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Superior National Forest Update: December 4

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, education specialist, with the National Forest Update  -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For early December, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
While we haven’t yet gotten a lot of snow on the shore, you don’t need to go too far inland before things get a lot more December-ish.  We aren’t really up to conditions that will have our ski and snowmobile trails open, but hopefully nature will cooperate in the coming weeks and send us some more of the white stuff.  We really need a base of about six inches before grooming can start on most trails, and so far we don’t have that up here.
The lack of snow does make harvesting a Christmas tree and other holiday greenery easier this year, if a bit less scenic.  Christmas tree permits are for sale at both the Gunflint and Tofte offices.  Make sure to pick up the flyer with descriptions of where and how to cut trees.  The most important thing is to be sure you are on National Forest property before you cut anything.
This year, there is a national program called ‘Every Kid In A Park’.  Part of the program is a website,, where fourth grade students can register to get a free pass that will give them free admittance to all the national parks and forests across the country.  After registering online, and doing some activities to earn the pass, they will be able to print off a voucher that can be exchanged for an official card at our district offices, or at Grand Portage National Monument.  Our local national parks and monuments don’t actually charge entrance fees, but if your family is planning to travel out west, your fourth graders pass will get the whole family in free to Yellowstone, or the Grand Canyon.  On the Superior, the pass will get you a free Christmas tree permit.  It might be a great year to start, or continue, a family tradition of heading out into the woods for a tree.
While driving into the woods, you’ll encounter some logging trucks that are harvesting a bit more than Christmas trees.  On the Tofte District, log trucks are hauling on FR 369 (Sawbill Landing or Trappers Lake Road) and FR 380, from Sawbill Landing to Isabella; on FR 348 (Whitefish Lake Road) and FR 170 (Fourmile Grade) from the Whitefish Lake area to Lake County 7; and on FR 1238 to Cook County 2 (Sawbill Trail) near Plouff Creek.   On the Gunflint District, log hauling is taking place on FR144 (Old Greenwood), Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, South Brule River Road, and Lima Grade.  Our timber people on both districts included a warning about the road conditions, which due to rain and freezing temperatures are slick and icy.  Reduce your speeds, allow for increased stopping distance, and remember that a loaded truck will have even a harder time stopping than you on ice.  Give them plenty of space.
Nationally, the Forest Service is conducting visitor use surveys to help understand how the public is using our forests.  Locally, that means that you may encounter signs along the road reading “Survey Ahead”, and then be asked if you want to help us by filling out a quick survey.  We hope you can take the time to help us out by taking the survey so we can better serve the public. 
We hope you can make a visit to the forest part of your holiday plans this season.  Nothing says holidays like the smell of balsam fir and a drive through snow covered evergreens with a CD of holiday tunes in the radio.
Have a great weekend, and until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.