May 29, 2009

Warmer Temps

Filed under: Natural Resources — SNFGRDennis @ 11:58 am

Another week has gone by and we’re seeing a little warmer weather. Leaves are popping out (I wonder if our friends in the southern part of the State know that we green up just a bit later than they do???). I do see several people coming through our office on their way to the wilderness and so it would seem that the cooler spring we’ve had has not deterred anyone, at least to a great degree.

So, what do the warmer temps mean to us? Our fire folks have been conducting some prescribed burns these last two weeks and those have been fairly successful. A couple of the units that were done last week are what we call understory burns. The fire is ignited under a canopy of standing trees and in this case the trees were white and red pine. Our goal is to burn any slash that might be there, kill any understory brush that is living under the trees and consume enough duff so that new white and red pine might start growing. To be successful we need to have the fire hot enough to kill and burn the things we want burned, but not so hot that we kill the overstory red and white trees. The post burn reports tell us that so far everything looks like it should, now we wait to see if the seeds from the pine trees will start the next forest for us.

I mentioned that our office has seen quite a number of people picking up their BWCAW permits to take a trip into the wilderness. My casual conversations with our cooperators suggests that maybe the season started slow, but is picking up speed as we go. My real point for this discussion is that we have had our first search and rescue for the season. We worked with the Cook County Sheriff’s office to search for a person who was a couple days overdue coming out of the Boundary Waters. Our role was to put wilderness rangers into the Boundary Waters on what would be the persons entry point as well as the exit point and have them canoe toward each other. We also offered an aircraft (one of our deHavilland Beavers) to search from the air.

In this case the person’s campsite was spotted from the air, the beaver landed and after an assessment the person was flown out. All of this makes me ponder the decades old debate of are our expectation of visitors that go into the “wilderness”? I believe a common sentiment would be that a person who chooses to venture into the Boundary Waters should be self sufficient, work through all the challenges that might come with a wilderness experience and make their way back out again. There are times when a person finds themselves in a life threatening situation, immediate medical attention is required and rescue is appropriate. But what about those gray areas when the wilderness challenge turns into a struggle (let’s say a twisted knee makes walking very difficult and painful)? At what point do we say, “You’re in a wilderness, tough it out.” versus “We better medevac this person.”? We usually error on the side of caution, but then it always makes me wonder if then it really is a “wilderness challenge”? I’m not sure I have a clear answer on this one.

One other thing I’d like to report is that the Superior National Forest has received our next round of stimulus funding. This one deals primarily with fuels reduction and healthy forests. Our objective through this funding is to provide jobs for US citizens so the majority of the funding will go for either contract work or hiring a few temporary employees to accomplish the objectives. With the exception of contract administration, we will not fund our current employees with stimulus dollars.

In Cook County we expect to accomplish priority fuels reduction work. Some of this will be previously planned but unfunded projects and some will be working with private land owners. We’ll do some maintenance work on our tree plantations to improve the success of the planted trees. And we’ll work on removing some invasive plant species. We’ve begun the process to make this happen and I’ll try to keep you posted as to when the contract request for proposals comes out in case you’re interested in bidding.

We had previously been awarded stimulus funding to maintain our trails and I believe I mentioned that the Kek Trail will be one that will be worked on. Several MCC crews are at work across the forest to accomplish those goals. In the future, we still expect to hear if we will receive any funding to do road and bridge maintenance, stay tuned.

I wish everyone a great weekend!

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