Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on 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 1st, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
As you’re driving, you’ll find that the county spring load restrictions are still on. That means that while there are a few timber sales going on on Tofte and Gunflint, there’s no hauling. It’s not just the roads which have restrictions, some ATV routes are not open due to spring muddy conditions. Driving your ATV on muddy trails not only risks a few hours digging it out, but it will damage the trail and create a whole lot of work for someone later to rebuild it, so drive with caution even if the route is theoretically open.
Soft roads aren’t the only thing that could affect your travel. You also might run into some of our spring prescribed burns. You might encounter smoke, vehicles, and fire crews on the roadway. Areas where this is occurring will be clearly marked, so please take it slow as you pass since visibility might be restricted and there could be pedestrians.
Speaking of fire, there will be open houses on fire safety and awareness on May 4th at the Finland Volunteer Fire Department, May 11th at the Gunflint Ranger Station, and May 12th at the Schaap Community Center on the Gunflint Trail. All those open houses are from 4 to 6 pm. You will be able to learn what our 2015 fire outlook is, what prescribed burns are planned, and more about wildfire and fire preparedness. They are open houses, so you’ll have plenty of time to ask questions and talk to our fire personnel.
Some of the prescribed burns happening now are to maintain wildlife openings in the forest. Many kinds of animals from butterflies to moose benefit from these opening. The shrubs that grow up in openings are also great for our migrating birds, more of which are arriving daily. The dawn chorus of bird song seems louder all the time. One voice in that chorus, the one that has the bass line, isn’t a migrant, it is the ruffed grouse doing a drum solo. Our wildlife people have been conducting grouse drumming surveys, and the preliminary results seem to indicate that this has been a pretty good year for grouse, climbing toward a peak in their cycle.
In addition to burning, planting begins this week. White pine and some red oak are being planted along the North Shore in an effort cooperatively funded by a Conservation Partner’s Legacy grant and partnerships with the Forest Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service. Additional partners include the Sugarloaf Stewardship Association, The State of Minnesota, The Nature Conservancy and the North Shore Forest Collaborative. To minimize deer browsing, these trees will be fenced, so this planting will take a lot of effort.
Opening fishing weekend is coming up. Ice is out of most area lakes, though some of the lakes up the Gunflint Trail and to the northeast are still ice covered. Most of that ice is pretty rotten though, and should go soon. As the lakes open, docks are being put in, and campground water supplies are being turned on and serviced. The fee season for campgrounds should start in the next week or so with the turning on of the water. Check our website or at a ranger station to find out the current status of our campgrounds when planning on a trip.
If it is a Boundary Waters trip you are planning, today, May 1st, marks the start of the quota season. You will need a permit issued at a ranger station or cooperating business for overnight travel in the Boundary Waters. Self-issued permits are still available at entry points for day use.
As you can tell, there is a lot happening on the Forest in the spring. Check our website and ranger stations for current conditions and updates, and then get out there and enjoy the spring! Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen for National Forest Update.