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Superior National Forest Update

Contributor(s): 
USDA Forest Service

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts.  It includes road and fire conditions, logging and other truck activities, as well as naturalist programs and special events.  

The USDA Forest Service has more information on the Superior National Forest website.


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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - July 19

Superior National Forest Update
Steve Robertsen
July 19, 2019

Midsummer.  Warm days, sun, mosquitoes, and thunderstorms.  It’s a time of year for all kinds of outdoor activities, and the busiest time out in the Forest.  People who have been out have been asking the Forest Service a lot about outbreaks of spruce budworm in several places around our side of the Superior National Forest.  This is a species of moth whose caterpillar specializes in eating the buds and needles of spruce, although in reality, it is more often found eating balsam fir instead of spruce.  It will first cause the ends of the branches to go brown, then strip the needles from the tree, then create large silk bags which shelter several of the insects while they pupate and change to the adult moth.  It is a native species, not an invader.  Like the eastern forest tent caterpillar, known locally as army worms, spruce budworm has outbreaks where a certain area on a certain year will host huge numbers of budworms.  Trees will recover if they are in good health to begin with and if they are not defoliated two or three seasons in a row.

On a forest scale, outbreaks are usually left to run their course, ending once the food supply has been reduced.  Dead trees after an outbreak can be a wildfire hazard, so we often do some type of management to reduce fuel in afflicted areas.  Individual trees, like a favorite in your yard, can be treated with the insecticide Bt.  This insecticide is effective, but also kills other moths and butterflies which are both lovely and beneficial, so it is best used in a limited way to save specific trees.

Of course, there’s more than just budworm out there though.  The Heck Epic mountain bike race takes place this weekend.  The course runs from Two Harbors to Grand Marais and back.  Bikers will be fairly well spaced out, so watch for individual bikers on roadsides. You should also be watching for log trucks because there is a fair amount of log hauling going on.  In Tofte, haulers are on the same roads as last week – the Dumbell River Road, Wanless Road, Lake County 705, the Four Mile Grade, the Grade, and Cook County 27 and 8.  On the Gunflint District, hauling is happening on the Lima Grade, South Brule Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Cascade River Road, Pike Lake Road, and Cook County 6 and 7.  There is also hauling across the Superior Hiking Trail southeast of Cook County 6.

Beginning this week, culvert replacement will be happening on the Grade’s east end from Brule Lake east to Two Island Lake.  I’m planning on staying out of this area entirely for a while.  Not only will the driving be difficult, but you can expect waits of up to thirty minutes when the culvert is installed.

Some people are using this time to do their own road work by clearing roadways leading to their cabin or favorite area.  If you plan to clear brush from a remote Forest Service road, please stop by the office and pick up a permit first.  The permits are free, and we appreciate the help, but we need to keep track of when work was done on what road, so just take a couple of minutes to grab a permit before you begin.  The Gunflint office will also have information on permits for burn piles to dispose of the slash you generate when you brush the road.

Speaking of burn piles, a large bear was sighted in several places this past weekend.  He was carrying a shovel and wearing a ranger hat and was riding on a Forest Service truck in the parade for Bay Days in Silver Bay, and also was hanging around up in Grand Marais getting ready for Fishermen’s Picnic.  If you see this bear, don’t worry, he’s friendly.  He sure gets around a lot for an almost 75 year old bear, and he’s getting ready for his birthday party in August.  He did stop by to thank everyone who has been out on the Forest this year – we are all doing a good job of being careful with fire so far in 2019, and had a fire free Fourth. 

Keep up that good work, enjoy summer on the Superior, and remember what the bear says: “Only You Can Prevent Wildfires”!
 

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest - July 12

National Forest Update – July 11, 2019
 
Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist on the Superior National Forest, with the National Forest Update for the middle of July, and in fact the middle of the summer.  We hope you’ve been out on the Forest enjoying some of the really nice weather we’ve been having!  With the Fourth of July having past and other town celebrations such as Bay Days in Silver Bay and Heritage Days in Two Harbors this weekend as well as Fisherman’s Picnic coming up in a few weeks, it’s a great time to enjoy the outdoors with your extra family in town. 

Those nice days though mean that there’s been little rain over the whole forest for the last few weeks.  However, there have been spotty showers or downpours in some locations.  While much of Minnesota is suffering from too much water, we are on the edge of too little.  The dry conditions have caused the Smokey Bear sign in front of our ranger stations to raise his finger to the ‘High’ fire danger rating.  In the definition of High Fire Danger are the phrases “unattended campfires are likely to escape” and “fires may become serious and difficult to control”.  This means that it is very important for you to make sure your fire is dead out and cold to the touch before you leave the area – even for a short time.  The easiest time to control a fire is when it is still a campfire, so don’t allow your fire to escape and become a serious incident.  It is also a good time to keep an eye on possible fire restrictions if Smokey ends up pointing at an even higher fire danger ratings as the woods continue to dry. 

Adding to the fire concerns has been an outbreak of spruce budworm.  Several people have stopped by our office asking about fir trees they have seen with brown branch ends and silky masses at the ends of the twigs as well as entire stands of dead firs.  These are signs of spruce budworm, which actually attacks more fir trees than spruce.  The budworm is the caterpillar stage of a moth and is a local, not an invasive, species.  It tends to have population booms and busts, and there is currently an outbreak in some areas of the forest.  The caterpillars spread when the adult moths fly and lay eggs in new areas, and also when the caterpillars themselves ‘balloon’ away on a long thread of silk.  Once on a tree of their choosing, the budworms eat primarily new needles at the ends of the branches.  It is possible for them to defoliate entire stands of trees, similar to what the eastern forest tent caterpillar or army worm does to aspen and birch.  The tree can recover from this, but if it is defoliated two or three years in a row, it will probably die.  The dead trees then become a fire hazard.  There’s no large scale treatment for budworm – usually an infestation is left to run its course, though thinning stands of trees and removing dead trees is done to curb the worms and reduce fire danger.  It is possible to treat individual trees with insecticides such as BT and save a particular tree in your yard, but BT kills all caterpillars so treating a large area would be harmful to the other butterflies and moths we all enjoy and benefit from.

Dry weather also makes it impossible to grade roadways.  We’ve been dry long enough that some of our forest roads are showing considerable washboarding.  Drive with care – going fast over washboards will really reduce your traction and make it easy to run right off the road on a curve.  If you are using a less used Forest Service road to access your cabin or a remote lake and want to clear the road or brush the roadside, be sure to get a permit from us first.  The permits are free; but we need them in order to keep track of what maintenance is being done where on the road system.  You can also pick up a permit to dispose of the slash you generate at a Forest Service burn pile.  Contact the Gunflint office for the permit and location of the pile.

There is a fair amount of log hauling going on.  In Tofte, haulers are on the same roads as last week – the Dumbell River Road, Wanless Road, Lake County 705, the Four Mile Grade, the Grade, and Cook County 27 and 8.  On the Gunflint District, hauling is happening on the Lima Grade, South Brule Road, Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Cascade River Road, Pike Lake Road, and Cook County 6 and 7.  There is also hauling across the Superior Hiking Trail southeast of Cook County 6.

While we are talking about roads, our field going people have noticed a lot of turtles on the gravel roads.  This time of year, turtles are nesting and walking from ponds and lakes to sandy areas to dig nests and lay eggs.  Please watch out for these slow pedestrians.  You can help turtles to cross, but don’t set them back on the side they started from.  They are stubborn and will just set out across the road again. 

So, set out on your own adventures, enjoy the summer, go on a picnic, get out and fish or take a hike but certainly take advantage of the warm weather while it lasts.  Until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - July 9

Superior National Forest Update with Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist - Superior National Forest.
July 5, 2019

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - June 14

Superior National Forest Update – June 13, 2019
 
Hi, my name is Lillie Oravetz, and I’m a seasonal naturalist working this summer with the Superior National Forest, and this is the National Forest Update – information on all sorts of things for people visiting the Forest.
 
The reason I’m here this week is that this is the start of our summer Resort Naturalist Programs.  The Superior has been providing naturalist programs with the cooperation of area resorts and businesses since the 1980s.  Currently, the program is cooperatively funded by the Forest Service and Visit Cook County.  The programs themselves are given at several of the resorts along the shore as well as at Hedstrom’s Lumber Mill, Sawbill Campground, and the Grand Marais Municipal Campground.  Although programs are given at specific host resorts, they are open to everyone:  people staying at the resort, people staying elsewhere, local residents – all are welcome.  There’s a wide variety of topics from bogs to stars to bears and everything in between.
 
Campfire programs start at 7:30 and generally last from one to two hours, and morning programs usually start at either 10 or 10:30.  A complete schedule can be found on our website, on the Visit Cook County website, at Forest Service offices and the Grand Marais Visitor Information Center, or at any of the participating resorts.  These are all fun programs with something for people both young and old, so we hope to see you at a campfire or on a hike soon!

As our roads continue to firm up, travel has gotten easier.  Our road system is in good shape right now, although on some of the more heavily traveled roads there can be some areas of washboarding.  You can expect to encounter logging trucks on the Tofte District along the Trappers Lake Road, the Perent Lake Road, The Grade, Cook County 27, and Cook County 8.  On the Gunflint District, trucks will be using the Lima Grade, the South Brule Road, the Greenwood Road, the Firebox Road, Blueberry Road, Cascade River Road, Pike Lake Road, and Cook County 7.
 
Our spring prescription burning has been completed.  There are still two summer burns planned for later in July - as always, weather depending.  People need to continue to be diligent with campfires, particularly in the Seagull area which has not received as much rain recently as other areas.  Make sure always that any fire is dead out and cool to the touch before you leave the area.
 
If you have a hummingbird feeder, you may notice that in the next few weeks, fewer birds will be visiting.  While hummers need to tank up on sugary nectar for the energy needed to migrate, they need more protein to successfully lay eggs and raise chicks.  That means that right now, the birds are concentrating more on eating insects than on visiting your feeder.  You’ll still have hummers, but they won’t be visiting as often as earlier in the spring.  With fewer birds and warmer temperatures, it is easy for the sugar water in feeders to go bad.  Change the sugar water at least once a week, and whenever you see cloudiness in the water.  Feed a three to one mix of water to sugar, and don’t add any color to the mix.
 
Be sure to look for a naturalist program schedule!  This weekend includes programs at the campfire ring at Cascade Lodge and Chateau LeVeaux on Friday and at Sawbill Lake Campground and Bluefin Bay on Saturday.  We hope to see you there!  Until next week, this has been Lillie Oravetz with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - June 7

Superior National Forest Update – June 6, 2019
 
Hi, this is Renee Frahm.  Visitor information specialist on the Superior National Forest, and, very appropriately, this is the National Forest Update, information for visitors to the Forest.  We are turning the corner into summer, leaves are growing, wildflowers are blooming, birds are singing, and people are out hiking, camping, fishing, and paddling.

For getting out into the Forest, I’m happy to say that the road system is finally drying out and road restrictions are being lifted a little at a time.  As a result, travel in the Forest should be a little easier than it has been, but also as a result, log hauling has begun in a few spots.  On the Gunflint District, there will be hauling on the Greenwood Road and Blueberry Road with harvest operations beginning off of Cascade River Road.  On the Tofte District, expect trucks on the Trappers Lake Road and the Sawbill Landing area.  Despite the drying roads, we have still been unable to get into repair the washout on the Trout Lake access road, so that road is still closed to travel.

ATV trails are drying out as well.  This weekend is the annual ‘Ride Free’ weekend where the DNR waives the need for a recreational ATV registration, and is a great time for out of state riders to try the trails.  Be aware though that there are trails and sections of trails which are still closed.  Check the DNR website for trail closures, and follow posted closure notices.  When using an ATV in the national forest, be sure to have a copy of the latest Motor Vehicle Use Map.  It is the source of information on which roads are open for ATV use, with the map superseding all but temporary closure signage on the ground.  The easiest way to use the map is to download it onto your phone, and use a wayfinding app such as Avenza to track your way through the Forest.  Downloads are available on our website.

This weekend is “Take a kid fishing weekend”.   Together with the Minnesota DNR, the Soil and Water Conservation District and the Forest Service there is a free event at the Mink lake Beach this Saturday, June 8th beginning at 9:00 a.m. and goes until noon.  If you are interested in teaching your 5-12 year old how to fish, call the Gunflint Ranger District and sign up.  The number is 387-1750.  They will provide lunch and water and do have some poles and life jackets available.  There are limited supplies, so if you do have your own fishing pole, bring it along. 

Last week, fire crews were able to successfully complete several prescribed fires.  Prescribed fire helps to reduce the chances of wildfire in an area by using up fuel, and also controls undergrowth – which means that the 800 acres burned in our prescribed fires this spring should be great for blueberries in the coming years.  As the forest dries, the crews are shifting to doing fuels reduction with saws in the East Bearskin and Brule River area.  You may hear sawing in that area, but we are working with contractors to minimize noise impacts.  Unfortunately, with the drying forest, the potential for wildfire increases.  This is somewhat offset by the leafing out of deciduous trees and the growth of plants on the forest floor, but it is a good idea to keep an eye on the fire danger rating.  Both our district offices have big signs with Smokey Bear pointing to the fire danger rating.  You should always be careful with fire, but when the fire danger is above moderate, you should be extra careful.  It is Smokey’s 75th birthday this year, and I don’t think the bear wants to celebrate by having a wildfire.

Since it is his 75th, we are celebrating in other ways all year.  Stop by the Tofte or Gunflint ranger station and you can take a selfie with Smokey, pick up some coloring sheets for the kids, or even buy some Smokey items!  Remember, only you can prevent wild fires!

Until next time, enjoy the forest, catch a few fish, and watch a few birds.  This has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - May 31, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – May 31, 2019
 
Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on the Superior National Forest, and this is the National Forest Update, information for visitors to the Forest.  It is the start of June, and summer is upon us at last, so I think we should all be visitors to the Forest this week!

As you head out into the Forest, there are still a few lingering effects of spring.  While weight restrictions are being lifted from many roads, they are still in force on others.  The Lake and Cook County websites have up to date lists on which of the county roads are open to large trucks.  As the weight restrictions end, hauling for timber sales is beginning.  Watch for possible hauling in the Trapper’s Lake Road area and in the areas of the Greenwood, Firebox, and Blueberry Roads, as conditions allow.

“As conditions allow” is a phrase that applies to the prescribed burns happening on the Forest as well.  We’d love to be able to give people lots of advance notice and precise dates on prescribed fires, but it is more important to burn on days when the weather is just right – and nature just isn’t that predictable.  You can find out about planned prescribed fire by clicking on the “Prescribed Fire Information” link on our home page, then on the “Current Year’s Plans” link.  Notices on burns will be tweeted out and posted on our Facebook page as they happen.  Active fires, both prescribed burns and wildfires, can be followed on the national incident information site called InciWeb.  We have links to that as well, or just search for

InciWeb:  “I-N-C-I Web”.  If your travels in the Forest take you near a burn underway, please follow posted information and be extra careful about vehicles and people on the road.  Smoke may restrict sight, so drive carefully.  It is good to bypass these areas entirely if possible.

Birds are doing everything right now.  Some are migrating through, some are setting up nests, and some are feeding chicks.  Peregrine falcons nesting in the cliffs along the shore are in that last stage – feeding chicks.  These nests are pretty closely monitored both by people and by the peregrines themselves who will loudly call and even swoop down at people who get a bit too close.  Peregrines were gone from the North Shore due to DDT until the peregrine falcon reintroduction program in the 1980s brought them back.  It has been a very successful program, and you can now often see these amazing birds as you travel on Hwy 61.  Diving at speeds which have been clocked at over 224 miles per hour, they are the fastest animal around.  We watched a peregrine take a gull over the lake once, and it is pretty incredible to see them in action.  I’m not sure the gull agreed.

Wilderness rangers have begun summer patrols through the Boundary Waters.  They will be working to clear and maintain portages, take care of campsites, and help people traveling in the wilderness.  They also get to pick up litter, which, they are happy to report, has been decreasing over the years.  You can help on this one by following the simple rule of ‘Pack it in, pack it out’ during your wilderness travels – or for that matter, your travels anywhere.  Remember, don’t burn trash in campfires, and don’t dispose of trash in latrine pits.  Just pack it all out.  On a less happy note, the wilderness rangers also report the return of the black flies.  It’s getting to be time to find the head net again.

It should be a lovely early summer week this week, so ignore the black flies and take advantage of it by heading out into the woods. 

Enjoy the Forest, and until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - May 24, 2019

National Forest Update – May 23, 2019

Hi, this is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist on the Superior National Forest.  It seems like spring has taken a long time coming to the Forest this year, and it may be risky to say so…but I think maybe we can finally take the snow brushes and ice scrapers out of our cars and put away the winter coats.

We have been gearing up towards summer at least.  All our fee campgrounds are now in fee status, which means that the water systems have been turned on and that there is garbage and recycling available.  Remember that dumpsters at campgrounds are only for campers and day users…and not for household garbage.  Also remember that they are not supposed to be feeding stations for bears, so when you are camping, make sure to put all your garbage in the dumpster and then secure the bars across the lid to keep the animals out.  It is particularly important to follow good bear etiquette in the spring because if a bear learns that a dumpster is food supply early on, it may become a pest the entire summer.

The same holds true for your bird feeders at home.  Feeding birds, especially during migration, is both fun and good for the birds.  Feeding bird seed to bears is a different story, so bring the feeders in at night – even if it is raining.  Speaking of birds, we are in our spring peak of bird diversity.  Most of our resident birds have arrived, and we still have some of those that will be moving farther north.  Hummingbirds are back, and it is always amazing to think of those little guys winging their way all the way from the Gulf Coast to our back yards in northern Minnesota.

Birds are lucky because at least they don’t have to travel on the back roads this spring.  Roads are still pretty soft in many areas.  There is a washout on the road to the Trout Lake public water access that has blocked the way to the access.  We are waiting for the road to firm up enough for heavy equipment before we can get in to fix that washout.  Spring weight restrictions are still in place on Forest Service Roads, but will be coming off soon as roads dry out and frost leaves the ground.  That means that right now, there’s no log hauling, but it could start in the next week.  When it does start, look for trucks on the Lima Grade, Greenwood Road, and Blueberry Road on the Gunflint District and on the Trapper’s Lake Road on the Tofte District.

This holiday weekend though, look out for bikes.  It is the weekend of  Le Grand du Nord, a set of gravel road bike races taking place in the Forest out of Grand Marais.  Part of the race is reading the route from cue cards, so we can’t tell you exactly where you’ll find bikers, so be aware they could be anywhere in the area on Saturday.  Of course, there could be bikers around any day, so we should be driving expecting to see bikers all the time.

Our fire shop has been conducting prescription burns as weather permits.  They report that all of their wildlife opening burns are done for the season. The clearings maintained by these burns will benefit animals which eat vegetation close to the ground, like moose and snowshoe hare.  Helping hares will also help lynx who prey on the hare, though the hares would probably rather skip that step.  The burns also benefit smaller critters, like Nabokov’s blue butterfly, a rare species on the Forest.  Prescription burns are also designed with the aim of reducing the amount of fuel in the forest and so reducing the impact of wildfires, and to prepare harvested sites for reforestation.  Since conducting prescribed burns is weather dependent, I can’t tell you precise dates, so if you are interested in when and where these are taking place, check our website for alerts about prescribed fire.

In spite of the recent rainy and snowy days, the lack of mosquitoes, the abundance of birds and wildflowers, and things like the songs of spring peepers in your ponds make this a favorite time to get outside.  It is time to find the paddles and life jackets, and, we hope, put the snowblower and snow shovel back in the shed.  Take the time to enjoy this long drawn out spring.  Here’s to hoping summer will get here sooner than later!  I hope you have some extra time with family and friends this Memorial Day weekend and that you can get out doors and do something fun!  There will be lots of people around, so be safe when you are out and about driving the back roads.

Until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update

Superior National Forest Update - May 10, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – May 9, 2019.
 
Hi, this is Renee Frahm, Visitor Information Specialist on the Superior National Forest.  After a pretty depressing May snowfall, it looks like things are finally starting to turn away from winter and toward summer.

Trails and roads are still in somewhat lousy, but typical, spring condition, much as they have been for the last several weeks.  Expect soft shoulders along most of the roads, as well as soft spots in the road and possible washouts on the less frequently traveled roads.  There is still a big drift of snow across the Four Mile Grade, so while there is access from both ends, you can’t get through on that road.  Wet soil can also loosen trees, so there are occasional deadfalls across the road, even without high winds.  More frequently on the road though are deer.  Deer love the green grass along the roadsides, and seem to be very abundant this spring.  Friends counted 50 deer by the road when driving from Grand Marais to Silver Bay one night last week.  In the Forest, you may also find moose on the road.  Moose are smart animals, and given the choice between walking on a nice clear road or through brush and old snow in the woods they’ll usually choose the road.  We’ve heard a lot of reports of moose this spring, so keep your eyes peeled for moose, deer, or any other animals on the roadway.

Spring migration of birds is in full force right now.  International Migratory Bird Day is this Saturday, May 11th.  You can celebrate by feeding these hungry migrants.  Be sure to clean your feeders frequently this time of year.  Wet bird seed can go bad and transmit diseases to birds, so keep it dry and empty the wet seed out of your feeders frequently.  Hummingbirds are very close to us now as well.  They usually appear up here around Mother’s Day, which is this Sunday.  I don’t see a lot of flowers blooming, so they are really going to need your help by filling and maintaining your hummingbird feeders.  Be sure to clean these as well and keep them stocked with fresh sugar water.  And, to avoid feeding the bears, take all your feeders in at night and store them in a safe place.

Many of our lakes are open, and we’ve put the docks in at almost all of the Forest Service boat landings.  Some of the lakes are still iced over, but the rest are out in the water.  By the time you hear this broadcast, maybe the other lakes will be open too.  Saturday is fishing opener, so we are hoping for liquid water at all our favorite fishing spots.

Campground water systems though are pretty sensitive to freezing.  We still don’t have the water on at our fee campgrounds, so for now, they are still free campgrounds.  Be aware though that also means they have not been plowed out, and some are still not accessible by car.  You would also be wise to pack along your own toilet paper, just in case.  Garbage is not being picked up either, so you’ll have to follow the ‘pack it in, pack it out’ rule and bring your garbage out of the campground to an appropriate disposal site.

One sign of spring is that hundreds of seedling trees have been delivered to our tree coolers in Tofte, Grand Marais, and Isabella.  Over the next several weeks, contract crews will be planting these trees and creating the forest of the future.  It is always fun on tree delivery day to realize that the brown bag of white pine seedlings you are unloading might become a grove of giant white pines to picnic under, or the site of a bald eagle nest, or in a hundred years or so, it may become the rafters of someone’s home.

May 18th is the date of the running of the Superior Spring Trail Race, which uses the Superior Hiking Trail as their course.  Runners will be leaving from Caribou Highlands Lodge at 7 am that day, and you can expect to encounter runners on the Hiking Trail in that area throughout the day.  For more information and maps, visit the Superior Spring Trail Race’s website.

It looks like we are in for some nice weather, so whether you are running in the woods, listening to spring peepers, or doing some early season camping, it’s going to be a good week to get out and enjoy the Forest.  Maybe you’ll even take your Mom fishing on Saturday or on a picnic on Sunday.  Good luck fishing and I hope you have a Happy Mother’s Day. 

Until next time, this is Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - May 3, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – May 2, 2019.

Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on the Superior National Forest, with the first National Forest Update of May!  We have to take our signs of spring where we find them, because with the recent snowfall, it’s not very spring-y out there.

We’ll deal with that depressing winter stuff first.  As you can imagine, the recent snow, rain, and infamous ‘wintry mix’ has not been kind to our road system.  For the past several editions of this radio spot, we’ve been highlighting soft roads, frost boils, bad shoulders, and icy patches.  All that still applies.  It is not great driving out there.  The driving during our Monday mini-blizzard was some of the worst of the entire season, and while it is better than that now, you still should be extra cautious when driving in the Forest, particularly if you are on roads where you don’t expect other vehicles which could help in an emergency.  Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.  Weight limits are still in place, so the one thing you don’t have to deal with are large trucks.

Trails are also in poor condition.  ATV use on state grant-in-aid trails is not allowed during this mud season with good reason.  An ATV can severely damage a trail when the ground is this soft and ruin the riding for everyone else for the rest of the summer.  Please respect restrictions, and also follow your own common sense – just because a trail is officially ‘open’ doesn’t mean it is actually ridable.  Hikers can also damage trails – the Leave No Trace recommendation is that if you come to a wet part of the trail, hike through it.  Skirting the puddles will simply widen the trail, leading to more erosion problems later.

As the snow has left the roadsides, a winter’s worth of litter has appeared.  We’d like to take the time to thank volunteer groups and just individual people who have taken the time to pick up the trash they see.  Overall, the vast majority of people up here in northern Minnesota don’t litter, and if you travel the US, you’ll notice that the Superior is a very clean place.  Thanks for keeping it that way!

We do have a couple of signs of summer coming.  On May 1st, we entered what we call the quota season for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  That means that overnight campers in the wilderness will need to have a permit issued to them though one of our offices or at a cooperating business.  There have been a few changes this year, so it is worthwhile to visit our webpage and the reservation system Recreation.gov for more information.  One change has been to the Leave No Trace video, which is required watching for permit holders.  It has been broken into three shorter segments, the first two of which you watch at home before picking up the permit.  This means you can get useful information on planning and preparing for a trip ahead of the day you enter the wilderness…and that you will spend less time in the office when you are actually picking up the permit.  Our new videos came out at the same time as a certain superhero movie, and for a while at least, we were in close competition for box office numbers.  Maybe if we’d only introduced the character ‘Kevlar-tron’ in our videos…

Starting with May 1st and running through the quota season, our offices are now open seven days a week from 8:00 to 4:30, and are staffed by our own superheroic front desk people.  Not only can they help you with Boundary Waters permits, but they can help with everything else you may want to do on the Forest from hiking to gravel permits, all while simultaneously selling Smokey’s 75th birthday items and operating the video player.  Now that’s a superpower for you!
In the fire shop, there are a few prescription burns planned, mostly to maintain wildlife openings.  Current weather conditions are not good for burning, but you can expect those burns to happen if we get a few good days.  Check our webpage for announcements of burns, and follow posted traffic signs if you end up driving near a burn in progress.

Until next week, we will hope for better weather and the return of spring to the Superior.  This has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update - April 19, 2019

National Forest Update – April 18, 2019.https://soundcloud.com/wtip-community-radio/snf-robertsen-2019apr19

Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, education and interpretation specialist, with the National Forest Update, letting you know what’s up in the woods in late April.

Mud season continues, but while there is still ample snow on the ground, spring has really turned a corner.  Why do we say this?  It is because migrating birds are suddenly returning in abundance.  Yellow-rumped warblers, grackles, tree sparrows, hermit thrushes, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, red-winged blackbirds – they’ve all returned in the past two weeks.  Many of them showed up just after our recent winter storm, riding the coattails of the storm in the form of southerly winds on the back side of the low pressure system.  These early spring birds are those that rely partially on insects for food, but also can survive without insects.  Later arrivals may be more reliant on insects and need a steadier bug supply than is available in April in Minnesota.  Migration is hard on a bird, and you can help them refuel after their trip from the tropics by putting out bird feeders.  Remember though, that birds aren’t the only ones showing up this time of year.  Bears are waking from their winter hibernation, and are also looking for food.  It may be time to feed the birds, but it is also time to start taking in feeders at night, and making sure your bird seed is stored in a bear proof place such as a garage.  The first bears to venture out are the males.  Females with cubs are the last to leave their dens, protecting the cubs from the wide world for as long as possible.

When people hear the word ‘hibernate’, they usually tend to think ‘bears’ or ‘chipmunks’ or ‘woodchucks’.  Not as many think ‘butterflies’, but if you go outside right now, you’ll see a lot of butterflies that spent the winter hibernating in the forest.  The anglewing butterflies, a group that includes the dark colored ‘mourning cloak’ and the orange and black ‘comma’ and ‘question mark’ butterflies, overwinter as adults tucked under bark or in crevices.  They have to survive subzero temperatures, winter storms, and hungry woodpeckers in order to emerge as our first flying butterflies of spring.  Anglewings get their name from the ragged look to their wing edges, which may help camouflage the hibernating insects.  This time of year, they might also have truly ragged edges as well due to the harsh winter.  You’ll find these butterflies grouped at mud puddles in a behavior called, not surprisingly, ‘puddling’.  They are finding both water and nutrients at the puddle, as well as basking in the sun.

Many of those puddles are in the road, which isn’t good for the butterflies.  If you are driving and see them, and it is safe to do so, slow down and let them fly off.  Hitting a butterfly isn’t going to send you to the body shop like hitting a deer, but from the butterfly’s perspective, it is pretty much a disaster.

Going slow is a good idea this time of year anyway.  Not only are there plenty of deer along the roads, but in the Forest, our roads are soggy and soft.  Main roadways are in good shape and mostly free from snow and ice, but side roads still have surprising ice or snow patches in shady areas, and almost all the roads have soft shoulders.  If you do need to pull off the road, proceed with caution.  A shoulder that looks nice and flat and firm may be mud that will give way under the load of your vehicle.  Roads are soft enough that there is no log hauling being done right now and there are weight restrictions in place in both Lake and Cook counties.

While it is wet out there now, spring fire season is coming up soon.  The period between snow melt and spring green up can be a dangerous one for fires.  Dry grasses and leafless brush are excellent fuels, and it doesn’t take much for a fire to get going.  Right now is a good time to do some Fire Wise pruning and clean-up around your house to help protect it in case of a wildfire.  Burning permits are required, so if your clean-up involves burning, pick up a permit and keep an eye on conditions and the fire when you burn.  Make sure all fires are dead out and soaked with water when you are done.  Don’t rely on a fire to ‘burn itself out’, always put it out and leave it cold.
Between spring rain and snow showers, there are some gorgeous sunny days this time of year, so watch the roads but do get out to welcome back the birds and butterflies and join them in enjoying some of the warmth of spring. 

Until next time, this is Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 

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