Learning From the Quetico Burns

Our Summer, 2000 issue reported the plan for controlled burns to be administered in Quetico Provincial Park in the fall of 2000.

The results of the burns at Polaris, Knife, and Emerald lakes appeared to canoers and visitors to have been successful. Fine fuels, which include needles, small branches and forest debris, have been significantly reduced by the burns. Living conifer trees have clearly been scorched; but the end result has been successful in diminishing the possibility of a forest fire conflagration in regions of Quetico Park which had been hit heavily in the wind storm July 4, 1999.

A U.S. Forest Service representative in Ely, MN commented that the Canadian forest overseers enjoy much more freedom to take action with controlled burns than is possible in the U.S. In our country the embedded regulations and bureaucracy require government employees to micro-study and fly speck from a dozen different angles the potential environmental impact of a controlled burn. The spokesperson said that the ability of the Canadians to take action and commence the controlled burns last autumn was positive. The U.S. Forest Service learned a lot from the experience of the Canadians.

Travelers to the south shore of Kekekabec Lake in the fall of 2001 were surprised at the dense undergrowth of young poplar, alder and balsam trees which have sprung up throughout the blowdown lands. Profuse sunlight has suddenly penetrated to the ground after the July 4, 1999 blowdown. The Kekekabec Trail is overgrown and almost impossible to find as it intersects the portage from Kekekabec to Strup Lake. Dense brush rises as high as 8 feet in some sections.

The Fire Management Headquarters in the Fort Francis District Office of Quetico Provincial Park advised that on Friday, September 28th officials conducted a 2,000 acre prescribed burn in the North Bay of Basswood Lake and Burke Lake areas to reduce the hazard of future fire in Quetico Park.

The U.S. Forest Service planned several prescribed burns in the BWCA in late September. Autumn weather has been unusually wet and the conditions appear to be excellent for prescribed burning. The Forest Service also planned to burn about 275 acres in the blowdown between Flash Lake and Snowbank Lake. Finally, the Forest Service planned to burn about 50 acres at Newfound Lake on Horseshoe Island in total, if all goes well.

Many residents in the Ely area and canoers applaud the move of the Forest Service to commence the controlled burning program. They hope that the Forest Service can reduce fuels in an area far greater than 1,500 acres. Conditions for burning have been absolutely ideal in the fall of 2001.


This article appeared in Wilderness News Fall 2001

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