was terribly important, emotionally. I hoped to be in that majestic forest in my old age; [since the Ham Lake Fire], there is no majestic forest left. It was so encouraging to see the trees planted during the last two years. Nothing up there is green yet, so the young pines really stick out. And as a lot of participants observed, the Gunflint is a 60-mile community. It’s so rare to get everyone together—the amount of volunteerism was stunning. People even came from the Twin Cities. It was the very best of who we can be.

How did the Quetico Superior Foundation support the Gunflint Green Up?
The Quetico Superior Foundation has been one of the organizations to arrange for the donation of mostly blister-resistant seedlings for the last three years, including their shipping and handling. Supporting the community-based green up efforts was in the spirit of the Foundation’s White Pine Initiative.

Can you tell us more about the White Pine Initiative?
The white pine has such a majestic presence in the northwoods, but they’re shrinking in numbers and at risk of disappearing. They can’t reproduce as quickly as they are being harvested or destroyed by pests and disease, like white pine blister rust. The “White Pine Initiative” is a Quetico Superior Foundation program designed to encourage the planting and caring for large numbers of white pine and other species to reverse this downtrend.

If readers missed out on the Gunflint Green Up, can they still participate in the green up of the region?
Absolutely. Anyone can plant white pines—it’s easy, it’s fun and it doesn’t have to be expensive. The QSF web site has a wealth of information on how, when and where to plant, and even where to find seedlings and planting bars. That’s our hope—that events like the Gunflint Green Up and the White Pine Initiative will inspire others to contribute to health of our northern forests.

Photos courtesy of Dyke Williams.

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