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Superior National Forest - July 12

Superior National Forest Update
Superior National Forest Update

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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