February 26, 2010

Feb 26

Our weeks are busy and maybe too often we fail to realize how good we have it in northern Minnesota, or could it be only a few of us need to stop and realize that?  I was on my way to one more meeting the other morning and my passenger noticed an eagle sitting in a tree.  Then pretty much at that same time, we both noticed the road kill on the opposite side of the road.  However because something didn’t seem quite right, I changed my focus back to the oncoming traffic.  The reason became obvious when my passenger said “There’s a wolf!”.  As fortune would have it, I had my camera along and we had a couple minutes to spare, so I share these with you. 

Those eyes

Those eyes

Road Warrier

Road Warrior

Eagles and wolves, a pretty good use for road kill I’d say.  We watched on our way home from the meeting, hopefully to see that this guy had not suffered the same fate as his meal.  It looked as though his food supply had been dragged off the road and there was no evidence of additional blood spilled,  a good thing I’d say.
On to some other news.  The Gunflint Trail Scenic Byway committee wrote a grant for us last year to which we were awarded nearly $240,000 to help with the recovery efforts after Ham Lake Fire.   Those dollars combined with our regular program, we’ve planted over 1.3 million trees since the fire (that total is within Cook County, but a significant portion was in the Ham Fire area), we’ll be planting another 150 acres in the fire area this year, we’ve seeded jack pine on about 1000 acres, released about 800 acres of trees that were planted after the fire and we’re now starting our hazard tree removal along the Gunflint Trail.   This work is oriented toward the end of the Gunflint and will cut and remove dead trees that could potentially fall onto the Gunflint Trail.  That means roughly within a tree length of the county highway, the larger dead trees will be cut and removed.  This summer, those areas where dead trees are removed will be evaluated for reforestation needs.
One more thing you might see starting up soon is our fuels reduction contract implementation.  We received dollars through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (sometimes  known as Economic Stimulus) for several types of projects and fuels reduction is one of those.  In the area of Washington Pines we’ll be removing some of the understory growth that has come in under the large pines, however, be sure that none of the pines will be cut.  The smaller undergrowth is primarily balsam fir which is a very flammable species.  If a wildfire were to get started within the Washington Pines area, the presence of the balsam fir would almost ensure the death of the  pines.  By removing the understory, we take steps to promote the long term health of the larger pines. 
If  you want to get a sense of what it will look like, simply drive by the pines and look on the north side of the highway.  You’ll note that you can see farther into the pines in a portion of the stand and that is because our fire crews have been working to remove the underbrush.  Some people may like being able to see farther through the big pines, other may not.  However evidence from across the country indicates our pines are safer without the balsam fir living in the understory.