December 23, 2010

A Few Things We’re Doing

Filed under: Natural Resources — SNFGRDennis @ 12:26 pm

Wow, time flies.  I thought when I started this blog that I would be able to keep up, it seems that is not so.  As we approach the end of the year, I thought I’d give you a very quick summary of a few of the things we do that maybe you’re not familiar with, kind of a Gunflint District Annual Report, although not very detailed.  These thoughts are in random order, not in any priority or level of importance.

This past year has been a whirl wind of activities we’ve been trying to implement our share of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act also known as Economic Stimulus.  I mentioned a year ago some of the projects we were trying to accomplish and now I can say we’ve finished most of them.  Our commitment throughout was to work on projects that we had in our plans but did not have the funds to complete, so I feel pretty good about our work.  To list just a few things; we planted several thousand acres of conifer after the blowdown and with the Recovery Act we were able to remove the competing vegetation for 3500 acres of plantation.  As you drive up the Gunflint Trail, those pine trees are now starting to show themselves.  It gives me hope for the forest for the next generation.

We also accomplished around 2200 acres of fuels reduction, which means we used machines to remove the balsam fir understory and left the primary trees intact.  This was mostly done in areas where there are groups of homes as a measure to reduce the threat of wildfire. 

If you travel the Bally Creek Road you might notice the rehabilitation work done on it.  At first blush, it might seem a little too much, but think about your roof for a minute.  Do you replace the shingles when they are getting pretty ragged or do you wait until the roof is leaking so bad that damage is done to the rest of your home?  The shaping we’ve done will help channel rain and run-off so that the surface of the road is protected.

If you like outdoor recreation, you might notice all the new restrooms we’ve put into our campgrounds.  As far as outdoor toilets go, they look pretty good and since they’re made totally of concrete, they should last for decades to come.

There were also projects where the results would not be so obvious but were equally necessary.  The dollars we spent through the Recovery Act went toward private contractors and a few people we hired for these specific projects.  We did not use the money to pay our regular employee’s salary.  A conversation I had with one of our contractors in Cook County indicated that our contracts kept them viable during the economic slowdown.  I’m OK with that.

In a previous post I mentioned the Grand Opening of Chik Wauk, a culmination of years of work by the Gunflint Trail Historical Society.  At last report they had experienced over 8000 visitors, a smashing success.  Congratulations Historical Society and all the volunteers who have helped!!

We have another partnership with the Gunflint Trail Association called Becoming a Boundary Waters Family designed to help people become comfortable in our forest.  Together we sponsored some volunteer trips into the BW; check out the video(s) on either the Forest Service or the Becoming a BW Family web sites.  http://www.gunflint-trail.com/the-gunflinttrail/videos/

If you remember back in October, we had some pretty nice weather, warm weather.  That allowed us to finally conduct the prescribed burns in the Meeds and Dawkins Lake area.  These were units from the fuels reduction plan developed from the blowdown days.  There are those among us that may be thinking that the blowdown fuels are no longer a threat and I was getting to the point where I was wondering as well.  Those two burns, along with the units burned by Kek Lake leave no doubt that blowdown fuels are still force to be reckoned with.  It’s not hard to remember the wildfires of the recent past along with the lessons we’ve learned.  These these fires can cause stress in all of us, I am one who is very glad to have these two behind us.

I’ve talked about our landscape vegetation planning in a past post and we are now in the process of implementing our Twins project.  Upcoming is Lima-Green which spans the area from Lima Grade to Greenwood Lake.  There is usually an theme that I have the team focus on as they start putting the plans together for each area.  Forest Restoration and fuels reduction were our overriding goals for Twins.  In the Lima-Green area, I’ve asked the team to focus on improving moose habitat.  It seems the moose population in Minnesota is on a downward trend and no one is certain what the reason is.  However Tribal Bands of Grand Portage, Fond Du Lac along with the 1854 Treaty Association have some great biologists working for them.  I’ve asked them to help us design the Lima Green project to benefit moose habitat.  I’m looking forward to getting started on that project.

On the heels of Lima Green will be what we’re calling our North Shore, which is pretty much along the North Shore.  We’re trying to get a collaborative of landowners to come together with that effort.  It’s not hard to see what has happened to the forest along Highway 61 and I can imagine our goal being forest restoration.

We will also be working with the Arrowhead Electric Cooperative.  You probably know that they have a two year plan to provide fiber optic lines to each resident of the County.  Since many of their utility corridors pass through National Forest lands, we’ll be helping them with the permits they need.  Since I am a resident of the County, I am looking forward to the capabilities that project will afford.

Hey, who would have thought there would be jellyfish found in the lakes of Cook County?  A rather benign critter as I understand, but interesting none the less.  Check this site for more information in that species.  http://www.aquaticcommunity.com/jellyfish/freshwater.php

Tim Norman our former Zone Fire Management Officer has moved to a new job as our Deputy Forest Fire Management Officer located in Grand Rapids.  Patty Johnson has been selected as our new FMO, many of you know her from her work as our fuels specialist.  We’re wishing good luck to Tim and looking forward to great things from Patty in her new position.

Our Forest is participating in what is called National Visitor Use Monitoring.  This ongoing National Forest survey has already been conducted once on every National Forest in the country.  We are now returning five years later to update the information previously gathered as well as to look at recreation trends over time.  The information is useful for forest planning and can be used for local community tourism planning.  It provides us with an estimate of how many people actually recreate on federal lands and what activities they engage in while there.   For more info, here is a web site.  http://www.fs.fed.us/recreation/programs/nvum.

Our South Fowl Snowmobile Trail project has been mentioned in past posts as well.  We have published the draft EIS and are now reviewing and developing our responses to your comments.  As you remember the potential impacts of snowmobile sound in the wilderness was a big issue and we received several comments on that.  I’ll keep you posted on our progress.

Most of the things I’ve mentioned above are beyond our normal program of work (the landscape vegetation planning is something we do each year), so our employees are engaged in routine recreation, wilderness, timber management, fish and wildlife habitat management, reforestation and road maintenance as well.   One of the things I like best about the Forest Service is that we are a multiple use agency and can provide a range of opportunities for all of us. 

Maybe I’ll mention one more thing in this post.  I believe we have really great jobs in the Forest Service and part of that is serving where and when needed.  And sometimes you get lucky.  I mentioned that I got to spend two weeks in DC helping to coordinate our response to the Gulf oil spill.  Tim Norman got to spend a month in Australia this past winter (their summer) assisting their managers on wildfire response.  In a couple months, Mike Crook from our office may be heading to Ethiopia to help them with sustainable operations and use of prescribed fire.  We work hard to develop our skills and as I mentioned, sometimes you get lucky.