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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.


What's On:

Superior National Forest Update: November 14

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Hello, I’m Mary Ann Atwood, Gunflint Ranger District’s administrative support clerk, with this week’s edition of the Superior National Forest Update.  Here’s what’s going on that may affect travel and recreation on the Gunflint and Tofte Districts of the Forest over the next week.
 
You may have noticed that winter has arrived on the north shore.  Tread carefully on Forest Service roads as you will likely encounter a thin layer of ice.   Lakes are starting to freeze up as well.  Our wilderness rangers have encountered 2 – 3 inches of ice cover on most small lakes.  If you’re planning a paddling trip, call the Tofte or Gunflint District offices for an ice report. 
 
Whether hiking or paddling in the BWCAW, be sure to fill out a self-issue permit, available at entry points and district offices.  And remember; keep wearing orange in the forest during the firearm’s season.
 
Our fire shop is completing the last of the gravel pit burn piles for the year.  Speaking of burn piles, if you are planning on burning brush piles at your home, you still need a burning permit until you have at least three inches of continuous snow cover.
 
When driving, take some time to reacquaint yourself with how your car handles in snow.  Check that the winter emergency kit you took out of the back and stored in the garage all summer is back in the vehicle. 
 
 
Regarding logging trucks: On the Gunflint side, you can expect log trucks on Bally Creek and The Grade.   On the Tofte side, there will be hauling on Cook County 3 near Vyre Lake, on The Grade, on FR 369 near Sawbill Landing, and on Lake County 705. 
 
Now that there is snow on the ground, our biologists are recording animal tracks.  All sorts of animals that are hard to count in the summer are easier to monitor in the winter.  Lynx may be invisible in the summer, but their tracks give them away in the winter.  We are interested in collecting any lynx sightings or suspected tracks.  If you find any, stop by or call a district office with your sighting information.
 
As Thanksgiving approaches, holiday greenery, that is, balsam boughs and trees, come to mind.  Both forest products can be gathered on the Forest with the appropriate permit.  Check our website or pick up a flyer at the district office for details on harvest limits and permit prices. 
 
That wraps up what is going on in the Superior.  Whether the snow lures you out into the woods, or drives you inside to enjoy a book and hot chocolate, make the most of it and enjoy winter.  After all, we have about four and half months of it left to go!  This has been Mary Ann Atwood with the National Forest Update.
 
 
 

 
 


 

Superior National Forest Update: November 7

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Hello, this is Steve Robertsen, Forest interpreter, with the deer opener edition of the Superior National Forest Update.  Here is what’s going on that may affect travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest over the next week
 
As most of us know, this is opening weekend for the firearms deer season in the state.  National Forest lands are open to hunting, except for within 150 yards of developed sites.  ATV use is limited to those roads and trails specified on the motor vehicle use maps available at district offices, there is no off road use of these vehicles for hauling game or traveling to deer stands.  Deer stands are allowed, but have to be taken down at the end of the season, or they will be impounded.  Remember, even if you are not hunting, orange is definitely the new black this time of year.  Be safe and be seen.  Good luck to everyone.
 
While you’re driving out there, you might run into a bit more logging traffic than last week.  On the Gunflint side, you can expect log trucks on Bally Creek, Devil Track, Ball Club, Shoe Lake, Greenwood, Pine Mountain, The Grade, Gunflint Trail, Swamp Lake Road, Cascade River Road and Cook County 7 and 45. 
There will also be hauling on the Mark Lake Road and the Caribou Trail.
 
On the Tofte side, they are still hauling up on Cook County 3 and the Sawbill Trail; but there will also be trucks on the Sawbill Landing Road and Lake County 705. 
 
The bridge over the Poplar River on the Barker Lake Road is now finished and open for traffic.  It is the opposite story for those looking to cross the Temperance River on the 600 road near the Sawbill Trail.  The longtime landmark steel truss bridge, known for obvious reasons as the “Pink Bridge”, is nearing the end of its life.  It will be blocked and closed to car and truck traffic starting this week, though it will be open for snowmobile use this winter.  Drivers will have to detour either via the Grade or Highway 61. 
 
Our fire crew is keeping busy by burning brush piles in gravel pits at several locations through the Forest.  This will continue as weather permits, so it is hard to say exactly which will be burnt on which day, but you may expect some smoke plumes from these fires. 
 
That wraps up what is going on in the Superior.  This can be a busy season in the woods, so be aware of other people, and respectful of their use of the Forest.  Stay safe, and good luck to all!  This has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.
 
 
 


 

Superior National Forest Update: October 31

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Hello, this is Jon Benson, Recreation Specialist for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with the Halloween edition of the Superior National Forest Update.  Here is what’s going on that may affect travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest over this first weekend of November. 
 
Halloween night, you might expect some zombies, ghosts, and goblins out on the roads.  Drive safely; some of those ghouls are likely to dart out into the roadway without looking.  Remember that no motorized use is permitted in the Boundary Waters even during a zombie apocalypse.  We would also like to encourage people to be safe on the roads and plan your transportation options before you go to Halloween parties.  Many costumes may make you appear to be silly, but that is not excuse for acting silly when it comes to drinking and driving.  And speaking of parties, it is likely that people may be planning to recreate on the National Forest this weekend, here are a few tips to help keep you safe while protecting area natural resources: 
 

  1.  Be careful with fires.  If you are planning to have a fire, make sure that you remove all fuels surrounding the fire site and make sure the fire is dead out and cool to the touch before leaving the site.
  2. Please clean up after yourselves.  If you plan to hang out on the National Forest, please leave the area better then you found it.

 
If any of the parents that are listening could help spread these two messages to your kids, you can help make this Halloween a fun and safe experience.
 
In addition to the trick or treating traffic, you can expect logging traffic in the same areas as last week.  On the Gunflint District:  the Bally Creek Road, Devil Track Road, Ball Club Road, Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Pine Mountain Road, The Grade, Gunflint Trail, Swamp Lake Road, Cascade River Road, Cook County 7 and Cook County 45 are all being used for hauling.  The Tofte District is currently less busy, with truck traffic on the Mark Lake Road, Caribou Trail, and Cook County 3.  Rifle season for deer hunting starts on November 8th, so you may see hunters prepping for the season out on the roads.  Before you get carried away with the hammer and screw gun, remember that all deer stands on the National Forest must be temporary and removed at the end of the season. 
 
Fire crews are burning brush piles in gravel pits at several locations through the Forest.  The Caribou, Airport, and Pike Lake pit will, weather depending, be burned this week, and possibly others as well.  There are a few other locations at timber sales that may also have slash burned over the next week.
 
November is our cloudiest and windiest month, and with possible rain and snow, hypothermia is a real concern.  People dress for winter when snow is on the ground, but they may be less likely to think of cold when it still looks like fall.  If you are with someone who gets truly hypothermic, remember that their body is beyond the point of being able to reheat itself.  More layers at that point don’t really help, you need to do something to heat them from the outside - get to a heated vehicle, or bundle with them inside a coat or blanket and use your heat to warm them.  Prevention is best however.  When you head out, make sure your group is prepared for falling temperatures and the possibility of getting wet.  That way you can best enjoy this time of year between bug dope and snow shovels.
 
Have a good Halloween, and until next week, this has been Jon Benson with the National Forest Update.
 


 

Superior National Forest Update: October 24

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Suzanne Cable, Assistant District Ranger for Recreation & Wilderness for the Gunflint and Tofte Districts, provides this week's National Forest update.


 

Superior National Forest Update: October 17

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Hi again; this is Matt Riederer, Timber Sale Administrator for the Tofte Ranger District, with the Superior National Forest Update.  For the week of October 17th, here is what’s going on that may affect travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. 
 
The road construction on Highway 61 is finally starting to come to an end, with more and more pavement daily.  But - for a while longer, be patient and plan a little extra time when coming up from the south.  Once you have arrived on the Forest, you can expect logging traffic in the same areas as last week.  On the Gunflint District:  the Bally Creek Road, Devil Track Road, Ball Club Road, Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, Pine Mountain Road, The Grade, Gunflint Trail, Swamp Lake Road, Cascade River Road, Cook County 7 and Cook County 45 are all being used for hauling.  The Tofte District is currently less busy, with truck traffic on the Mark Lake Road, Caribou Trail, Cook County 3, The Grade, and the 4 Mile Grade.  There are still people stopping to look at the fall colors, as well as people pulled over for hunting, so watch out for vehicles parked along the side of the road. 
 
If you smell some smoke in the air, and you are not near a campfire, it might be from one of our Forest Service fire crews burning a slash pile.  Burning slash piles is an important part of reducing hazardous fuels, and it also helps to prepare harvested areas for reforestation.  The temperatures are getting pretty cool at night and the threat of a wildfire is low; but if you are planning on burning brush yourself, be sure to get the appropriate permit, and choose a day with good burning weather.  Remember it is illegal to burn trash in a fire in Minnesota - and generally frowned upon to burn your marshmallows.
 
The Tofte and Gunflint campgrounds are preparing for winter.  That means that water is being turned off, docks are being removed from boat landings, and trash pick-up is ending.  This is not the end of the camping season, though.  Campgrounds are still open to use; and fall can be a great, bug free time to be outdoors.  Just remember to please pack out what you pack in.  Fall can also be a great time to camp in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  Again, please remember that even though you do not have to pay for a permit after October 1st, you still need to fill out a self-issued permit before you go.  This helps us keep track of how many people are using the wilderness.  Self-issued permits are available at the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Stations or at the Boundary Waters entry points.
 
Have a great week in the Forest.  Maybe try something different, go on one last canoe trip; or take advantage of our moonlit and longer nights, and go for a night hike.  And if you have any questions about where to go or what to do, stop by the Ranger Station.  We’re open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and we’ll be happy to help you enjoy your time on the Superior.  Until next week, this has been Matt Riederer with the Superior National Forest Update.


 

Superior National Forest Update: October 10

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Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education person for the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with the Superior National Forest Update.  For the week of October 10th, here’s the scoop on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. 
 
Highway 61 road construction along Lake Superior is finally starting to come to an end with more and more pavement daily.  But - for a while longer, stay patient and plan on some extra time coming up to the Forest from the south.  Once here, you could encounter log trucks on the same routes as last week in the Gunflint District:  Bally Creek, Devil Track, Ball Club, Shoe Lake, Greenwood, Pine Mountain, The Grade, Gunflint Trail, Swamp Lake Road, Cascade River Road and Cook County 7 and 45.  Plus, there will now be trucks hauling on the Mark Lake Road and the Caribou Trail.  It is busy time of year!  Tofte is a little less busy with truck traffic on Cook County 3 near Vyre Lake, and on both the Grade, and the 4 Mile Grade.  There are still people stopped to look at foliage, as well as people pulled over for hunting grouse, deer, or, until the twelfth, bear, so watch out for vehicles parked along roadsides. 
 
We’ve had an uneventful year for fire, and the threat of wildfire is nearly past, but you may be smelling some smoke in the air this week.  Piles in timber harvest areas are being burnt to prepare for reforestation.  You may also see fire crews in the Sawbill Trail area.  They won’t be burning, but will be working on reducing understory fuels.  If you are planning on burning brush yourself, be sure to get a permit and choose a day with good burning weather.  Remember it is illegal to burn trash in a fire in Minnesota - and generally frowned on to burn your marshmallows.
 
October 15th marks the end of water and trash pick-up at fee campgrounds on the Tofte and Gunflint districts.  Weather depending, sometimes water will be left on later in the season, but consider that a bonus and don’t count on it past the 15th.  It is not the end of camping though, campgrounds will still be open to use, and fall can be great bug free time to get in a camping trip.  Camping in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness this time of year is great as well.  Remember that even though you don’t have to pay for permit after October 1st, you need to fill out the self-issued permit before you go - it helps us to keep track of how many people are using the wilderness.
 
Traveling without permits right now are thousands of migratory birds.  You may have heard that this year had a ‘fall out’ event where weather conditions caused these migrants to end up at ground level in large numbers.  You’ve probably seen birds flying across the road in numbers, particularly at dawn and dusk.  What you probably didn’t see is that there are also large numbers of tiny saw-whet owls migrating as well.  These are pint sized owls, only about as big as a pop can.  Unlike bigger owls, they can’t find prey easily in snow, and are forced to move south.  Since they move at night on silent wings, they pass unnoticed, except to Forest biologists who band some of them on the way through.
 
Have a great week in the Forest.  Take advantage of our moonlit and longer nights, and go for a night hike.  Who knows, you may see an owl.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.


 

Superior National Forest Update: October 3

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Hello.  This is Suzanne Cable, Assistant District Ranger for Recreation and Wilderness, with the Superior National Forest Update, providing you with information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest.  For the week of October 3rd, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
 
It is October, with the emphasis being on the adapting to autumn weather conditions.  Temperatures are going down into the thirties at night, and we’ve been having some wet weather.  This kind of damp cold can lead to hypothermia.  Often people who know how to dress well for twenty below may forget to add layers and raingear when it doesn’t seem quite so cold.  Hunters that are quietly waiting for game are particularly prone to getting chilled, so please do your best to dress warmly, and don’t ignore signs of hypothermia just to stay a “little while longer” at your stand, or check out “just one more spot” for a grouse.  The first signs of hypothermia to be alert for include shivering, dizziness, fatigue and confusion.
 
While you’re out driving in the Forest, you could encounter logging trucks and timber operations on the Gunflint District around Bally Creek, Devil Track, Ball Club, Shoe Lake, Greenwood, Pine Mountain, The Grade, Gunflint Trail, Swamp Lake Road, Cascade River Road and Cook County 7 and 45.  On the Tofte end, visitors can expect hauling on Cook County 3 near Vyre Lake, on the Grade, and 4 Mile Grade.  Almost everywhere, you might encounter other visitors looking at the fall foliage.  If you’re the one doing the leaf looking, please make sure to be aware of other drivers and pull off the road in safe locations to let others pass.  Slow driving is especially important this time of year.  Rains have led to some soft roads in places and there is a lot of washboarding over a great deal of the road system.
 
We’d also like to remind people that fall is the time that many small birds flock along roadsides during their migration.  Unfortunately, when spooked by a car, they fly across the road at grill level.  Save your grill and the birds by slowing down on the back roads.
 
October means that the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Stations will no longer be open on weekends.  We’re still here Monday through Friday, 8:00 - 4:30.  Also starting in October, you no longer need an overnight reserved permit for trips into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  You still need to fill out a free self-issued permit available at most entry points or at our offices.  Those permits help us keep track of visitation and are an important part of managing the Boundary Waters.
 
If you’re planning a camping trip outside of the Boundary Waters, be aware that our fee campgrounds will have the water shut off and garbage pick-up halted starting October 15th.  You can still camp at the campgrounds, but you will have to supply your own water and carry out your trash.  It is also the month that docks start to be removed from lakes for the winter, so get out soon for your last couple of fall fishing trips.
 
I hope you enjoy what could be the peak of the fall colors this week, and until next week, this has been Suzanne Cable with the Superior National Forest Update.
 
 


 

Superior National Forest Update: September 26

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Hi.  I’m Anna Botner, Wilderness Specialist for Gunflint and Tofte, with the Superior National Forest Update, providing you with information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest.  For the week of September 26th, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
 
Fall just keeps getting more and more colorful.  It promises to be a spectacular week to get out and drive the fall color routes, or finding your own roads to explore in the Forest.  If you’re out enjoying the season, make sure to respect other drivers by parking in appropriate spots, closing doors when you get out, and allowing others to pass if you are traveling slowly.  Take a hike on one of our many trails while you’re out.  After all, you can’t really see all of fall through the windshield. 
 
While driving, you could encounter some logging trucks and timber operations around Bally Creek, Devil Track, Ball Club, Shoe Lake, Greenwood, Pine Mountain, The Grade, Gunflint Trail, Swamp Lake Road, Cascade River Road and Cook County 7 and 45.  On the Tofte end, the only active harvest area is off Cook County 3.  You still might see a few trucks on the 4 Mile Grade as well.
 
Fall is also the season for some prescribed burns in the Forest.  These burns help to prepare soils for pines to grow.  A 140 acre burn will be finishing up off the Sawbill Trail, but some residual smoke and campfire aroma will be in the air still this weekend.  Other burns that could be taking place next week, weather dependent, are southwest of Devil’s Track Lake, one east of Isabella, and one on the 600 road in Tofte.  Our local fire people are being assisted by some crews from Michigan and Wisconsin, so thanks to those crews for their help.
  
Bucks are looking their best right now with nice sets of antlers, most still in velvet.  Hunting seasons for many kinds of game have already started, with this weekend being the opener for waterfowl hunting.  The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is the agency in charge of hunting, but our Forest Service offices can help if you are looking for road maps or vehicle use maps that show where
off-highway vehicles can be used.  Remember, you cannot use off-highway vehicles for cross-country travel in the national forest.  They can only be used on travel routes shown on the motor vehicle use map, which can be picked up at any Forest Service office.
 
Enjoy what could be the peak of the fall colors this week, and until next week, this has been Anna Botner with the Superior National Forest’s Recreation and Road Report.
 
 
 
 


 

Superior National Forest Update: September 19

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Hi.  I’m Nancy Larson, Gunflint District Ranger, with the Superior National Forest Update, providing you with information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest.  For the week of September 19th , here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
 
The most obvious change in the Forest is the ramping up of the fall colors.  If you can’t be out in the woods, you can keep track of the season with our fall color reports on our website and links to weekly photos on Flicker.  If you are out in the woods, watch out for other color enthusiasts who might be driving slowly, or have stopped to take pictures.  If you are one of those enthusiasts, be aware of others and park in safe locations, shut your doors when you get out, and pull over to let others pass. 
 
While driving, you could encounter some logging trucks and timber operations around Bally Creek, Devil Track, Ball Club, Shoe Lake, Greenwood, Pine Mountain, The Grade, Gunflint Trail, Swamp Lake Road, Cascade River Road and Cook County 7 and 45.  On the Tofte end, the only active harvest area is off Cook County 3.  You still might see a few trucks on the 4 Mile Grade as well.
 
There could be smoke in the air by Harriet, Fulton, and Toohey Lakes.  Slash piles are being burned which is part of preparing a logged area for reforestation.  There is one 40 acre prescription burn off of the Sawbill Trail.  This is what’s called a site preparation burn and is also part of getting an area ready for a new forest.

The roads themselves are in good shape this week.  There is still construction on Highway 61 which will slow you down as you pass through.  There might be heavier traffic than usual on the Cramer Road through the Forest as people try to find alternative routes to 61.  Most of the time, this particular route isn’t a time saver and isn’t recommended.
 
We may be traveling by road, but this is also the time for birds to travel south by air.  Fall migration is a peak time to see hawks along the North Shore, as well as many other species, but it is also a peak time for window strikes.  You can help reduce the number of birds hitting windows by pulling blinds when you aren’t home so birds can’t see through the window.  You can also things in the window to break up reflections and help the birds to ‘see’ the clear glass and avoid it.
 
Bears are also getting ready for fall by finding food wherever they can.  They are checking out bird feeders, garbage cans, and other sources of food that they may not have bothered the rest of the summer.  Feed the birds, but not the bears by taking in your feeders at night, and stashing your food in a locked vehicle if you are camping.
 
Speaking of camping, our campgrounds are still open with water available at the fee campgrounds until October 15th.  It is great insect free time of the year to pack your tent in the car and enjoy a campfire.
 
Whether camping or not, we hope you can get out into the fall forest.  Until next week, this has been Nancy Larson with the Superior National Forest’s Recreation and Road Report.


 

Superior National Forest Update: September 12

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Hi.  I’m Jon Benson, Recreation Specialist on the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts, with this week’s edition of the Superior National Forest Update. For the week of September 12th, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.

Recreation use on the Forest is starting to slow down; however, bear hunters are out right now and grouse season starts soon so folks may see some hunting activity going on.  Trail partner groups are also out on the trails either finishing up their summer work or preparing for the winter.  We are also nearing completion of the Little Isabella Campground ATV Trail Connector as well as the reroute of the Beaver Snowmobile Trail north of Caribou Lake.

Boundary Waters permits remain available through the end of September and then the self-issue permit season begins October 1st.  Concessionaire-run fee campgrounds on the Superior National Forest will remain open with fees being charged for just over a month.  Campers should continue to be considerate of other users especially with regard to noise levels, vehicle parking, and folks should respect the personal space of other campers. 

Fall colors are starting to show up around the Forest.  We have just finished putting up the signs designating the fall color routes.  The Superior National Forest does a weekly fall color blog on our website.  For folks that are interested in following the blog, they can start checking the Superior National Forest website and look on the right hand side of the screen for the Fall Colors link.  Conditions are updated daily and new photos are added on Thursdays and Fridays.

Fire danger is low this weekend, but that’s no reason to let your campfire get out of control.  Keep fires in grates and fire rings, and remember that it is illegal to burn trash in a campfire.  Don’t leave your fire until it is dead out and cool to the touch.  Superior National Forest Fire crews are working on some fall pile burning currently and they will continue as conditions allow.  Nationally the fire situation has quieted down in most places but southern Oregon and California are still fairly active.

On the road, you can expect delays on Highway 61 still.  With heavier traffic this weekend, your trip from Silver Bay to Grand Marais could easily be thirty to fifty minutes longer than usual.  Be sure to allow yourself extra time on the roads.

Logging traffic on the Gunflint District will be about the same as the last few weeks.  You might encounter log trucks on Bally Creek, Devil Track, Ball Club, Shoe Lake, Greenwood, Pine Mountain Road, The Grade, the Caribou Trail, the Gunflint Trail, and on the Swamp and Cascade River Roads and Cook County 7 and 45.  On the Tofte end, there is one active timber harvest right now.  Folks should be aware of logging traffic on Cook County 3, and vehicles may encounter logging trucks on Lake County 7, the 4 Mile Grade, and the Sawbill Trail.

The fisheries program is currently assisting the 1854 Treaty Authority with their fall walleye assessments on Elbow, Cascade, Devilfish, Ball Club, and Caribou Lakes.  The focus of the assessment is to capture 3-6 inch young of the year walleye in the shallows of the lakes and measure them for growth analysis.  The fish are then released.  The goal of the assessment is to develop an index of year class strength.  This assists fishery managers in better predicting what the future fishery of a lake may look like.  

I hope all the listeners have a wonderful weekend!  And remember, for up to minute information on topics such as fire restrictions, be sure to stop into a Ranger Station, check our website, or follow us on Twitter.

Until next week, this has been Jon Benson with the National Forest Update.