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Join Jay Andersen and Gary Atwood for a program packed with news, music and some humor.  Listener favorites like For the Birds, The Environment Report, Morning Business Report, and The Predator Moment provide a regular foundation for this program that also covers politics, local news and issues, and, the funnier side to the news. DayBreak airs 7-8 a.m. on weekdays.

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Superior National Forest Update: June 26

Hi.  I’m Myra Theimer, Forest Service silviculturist, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 26th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
First, if you don’t know what a silviculturist is, you aren’t alone.  We are the people who look after the trees on the forest by controlling regeneration, composition, growth, and quality to meet diverse needs. The silviculture department is in charge of inventorying the forest stands, and managing plantations of young trees after harvest.  This spring a quarter of a million trees were planted on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts.  We also help take care of the forest in other ways to make sure that it is strong and healthy, so people can enjoy it and also make use of the timber growing on the Forest. 
Along those lines, if you are out enjoying the forest, be aware that there are two logging operations as well on this end of the Superior.  As in previous weeks, there will be log hauling on the Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, and Gunflint Trail on the Gunflint District, and on the Four Mile Grade south of Wilson Lake, Lake County 7 south of Harriet Lake, and on FR 369, the Trappers Lake Road.  Over all, the road system is in great shape right now, and driving to your favorite lake or campground should be a breeze.
This Saturday (June 27), many people will be biking, not driving, the roads.  The Lutsen 99er mountain bike race will take place on the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts. There may be heavier traffic at times, so please be cautious and respect bikers and spectators. Notable portions of the route include: Honeymoon Trail, Devil Track Road, Bally Creek Road, Mark Lake Road, and Caribou Trail.
If you were lucky enough to be out at night this past week, like I was, you may have seen one of the best displays of the Aurora Borealis in a long time.  They were visible as far south as Arkansas, and here in the north they filled the entire sky.  The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.  Auroral displays appear in many colors although pale green and pink are the most common. Aurora Borealis is caused by charged particles emitted from the sun in solar storms, and can be somewhat predicted by monitoring the sun’s activity.  This information was once, only easily available to astronomers, but now there are several websites with graphic maps that help you decide whether you really need to set an alarm for three in the morning.  The people in the Boundary Waters, far from any artificial light, were really treated to a wonderful display.
Our biologists would like to remind people that this is the time when all sorts of baby animals are appearing.  Deer fawns and moose calves have been reported, but the most common sighting is of young birds.  Many species of birds have a stage of growth where the chicks are too big for the nest, but can’t fly well.  Parent birds feed them on the ground or in bushes.  You can help these little birds by not picking them up to rescue them.  They usually are just fine, and the parents are waiting for you to leave so they can feed their young.  Keeping cats indoors during this time of year when the chicks are most vulnerable to predators is also a good idea.
We gave an incorrect time last week for the naturalist program at Chik Wauk on Tuesdays during the summer. The correct time is 2 pm, and the program runs until 3:30.  This week, we will be talking butterflies… and some other ugly bugs as well.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Myra Theimer with the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: June 19

Hi.  I’m Cathy Peterson, administrative support assistant, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Superior National Forest. For the week of June 19th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
There are two logging operations still proceeding on this end of the Forest.  As in previous weeks, there will be log hauling on the Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, and Gunflint Trail on the Gunflint District, and on the Four Mile Grade south of Wilson Lake, Lake County 7 south of Harriet Lake, and on FR 369, the Trappers Lake Road.
You might encounter more log trucks this week than you have in past weeks.  Visitors to the Tofte District can still expect logging traffic on the Four Mile Grade and Lake County 7 near Wilson and Harriet Lakes, and on the Trappers Lake Road and Dumbell River Road near Sawbill Landing.  Starting this weekend, we also have operations near The Grade (FR 170), just a few miles east of the Sawbill Trail. 
On the Gunflint District, there are operations off of the Pine Mountain Road and Greenwood Lake Road.  Visitor could encounter logging traffic on these roads and the Gunflint Trail.  There have also been numerous trucks hauling gravel out of the pit near Thompson Lake, so visitors near the Devil Track Campground should be aware of that traffic.  
This weekend is Father’s Day, and the summer solstice.  It is a nice idea that all the fathers out there get the longest day of the year to enjoy the outdoors.  There will be over 15 hours of day this solstice, so lots of time for hiking, fishing, canoeing, and all the other activities that a fathers might want to do on the Forest.  It will probably be a busy weekend out there as well, so take it slow on those one lane Forest roads.  You have plenty of time.
Starting next week on June 23, we will be having naturalist programs on the North Shore Tuesdays through Saturdays.  This program is funded in cooperation with Visit Cook County, and provides Forest Service naturalist programs at area resorts and campgrounds, as well as at Hedstrom’s Lumber Mill and Artists Point.  There are usually two evening campfire programs each day, and a morning activity as well.  See the schedule of all seventeen weekly programs on the Forest website, or at the Visitor Information building in Grand Marais, Tofte or at any Forest Service office.  These programs are open to everyone, whether you are a guest at the hosting resort or not.
There will also be a Forest Service naturalist program at Chik Wauk Nature Center at the end of the Gunflint Trail on Tuesday afternoons at 2pm.  Topics will change every week, starting this week with a wildflower hike.
Fire conditions have been low to moderate through the Forest, and with rain expected, they should remain in that area.  Regardless of fire conditions, make sure to extinguish campfires completely before leaving them for any length of time.  A fire left to burn out may smolder instead and then break out when fire conditions worsen.
Have a great Father’s Day weekend, and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Cathy Peterson with the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: June 12

Hello, I’m Chelsey Coley, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) Planner, for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update. This includes information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 12, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
For driving up the shore on HWY 61, there is a small section by the Cutface Creek rest area that is down to one lane. A traffic light directs travel flow and the waits are rarely more than one to two minutes. Also, please note that the old culvert is being replaced by a bridge.
Visitors could expect to see logging traffic on the Four Mile Grade near Wilson Lake, on Lake County 7 near Harriet Lake, on the Trappers Lake Road, and on the Dumbbell River Road. Visitors should drive defensively, and should be on the lookout for clouds of dust on the road that may indicate a log truck approaching.
According to Trent Wickman, our Air Quality Specialist in Duluth, the smoke we’re seeing appears to be coming from Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Please do not be alarmed, the transport of smoke from Canadian wildland fires is fairly common in Minnesota, especially northern Minnesota. Smoke is also commonly transported into Minnesota from the western U.S., particularly during active fire years.
We are now in full “green up”, which means fire danger has subsided substantially. We are still looking at some prescribed burning if we dry out enough. The next two burns we are looking at is Honeymoon which is south of the Honeymoon Trail near White Pine Lake and Koski which is off the Sawbill Trail north of the intersection of the grade and the Sawbill Trail. There will be more to come on the prescribed fire front as we see how the weather shapes up later this week into next week.
Last week we started a forest inventory contract. In the very northwest corner of the Tofte district from Isabella to the north of the Tomahawk Road, contractors will begin to collect data on 15,000 acres this field season. Crews will measure and count mature trees as well as seedlings and saplings. Also, one of our Fuels Technicians will be assessing forest fuel hazards in the area and this data will be used in the future to develop forest management plans.
With the help of the Lake Conservation Corps of Minnesota Crew, our fisheries program was able to plant a mix of 3,025 White Pine, Red Pine, White Spruce and Northern White Cedar seedlings in the riparian areas of Kimball Lake, Thompson Lake, Kadunce River, Cascade River, Temperence River and Onion River. These tree species are classified as long-lived conifers and they will provide shade and structure to the lakes, streams and future nesting trees for eagles and osprey.
With all of that being said, I hope you that you all will enjoy your weekend and this has been Chelsey Coley with the National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: June 5

Hi.  I’m Mary Ann Atwood, administrative support assistant on the Gunflint Ranger District, with this week’s edition of the Superior National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 5, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
After several days of soaking rains, this weekend looks like an opportune time to get outdoors.  With the forest greening-up and the rain, the fire danger has been greatly reduced.
Fire crews completed the 130 acre Hungry burn June 1 & 2. If you are interested in taking a look at the burn area and watching the post fire environment, you’ll find it one mile past Devil Track Campground on the north side of the road.  You may be surprised at how fast the forest recovers.
Speaking of recovering forests, our silviculturists have completed their spring planting season.  275,000 trees were planted across the Tofte and Gunflint Districts.  Several of those trees were equipped with paper ‘bud caps’.  Now…they may look a bit silly, but these white pieces of paper stapled onto the tops of saplings protect them from hungry deer.
Two active logging operations continue on the Superior.  Continue to keep an eye out for logging trucks on the Shoe Lake and Greenwood Roads, as well as along the Gunflint Trail, the Four Mile Grade and on Forest Road 369.
 
The Boundary Waters Expo, organized by the Cook County Visitors Bureau, starts Friday June 12.   Forest Service participation includes presentations from Forest historian and archeologist Lee Johnson, recreation assistant ranger Suzanne Cable, and interpretive naturalist Steve Robertsen.  Details are available on the Visitors Bureau website “visit cook county dot com”.
Superior’s Wildlife biologists have been “Battling for the Bats”.  Bats are contending with the threat of white nose syndrome, a disease from Europe that kills 90% or more of the bats in an infected hibernating location.  This week, biologists have been staying up late!  They’re netting and banding bats along the Gunflint Trail in an effort to find out more about the Minnesota bat population before the disease strikes here.  Some of the bats are being equipped with tiny radio transmitters which enable biologists to track the bats to their roosting spots.  For those of us who may have a bit of a “problem” with bats… well, keep in mind their estimated value in pest control to agriculture is 3.7 to 53 billion dollars each year.   AND that’s in addition to their reducing the mosquito population.
Visiting the Grand Marais lighthouse this weekend?  Few people realize that Artist Point is actually part of the Superior National Forest.  There are two new information packed signs.   For instance, did you know that two large observation towers had once been located there?  We’d like to thank the Cook County Historical Society for providing historical photos and research help, as well as Paul Sundberg for the use of his photographs.
I’ll close with another bit of Forest trivia:
Did you know that the Superior has the highest and lowest elevation points in the state of Minnesota?  Think about it.
Have a great weekend, enjoy the Forest. 
Until next week, this has been Mary Ann Atwood with the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: May 29

Hi.  I’m Chris Beal, Wildlife Biologist, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 29th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
In the Grand Marais and Gunflint areas there are two road construction sites this summer.  You may have already encountered the construction on Highway 61 at Cutface Creek.  It is a single lane with traffic light control.  Expect that to remain until October 1st.  Starting on Monday, June 1st, there will also be construction restricting the Gunflint Trail to a single lane from the Fox Ridge Road to the western intersection with County Road 92.  That should last until mid-August.  Allow yourself extra time when traveling these areas, be patient, and watch for workers on the road. 
Most spring load limits are lifted, although there are a few remaining in Cook County.  You can expect timber trucks hauling on the Shoe Lake and Greenwood Roads and the Gunflint Trail on the Gunflint District, and on the Four Mile Grade, Lake County 7, and Forest Road 369 on the Tofte District.  The recent floods in Texas are a good reminder that drivers need to use caution after any heavy rain event as roads can get soft.  If water covers the roadway, stop in a safe place and get out and look before you drive into it.  If there’s any question on the depth or road condition, be safe and find an alternate route.
With the rain and the spring green up of the woods, comes reduced fire danger.  You still need to make sure your campfires are dead out when you are done.  Sometimes a campfire might smolder until conditions are drier, and then start a wildfire, so fire safety should always be practiced, regardless of the fire danger level. 
Memorial Day weekend saw a lot of people out camping and enjoying the Forest.  It also saw some people setting up camp in spots like boat launches.  Please, camp in the designated campsites, not boat launches!  If you plan on dispersed camping outside of campgrounds and other developed recreation sites, check our website under Dispersed Camping or stop at a ranger station to review the rules on where you are permitted to set up camp in the general Forest.
This Saturday morning, May 30th, the Forest Service will be giving a family program on birding at North House Folk School.  North House is also hosting the Northern Landscapes Festival this weekend with many activities. Our program is free and open to everyone, not only festival attendees.  We do ask that you phone North House ahead of time to register for the program so we have an idea of group size.  We will be meeting to learn about families of birds and family bird watching at 9:30 at North House, and going for a hike as well.  Kids are more than welcome, but they must be accompanied by an adult.
It looks like a little rain on Friday morning, but the rest of the weekend looks like a great one to get outside and try to put off mowing the lawn.  Enjoy the Forest, and until next week, this has been Chris Beal for the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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Maximizing broadband's potential for the County: community meetings, June 2,3

The Blandin Foundation will be back in town to talk with residents about potential broadband projects.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with county broadband commission chair Bob Pranis about two up-coming public input meetings.

The Cook County Broadband Commission hosts two community input meetings to gather ideas regarding broadband applications that can have positive rural impacts.  Bill Coleman of the Blandin Foundation will facilitate the discussion.   Input from the meetings will be used to develop and submit a grant application with Blandin.  The first meeting is at Birch Grove Community Center in Tofte on Tuesday, June 2nd from 6:30 to 8:30pm; and the second is at the Cook County Community Center on Wednesday, June 3rd from 4 to 6pm.  To get the discussion going, the Broadband Commission will be present two ideas, 1) development of a co-working/co-location site and 2) multiple teleconferencing sites at public spaces around the community to reduce travel by having remote interaction by broadband.  Additional ideas are welcomed from the residents and visitors of the County.  More information from Broadband Commission Chair Bob Pranis at 387-2358.

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Superior National Forest Update: May 8

Hi.  I’m Paulette Anholm, Information Receptionist on the Superior National Forest, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 8th, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
First off, this is the start of our real recreation season.  The fee campgrounds on both the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts have their water systems turned on, which means that they are also now accepting reservations and collecting fees for camping.  Of course, the rustic campgrounds are still free, but have no water supply.  We want to remind people that campsites must be occupied the first night.  No putting out your stuff ahead of time to claim a site for the weekend, then going home to sleep.  There is also a fourteen day limit for campsites, except for a few long term sites which are available.  If you like camping with all the comforts of home, be aware that quiet hours are from 10 pm to 6 am, which means generators and other noise making equipment need to be off during the night.
A lot of the campers this weekend will probably be fishing.  It is the opener, and it looks like a good one.  Ice has cleared off even Gunflint and Saganaga Lakes.  Almost all of our campgrounds are near good fishing spots, and barring unforeseen problems, all the docks should be in the water this weekend.  Many of our lakes are free of invasive pest species.  Be sure to clean your boat and trailer between lakes to keep them that way.
On your way to the lake, you may start to encounter logging traffic.  At the time this was recorded, weight restrictions were still keeping the trucks off the back roads, but those should be lifted soon.  Expect trucks near the timber operations at Harriet Lake and at Shoe Lake as soon as the restrictions end.
Our fire people have been busy.  An 80 acre fire spread over 5 miles was on the west side of the Forest near Sand Lake.  This fire was small patches along a road, leading to the thought that something traveling the road started the fire patches.  Despite occasional small showers, the forest is dry and things haven’t started to green up fully.  That means it is easy for fires to start.  Green is beginning to appear though, and if we get through the next few weeks, the fire conditions will become a lot better.  Some of the fires on the Forest this past week have been intentional prescribed burns.  This is a good time of year for fire crews to use prescribed burning to reduce the amount of fuel on the ground for wildfires.  It may seem strange to start a fire to prevent a fire, but it is a method that works very well.  You may want to check at a ranger station for prescribed burns coming up so you know where you may see smoke, and you can avoid driving through the middle of an operation.  On Monday, May 11th and Tuesday, May 12th you can attend a fire open house to learn more.  Those are from 4 to 6 pm at the Gunflint Ranger Station on Monday and at the Poplar Lake Fire Hall on Tuesday.
Fire crews aren’t the only busy ones in the spring.  Wildlife biologists are surveying all sorts of species.  Two surveys that started this week are woodcock counts and frog surveys, and fish surveys will begin soon as well.  We get volunteer help from citizen scientists for some of these counts, so we’d like to thank all our wildlife, and other, volunteers.
Even if you aren’t an official wildlife counter, this is great time to get out in the woods and set up a tent, or drop a line in the water, and listen to the birdsongs, grouse drumming, frog choruses, and all the other sounds of spring.  Have a great weekend!
Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the Superior National Forest Update.
 
 
 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: May 1

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on the Superior National Forest, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of May 1st, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
As you’re driving, you’ll find that the county spring load restrictions are still on.  That means that while there are a few timber sales going on on Tofte and Gunflint, there’s no hauling.  It’s not just the roads which have restrictions, some ATV routes are not open due to spring muddy conditions.  Driving your ATV on muddy trails not only risks a few hours digging it out, but it will damage the trail and create a whole lot of work for someone later to rebuild it, so drive with caution even if the route is theoretically open. 
Soft roads aren’t the only thing that could affect your travel.  You also might run into some of our spring prescribed burns.  You might encounter smoke, vehicles, and fire crews on the roadway.  Areas where this is occurring will be clearly marked, so please take it slow as you pass since visibility might be restricted and there could be pedestrians.
Speaking of fire, there will be open houses on fire safety and awareness on May 4th at the Finland Volunteer Fire Department, May 11th at the Gunflint Ranger Station, and May 12th at the Schaap Community Center on the Gunflint Trail.  All those open houses are from 4 to 6 pm.  You will be able to learn what our 2015 fire outlook is, what prescribed burns are planned, and more about wildfire and fire preparedness.  They are open houses, so you’ll have plenty of time to ask questions and talk to our fire personnel. 
Some of the prescribed burns happening now are to maintain wildlife openings in the forest.  Many kinds of animals from butterflies to moose benefit from these opening.  The shrubs that grow up in openings are also great for our migrating birds, more of which are arriving daily.  The dawn chorus of bird song seems louder all the time.  One voice in that chorus, the one that has the bass line, isn’t a migrant, it is the ruffed grouse doing a drum solo.  Our wildlife people have been conducting grouse drumming surveys, and the preliminary results seem to indicate that this has been a pretty good year for grouse, climbing toward a peak in their cycle. 
In addition to burning, planting begins this week.  White pine and some red oak are being planted along the North Shore in an effort cooperatively funded by a Conservation Partner’s Legacy grant and partnerships with the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service.  Additional partners include the Sugarloaf Stewardship Association, The State of Minnesota, The Nature Conservancy and the North Shore Forest Collaborative.  To minimize deer browsing, these trees will be fenced, so this planting will take a lot of effort.
Opening fishing weekend is coming up.  Ice is out of most area lakes, though some of the lakes up the Gunflint Trail and to the northeast are still ice covered.  Most of that ice is pretty rotten though, and should go soon.  As the lakes open, docks are being put in, and campground water supplies are being turned on and serviced.  The fee season for campgrounds should start in the next week or so with the turning on of the water.  Check our website or at a ranger station to find out the current status of our campgrounds when planning on a trip. 
If it is a Boundary Waters trip you are planning, today, May 1st, marks the start of the quota season.  You will need a permit issued at a ranger station or cooperating business for overnight travel in the Boundary Waters.  Self-issued permits are still available at entry points for day use. 
As you can tell, there is a lot happening on the Forest in the spring.  Check our website and ranger stations for current conditions and updates, and then get out there and enjoy the spring!  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen for National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: April 17

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Hi.  I’m Brie Schueller, fire management specialist on the Superior National Forest, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of April 17, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
Currently, roads are fairly clear of snow and ice, but they are still pretty soggy from the meltwater.  County road restrictions due to the soft roads have stopped most timber hauling operations on the Forest.  Some cutting of timber is still going on, but the work is mostly within the units and doesn’t involve hauling on the roads.  That means that these spring days are nice for exploring the Forest without having to be too concerned with large truck traffic.  You do have to be concerned with the same road conditions that have kept the trucks off the roads.  Soft shoulders and mud are the obvious problems, but a recent drive showed just how alert you need to be while driving.  On that short drive, in two spots, trees whose roots had loosened in the soft soil had blown over across the road.  In other spots, the road had sunk sufficiently to create an area that was less a bump and more of a jump ramp.  Drive with care, road conditions vary greatly and hazards appear with very little forewarning this time of year.
If you are looking for early camping, you need to know that while snow is off most major roadways, many smaller camping areas still have snow over campsites and access roads.  Camping is possible, but in the spring before our fee season begins, campers will not have water or garbage pick-up in campgrounds, and outhouses may not be accessible.  The fee season begins when the water systems can be turned on, usually around mid-May.
Spring migrant birds are coming through in larger numbers each day.  Juncos, vultures, robins, and grackles are just a few of the birds that have arrived over the past two weeks.  Red winged blackbirds are calling in the Twin Cities, but I have yet to hear one up here.  Bears are awake and walking about.  People who are feeding the migrating birds need to make sure to bring in bird feeders and store bird food securely so they don’t end up feeding the bears.  The best way to deal with bear encounters is to avoid them in the first place by making sure food, garbage, and other attractants are not where bears can get them.
It is the mud season, and the spring bird season, but it is also the spring fire season.  Conditions remain dry throughout Minnesota and multiple red flag warnings have been issued this week in our area.  A red flag warning is issued when there are weather conditions that can cause extreme fire behavior.  These conditions include a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures.  On these red flag days, people need to be extremely careful with fire.  Most people are not aware of it, but there have already been multiple small fires on the Superior this spring, and most of these were somehow ignited by human activity.  You may not think of fire danger because you can still see some patches of snow in the woods, but open areas with brown dry grass will readily carry fire.  There are many of these areas along the Lake Superior shoreline.  During spring, as the last of the snow melts and before the trees green up, is a prime time for fire, particularly in the absence of rain.  Our fire personnel, along with state DNR and local firefighters, will be monitoring conditions closely, but it is up to you to help by reporting any possible fires to 911, and by preventing any accidental ignitions.  Right now, the Superior National Forest has firefighters and engines assisting the Chippewa National Forest to the west in their firefighting efforts but we also have crews on standby locally, just in case. 
Enjoy our spring weather, and until next week, this has been Brie Schueller with the National Forest Update.
 


 

Superior National Forest Update: April 3

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Hi.  I’m Amy Wilfahrt, wildlife biologist on the Superior National Forest, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update  -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of April 3, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
If you are headed out to enjoy a last ski in the winter woods, you may have waited a bit too long.  There is still some snow out there, but there isn’t a lot and what is there is going away pretty fast.  But, if you are planning on paddling anywhere, you’ll have to wait a bit longer.  There is still a lot of ice on the lakes – over two feet on many of them.  It is softening though, and you will have to be careful if you are venturing out on the ice.  It is not very predictable this time of year.
If you are out driving, there are a couple of logging operations going on.  One is off Forest Road 170 on the road to Wilson Lake and another on the Trapper’s Lake Road near Isabella on the Tofte District.  On the Gunflint side, there is one operation off the Greenwood Lake.  Due to the spring thaw making gravel road beds mushy, the county and Forest have imposed load limits on roads which means that even with these logging operations, there is not much in the way of truck traffic right now.  So, you don’t have to watch for large trucks as much, but you do have to watch for washouts, crumbling shoulders, and water over the road. 
Many of the roads that were not plowed during the winter are still impassable due to snow, ice, or soft roadbeds.  Plowed roads have been thawing and refreezing, and may be icy in spots.  One small advantage of our dry spring is we’ve had virtually no washouts this year, but be aware that some roads are very mushy in low spots.  When in doubt, get out and check before driving over suspiciously soggy spots.
Those dry conditions may make for good spring driving, but it also makes the forest ripe for fires.  Until the thunderstorm season starts, virtually all spring fires on the forest are started by people.  That means that despite the dry conditions, we can avoid wild fires, if we choose to.   If you are using fire, be very careful this spring to make sure that it is controlled.  We’ve had some really windy days, and the combination of low humidity, lack of rain, and high winds mean that what normally would be a safe fire could easily get away from you.  While snow cover makes for little fire danger in some areas, the shore of Lake Superior is actually at critical fire danger this weekend.  On the west side of the Forest, the snow is gone and there has already been one eleven acre wild grass fire.  On our east side, let’s see if we can have zero human caused wild fires this year.
Out in the woods, wildlife is noticing the spring.  Robins have shown up in the area, and eagles are sitting on hatching eggs or nestlings.  Melting snow banks on the road sides have exposed the winter’s accumulation of dead deer, and crows, ravens, and eagles are gathered to enjoy the feast, creating a uniquely north woods traffic hazard.  Where else do you need to brake for low flying eagles?
Enjoy our spring weather, and until next week, this has been Amy Wilfahrt with the National Forest Update.