New Project Designed to Restore North Shore Forests

Dying birch trees on the North Shore of Lake Superior (Superior National Forest photo)
Dying birch trees on the North Shore of Lake Superior (Superior National Forest photo)

Forests on the North Shore of Lake Superior in Minnesota are in rough shape. Due to invasive species, climate change, abundant whitetail deer, and other causes, the birch population in particular has been dying off rapidly. The dying trees are not being replaced as part of a normal forest succession.

A partnership of public agencies, landowners, private businesses and local governments is developing a plan to respond. As part of the North Shore Forest Collaborative‘s effort, the Superior National Forest has developed an Environmental Assessment and will hold a public meeting about it in Grand Marais on January 10th.

In a letter about the proposal, Superior National Forest district rangers John Wytanis and Nancy Larson wrote, “Anyone who has driven Highway 61 knows the birch trees along the North Shore are dying. It is not just the birch trees along the highway that are dying; almost 80 percent of the birch forest on National Forest System land along the ridgeline by the shore is old and declining.”

The Forest Service proposes to promote growth of conifer tree species such as white spruce, white cedar and white pine, as well as tamarack and yellow birch in some areas. It would accomplish these goals with a combination of logging, planting, and building enclosures to protect young trees from deer.

Most of the Forest Service’s efforts will not be visible from Highway 61, the main scenic route along the shore. Unlike most of the region, land ownership along the highway is 75 percent private. The North Shore Collaborative offers information and resources for landowners interested in helping with restoration efforts on their property. Financial assistance is available.

The full Forest Service proposal is available to download here.

Comment on the Forest Service proposal

Send written comments to the Superior National Forest, Gunflint Ranger District, 2020 W. Highway 61, Grand Marais, MN 55604. Fax to 218-387-3246, or email to comments-eastern-superior- gunflint@fs.fed.us.

The open house will be held Friday, January 10, 2014 at the Gunflint Ranger District at 2020 W. Highway 61, Grand Marais, MN from 3:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m.

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