We recently published our environmental assessment (EA) for the area we call “Twins” so that people may comment on our proposal. An EA can be a rather difficult document to read since it has to meet some legal requirements and it tends to have jargon related to natural resources. Basically we’re trying to let people know what our plans are for managing the forest, in this case, in the area of Kemo, East and West Twin, Trestle Pine Lakes area. In general we are planning to do some timber harvesting, reforestation and some understory fuels reduction.
I have found in my travels and in conversations with people is that most do not object to our management. Clearcuts don’t look the best and logging trucks can be somewhat intimidating on our gravel roads. However the comment I hear most often is along the lines of “Can’t you do it somewhere else?” The answer is for the most part, we do…..everywhere other than in the Wilderness.
What I’d like you to think about for a moment is the question, “What would you do?” When you take a look around our National Forest you’ll notice that much of our older forests are not too healthy looking. In fact the paper birch is down right sad looking, it’s dying.
The Superior National Forest celebrated our 100th birthday last year, we were established in 1909 by President Roosevelt. Our National Forest, much like the Lake States was heavily logged at the turn of the 20th century and so a large part of our forest got its start 100 years ago. And for many of the tree species we have up here, that’s about all the longer they live, 100 years. Paper birch, aspen, jack pine, balsam fir are species that are mature at 60 years, over mature at 80 years and are dying at 100 years old. Red and white pine along with cedar can live much longer, but those species are not found everywhere.
If you take a look at some of our Twins Project, you’ll see that we have at least one large area where there will be no harvesting, only mechanical site preparation and planting. The trees have all died and there is only brush species living there now. If we do nothing, that area will keep increasing in size with species of mountain maple, hazel and tag alder, not the tall trees we’d all like to see.
My goal is to leave the next generation a healthy forest for people to come and either live here with us or visit and enjoy. And as I drive through and work in this forest, that question, “what should we do?” is always on my mind. The areas we harvest are soon full of healthy young trees and those grow to be healthy forests.
Today I drove past a stand that was clearcut about 10 years ago. I saw jack pine, paper birch, spruce, aspen and balsam fir covering the once harvested stand. Right next to it is an area that was not cut and hazel, tag alder, mountain maple and balsam fir are the only species that are replacing the trees that die. On Sunday I drove down the Gunflint Trail and looked at the stands that were blowndown in July 1999. Many are now full of red and white pine some of which is eight feet tall. Forty years from now, our children and grand children will enjoy the tall pines in those stands. And those trees will still be healthy 140 years from now……and they will be bigger.
We have planted the blowdown areas and since Ham Lake Fire, we have planted 1.8 million trees in Cook County. Change will occur whether sudden and quick with blowdown and fire or through the aging process. What we choose to do may or should I say will make a difference to our children’s children. The Twins area is simply our next step to ensure future generations may continue to enjoy healthy National Forests.
You can visit our forest website http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/forests/superior/projects/nepa_project.php?project=28971 and see what we are proposing to do. As you do, please know that we will preserve segments of old forest and we will regenerate segments of young forest and along the way, we’ll reduce the fuel loading and threat of wildfire. As you look at the Twins area, again, ask yourself, “What would I do?”
Now, let me move you into the future a couple years. We will be looking a the North Shore area or that of the highway 61 corridor. You all can see what is going on there with tree mortality. Probably one of our toughest questions is what should we do there? Think about that one, I know we will.