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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: July 17

Hi.  I’m Steve Robertsen, Interpretation and Education Specialist, 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 July 17th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
I know there are a lot of photographers out there because I see wonderful photos posted every week online.  You now have an excellent opportunity to share some of those photos nationally.  You can participate in the “Share the Experience:  Official Federal Recreation Lands 2015 Photo Contest”.  Rules and information are available at district offices and on the Forest’s website at www.fs.usda.us/superior.gov.  Your photo could be chosen to be featured on the national Federal Recreational Lands Pass… and there’s over $30,000 in prizes and cash to be awarded as well.  While you’re at it, we are always looking for good photos to share on our Facebook page and Twitter feed.  You can send photos to Ali Bickford at ambickford@fs.fed.us.  Please put “Photos of Superior” and your name on the subject line, and retitle the image file with a descriptive name.  You can also upload photos to the Superior National Forest Photo Club on Flicker.  Note that this won’t enter you in the contest, you’ll have to do the entry separately, and submitted photos become part of the public domain, so cannot have a copyright watermark.
Getting to places to take photos should be pretty easy.  Our sporadic rains have kept the dust down on roads, but haven’t been heavy enough to cause any damage.  There is washboarding on some roads, but grading is taking place to smooth them down.  If you are on a washboarded road, slow down.  Washboarding can cause your tires to lose contact with the road at higher speeds, even if your suspension is keeping you nice and level in your seat.  You may not notice the lack of contact on a straight, but when you get to a corner, you’ll suddenly be drifting off the roadway, so just slow down.
On your trip, you could also run into logging traffic on the Greenwood Lake Road and Gunflint Trail, as well as possibly on the Bally Creek Road, Pine Mountain Road, Caribou Trail, The Grade, Sawbill Trail, the Four Mile Grade, Lake County 7, Dumbbell River Road, and the Wanless Road. 
This may be a good weekend to learn more about our namesake Lake Superior.  It is Lake Superior Days in Duluth at the Maritime Museum, and the Forest Service will be present at a booth during the event.  You may wonder what a three million acre forest has to do with a 20 million acre lake, but we are connected physically through our waterways, environmentally through animals such as lake trout that spawn in forest rivers and live in the lake, and historically through the use of the lake as a travel route and as a means of shipping forest resources such as timber and minerals. 
Some of you might be headed away from the city into the wilderness instead.  Remember that you always need an entry permit to enter the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  If you are day tripping, you can pick up a self-issued permit at the entry point.  Just fill it out, put one copy in the box and keep the other copy with you.  This helps us track wilderness use and make informed decisions on wilderness management.  If you are staying overnight, you’ll need a permit issued by the Forest Service for the entry point and date on which you plan on entering the BWCAW.  This helps spread visitors out over the area and time so everyone has a good wilderness experience.
Wherever your travels take you, have a great weekend, and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: July 10

Hi.  I’m Becky Bartol, environmental coordinator, 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 July 10th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
It has been a week of beautiful weather on the Forest.  We hope that you’ve been able to get outside and enjoy some of the sun.  This past Tuesday was national “Father-Daughter Take a Walk Day”, so hopefully some fathers and daughters were out hiking in the woods.   If you somehow missed that holiday, you can cheer yourself up by celebrating National Blueberry Muffin Day this Sunday.
Camping can be a great way to get outdoors, but remember that if you are planning on camping, it is not allowed to ‘claim’ a spot by putting your gear at a campsite ahead of time.  Your campsite must be occupied the first night.  Camping gear left in an unoccupied site may be confiscated, and the owner can actually be cited for a violation.  If you are concerned about not having a site, many of the sites on our campgrounds are reservable online at Recreation.gov. 
Sites in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness are, of course, not reservable.  When planning your route, develop alternatives in case the site you are hoping for is occupied.  Creating your own campsite on islands or other places is not allowed, and you can be cited for camping outside of the designated sites.  The reason we have designated sites is to concentrate the impact of camping in only those spots, leaving the rest of the shoreline pristine.  Help us protect the Boundary Waters by following the rules and guidelines - they are there for good reasons.
Getting to your campground or entry point should be pretty easy.  Our roads are in good shape, and there are only a few timber sales creating truck traffic.  You may encounter logging trucks on the Dumbbell River Road, Wanless Road (heading to Hwy.1), Sawbill Landing Road, Lake County 7 near Harriet Lake, the Four Mile Grade near Wilson Lake, The Grade, and the Sawbill Trail.
While most of us are enjoying summer, some of us have been preparing for winter already.  The Forest Service, in partnership with the Arrowhead Coalition for Multiple Uses, has been working to develop the South Fowl Snowmobile Trail near South Fowl Lake.  This section of trail should be ready for snowmobile use this winter, so thanks to all the trail workers that are out there feeding the mosquitos and black flies this summer.
Smokey Bear would like to pass on a big thank you for the warm welcome he received at the Fourth of July parade in Tofte.  He was able to both give and receive a lot of bear hugs, and there’s nothing he likes better.  Being Smokey, he’d also wants us to remind you to be careful with fire and make sure all your campfires are dead out before you leave your campsite.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Becky Bartol with the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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Superior National Forest Update: July 3

Hi.  I’m Amber Humphrey, Information Specialist, 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 July 3rd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
It is Fourth of July weekend!  It looks like it will be a beautiful weekend out on the Forest to enjoy the holiday.  Remember that NO fireworks of any kind are permitted on the National Forest, not even fireworks that maybe legal within the state of Minnesota.  Fire danger is low due to recent rains and high humidity, but even in these conditions fires can get out of control.  We actually had to put one out last week.  A very small, room sized wildfire that had started from an unattended campfire.  One potential fire starter is a type of firework called a fire balloon.  These are small hot air balloons lifted with a candle, and seem to be getting more popular every year.  Normally, the candle burns out before the balloon lands, but they will sometimes crash while still burning, causing an obvious fire hazard.  In addition to possibly starting a fire, they become litter after landing.  Of course, like all fireworks, these are not legal on the Forest.
If you want fireworks, there are some great displays along the North Shore all the way from Two Harbors to Grand Marais.  The parade in Tofte this year will have a certain bear in attendance, making sure everyone knows that only you can prevent wildfires. 
While fire danger is low locally, it is high in the drought stricken west.  Sixteen of our fire crew will be spending their holiday assisting with wildfires that are burning in other states.  Keep them and all the other firefighters in your thoughts this weekend.
As we get into July, driving in the Forest may involve more encounters with large RVs.  Or, maybe you will be the person driving the RV.  Either way, be aware that these vehicles take a lot of space on our narrow Forest roads.  Be patient, and pass only in safe areas, and if you’re the RV driver, pull over and allow others to pass in safe places, especially if you are going slower than the traffic flow.  Don’t get frustrated.  Realize that there really isn’t any rush to get where you are going, and five miles an hour speed increase will not change your arrival time very much.
There may be more RVs, but there are going to be fewer logging trucks on the Tofte District this next week.  We have only two active timber sales right now, one on the Dumbbell River Road, and another off of The Grade near the Temperance River.  Visitors can expect to see trucks hauling on the Trappers Lake Road (FR 369), the Wanless Road (FR 172), the Dumbbell River Road (FR 174), Lake County road 7 near Harriet Lake, and the Four Mile Grade near Wilson Lake.
If your drive takes you up the Gunflint to Chik-Wauk, you could stop in at 2:00 pm on Tuesday for a Forest Service naturalist program about moose.  Check our website for all the other naturalist programs offered every week, or on the Fourth, stop by the Point where we always have a naturalist on location from 1:30 to 3:30 Saturdays.
Have a great weekend, and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Amber Humphrey with the Superior National Forest Update. 
 

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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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Superior National Forest Update: May 22

I’m Amber Humphrey, Information Specialist, with this week’s edition of the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation in the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest.  For the week of May 22nd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

If you are interested in the Barker Project near the Bally Creek Ski Area, join us at the Gunflint Ranger Station for a public discussion from 5-6 pm on Wednesday, May 27th.  We heard from many people regarding this project, and we’d like to provide an opportunity for further discussion.  Please phone the Gunflint Ranger District for more information.

We have been having some wonderful spring weather which should hold right through the holiday weekend.  Recent weather fronts have pushed migrating birds northwards, and the early arriving white-throated and white-crowned sparrows have been joined with many kinds of warblers, orioles, rose-breasted grosbeaks, flycatchers, and most of the rest of our summer birds. It can be a little difficult for these birds at first. Warblers are insect eaters (part of the reason why they have to winter somewhere else) and cold rainy weather is not good for insects. They usually are birds that forage in trees, but on these cooler days you may see them on the ground where it is a little warmer and a little buggier. Now is a good time to put out food for the migrant birds such as seed, or hummingbird feeders for the humming birds and oranges for the orioles.  These birds have traveled a long way, and they all could use a good meal.

Within the forest most road restrictions have been lifted.  Expect logging trucks along the Gunflint Trail and the Grade.

This Memorial Day could be a great weekend to go fishing.  Docks are in on the lakes, and our campgrounds are open.  The water is a little on the low side, so keep an eye peeled for rocks that might be a problem. When traveling from lake to lake, remember to do your part in keeping invasive species under control.  Invasive plants like Eurasian water milfoil and invasive animals like the zebra mussel can really ruin a lake’s ecosystem.  Empty live wells of water and clean weeds off your boat and trailer before leaving the ramp.  Dispose of live bait properly – do not release minnows or crayfish into the lake, or dump worms on the ground.  Take the time to do a good job; not only is it a good idea, but it’s the law.

Moving from water to fire - weather permitting the fire folks are going to burn a couple units in the Tofte District.  The Cross River burn will be 20 acres located 10 miles northwest of Tofte and the Dumbell burn will be 20 acres northeast of Dumbell Lake.  If you’re camping this holiday weekend, make sure your fire is 100% out before you leave your campsite.

As you enjoy this holiday weekend, take a moment to remember what the holiday is about.  There are many that have served this country that cannot be here to enjoy this weekend.  Be sure to take some time to honor their memories.

Until next week, this has been Amber Humphrey for the Superior National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: May 15

Hi.  I’m Patty Johnson, Fire Management Officer on the east zone of 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 15th, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
Despite the morning frost and traces of snow last week, spring continues to march on.  Bloodroot and other spring wildflowers are blooming in the woods and the grass is turning from brown to green.  The spring rain has brought relief to the fire danger across the forest.  This last rain brought at least three quarters of an inch of rain to the forest, with some areas receiving up to one and a quarter inches.  Cooler, moist conditions are expected through the rest of the week, keeping fire danger low.
This is the time of year we start to gear up for our prescribed fire projects over the hill.  We burn some sites where we have harvested timber in order to prepare the soil for regeneration, and we underburn in pine stands to mimick natural fires and clear away undergrowth such as balsam fir.  Weather does not look favorable this week for prescribed burning, but we will be watching the weather to see what next week brings.  Check our website, Twitter feed, or Facebook page or look on Boreal to see if there is any fire activity planned for the areas you may be visiting.
The state and counties are lifting the spring road restrictions in the Forest.  Lake County and the state have completely removed the spring restrictions on their roads, but Cook County has only lifted restrictions on some roads at the time of this broadcast.  Our website has a link to Cook County with a current list of restricted roads.  With most weight restrictions off, loaded log trucks will be seen again on roads coming from timber harvest areas.  On the Gunflint District, you can expect logging traffic on the Shoe Lake Road, Greenwood Road, and the Gunflint Trail south of Greenwood.  On Tofte, there will be trucks on the Four Mile Grade near Harriet Lake and on Lake County 7.
Spring is also the time for planting trees.  Gunflint and Tofte Districts combined will plant over 275 thousand trees this year.  Our forest is home to over 300 species of nesting birds, and part of the reason for that is the patchy mix of areas with old trees and areas with new.  This forest mosaic provides many different habitat types for not only all those birds, but for other animals as well.  Fire, timber harvest, and replanting all work together to maintain this forest mosaic which is one of the stand-out characteristics of the Northwoods and a benefit to both birds and bird watchers.
The quota season started in May for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  That means if you are planning an overnight trip, you’ll have to be issued an entry permit at a ranger station or an area cooperator for a specific entry point and date of entry.  Usually it is best to reserve a permit through Recreation.gov, though you can also take your chances on picking one up on the day of your trip.  Our ranger stations have gone to summer hours - seven days a week from 8 to 4:30.  If you are only planning on visiting the Boundary Waters for a day trip, you can use a self-issued permit available at most entry points.  But remember to fill it out - you still need a permit to enter.  Permits help us to better distribute people across the wilderness so everyone will all have a good wilderness experience instead of a crowded one.
If you are camping outside of the Wilderness, the fee season has started at our fee campgrounds.  That means that there is water available at those campgrounds now, and garbage containers are there as well.  Several campgrounds are outfitted with bear resistant garbage containers, often a dumpster with a bar across the lid.  Even though it can be annoying, please make sure to replace the bar on the lid when you are done using the dumpster.  We really don’t want any bears associating our campgrounds with a free lunch.  And, we don’t want to pick up a dumpster’s worth of trash from the ground after the bear is through.
Wherever you are bound, either camping at Crescent Lake or canoeing on Clearwater, have a great week out in the woods.  Until next week, this has been Patty Johnson for the Superior National Forest Update.
 
 

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