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Join Jay Andersen and Joe Friedrichs for a program packed with news, music and some humor.  Listener favorites like For the Birds, The Environment Report, Morning Business Report, and The Predator Moment provide a regular foundation for this program that also covers politics, local news and issues, and, the funnier side to the news. DayBreak airs 7-8 a.m. on weekdays.

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Superior National Forest Update: May 19

Hi. I’m Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on the Superior National Forest, with 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 19, here’s what’s going on out there.

The wave of spring green is slowly pushing northwards. There is quite a difference in the amount of green in different areas right now, and it is sort of like traveling in time driving on 61 between our offices in Grand Marais and Duluth. As green leaves appear, the moisture content of the woods increases, and fire danger lessens. Our recent rainy spell has really helped with fire danger as well, but spring is still a season to be extra careful with fire, especially if you are in an area which is still dominated by last year’s brown leaves and not this year’s green ones.

That line of green creeping north has brought with it another pulse of migrating birds. This past week saw the return of many warblers to the woods, as well as the return of our hummingbirds. Orioles and rose-breasted grosbeaks are back, adding some larger splashes of color to the mix. It’s a good time of year to feed birds, but with the rain, make sure to check that your feeders stay clean and the seed doesn’t start to mildew.

Despite the rain, some road weight restrictions have been lifted allowing for more truck traffic in the woods. You may encounter logging traffic near the Trapper’s Lake Road near Isabella, and in other areas as weight restrictions continue to be lifted. If you’d like to check on current restrictions, there is a link under the Current Conditions section of our website to the county and state DOT websites.

All our campgrounds on Tofte and Gunflint are now fully open with water and garbage pick-up, and are collecting fees. As a reminder, dumpsters in campgrounds are for use only by campers. Make sure all your garbage is in the dumpster, not piled alongside, and then make sure that the dumpster lid is fully secured with bars or chains to keep the bears from getting in. Most of our bear problems at campgrounds start with bears and unsecured garbage, so keep a clean camp and put all your garbage and food into secure areas such as the trunk of a car or the closed dumpster. If you drive an SUV or other vehicle with no trunk, use a blanket or luggage cover to hide your coolers. Some bears actually look in vehicles for food, and will try to break in if they see coolers or obvious food. Never store food or garbage in your tent, and don’t assume the screen door on an RV is secure against a hungry bruin. If you do have a bear encounter at a campground, please let us know at one of the district offices as well as telling the campground host
and concessionaire.

If your plans are to camp in the Boundary Waters, make sure to keep things bear safe there as well. Our website shows several methods of hanging food safely, or you can use a bear resistant food container…but, the popular blue plastic barrels are not bear resistant, so don’t count on those to really even slow down a bear. Our seasonal wilderness ranger staff has begun patrols, so if you see them, be sure to say hi. The rangers report that mosquitoes are still rare, so it’s a great time to get out. Black flies are starting to get annoying though, and there’s been plenty of ticks, so watch it.

Have a wonderful spring weekend, and enjoy the currently bug free forest. Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: May 12

Hi. I’m Paulette Anholm, 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 12, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

We’ve turned on the water systems in all the campgrounds on our two districts. We’re waiting for the water samples to be checked to make sure things are okay, but unless there are unforeseen problems, all our fee campgrounds should have water and garbage pick-up this weekend, and also begin charging fees for camping. It promises to be a great weekend, so we’re hoping you get a chance to go camping and maybe drop a line in the water for the walleye opener this Saturday.

Speaking of fishing, and who isn’t, we’d like to remind everyone about aquatic invasive species. Don’t move invasives around! Make sure to drain all water from live wells and bait containers, thoroughly wash your boat and trailer, and dry it before you change your fishing spot. Dispose of bait in a way that will insure that it won’t survive. While it is the law, and you could be fined for transporting exotic species, the more important reason to do this is that it will help preserve our lakes and our native fish. It can be a pain to completely wash off a trailer, but you really owe it to everyone else fishing, and to the next generation of people fishing, to do your part to help keep exotic invasives under control.

Out of the water, the land is getting drier. Fire danger might actually be in the high range this weekend because as yet we have little green-up happening, and an escaped fire could grow quickly in dried grasses and leaf litter. If you are cooking your fish on shore, use only designated campfire rings, and fuel your fire with small wood, only as big as your wrist. This will make it easier to extinguish the fire later. Before you leave, double-check that your fire is cold to the touch.

Speaking of fire, we’d like to note the 10th anniversary of the Ham Lake Fire at the end of the Gunflint Trail. This very large fire was remembered at an event at the Gunflint Community Center last weekend in a celebration of community. While we wouldn’t like to see a fire like that again, it was wonderful to see all our friends and neighbors from the Gunflint Trail celebrating the spirit that really makes this a special place to live and work. At the event, the Forest Service unveiled a new interpretive sign which will be installed at the Gunflint Lake overlook. Next time you’re up the trail, check it out.

This drier weather does make it possible for us to continue to conduct our prescribed burns. Fire crews have done several burns recently to help maintain wildlife openings, and are now doing burns which will help prepare areas which have been logged for the planting of new trees. There are three of these scheduled for this weekend, so people may notice smoke, and may encounter fire crews on the ground during the prescribed burns. Information on the location of these fires will be posted on Boreal. If you see smoke, and are not sure if it is from a prescribed fire, go ahead and report it. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to fire.

While the Forest is drying out, the roads are still too wet for the spring weight limits to be removed. This means that there are no large logging trucks on the roads, but there are still soft spots and washouts to look out for.

That’s all for this week! Enjoy the weather, the forest, and with luck, the fish! Until next week, this has been Paulette Anholm with the National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: May 5

Hi. I’m Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist at Gunflint and Tofte, with the National Forest Update for May 5 - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the start of May, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

May Day marks the beginning of high season on the Superior. The students at Birch Grove Elementary helped to get us in the mood at Tofte by bringing everyone a May Day basket, complete with seeds to plant. Thanks, kids! We loved our May Day baskets! Our team of silviculturalists is taking planting one step further and getting ready to plant thousands of trees as soon as the soil dries out a little. Right now they are setting up fencing to protect trees from deer, so you may see some activity and piles of fencing in the areas where planting is planned.

Road conditions are still fairly poor on back roads due to the roadways being waterlogged. Keep an eye out for soft shoulders and washouts, and try to avoid creating ruts on wet muddy roads. Spring weight restrictions are still in force, so there won’t be large truck traffic in the Forest again this week.

With snow off the ground, burning permits are now required for anyone planning on doing some spring clean-up. Stop by an office for details on burning before you light a match.

It’s also the start of the quota permit season for the Boundary Waters. People entering the wilderness will need a permit from one of our offices or one of our cooperators. You can find a list of cooperators on our website. If you are looking to reserve an entry permit through the website www.recreation.gov, you should be aware that the reservation fee has increased this year from six dollars to ten. The permit itself has not changed in price. The permit fee goes directly into a fund used for the Boundary Waters, and helps us take care of the wilderness.

Campgrounds outside of the Boundary Waters are moving towards being fully opened. You can camp in any of our rustic or fee campgrounds now, but as of May 4, water systems at fee campgrounds are still shut off and there is no camping fee. That should be changing in the next week, and we anticipate that the campgrounds will be fully open by fishing opener.

Mother's Day is coming up too. It’s an appropriate time of year for that celebration as many birds and animals are starting to raise this year’s young. It’s also the time of the year that the hummingbirds usually return. Flowers are few and far between this time of year, so the hummers would appreciate you putting out that hummingbird feeder. Before you do, take the time to really clean it out. Moldy feeders can be very bad for hummingbirds, so make sure you are starting with a clean feeder. It is easy to make your own nectar with four parts water to one part white refined sugar. Avoid commercial nectars with dyes in them, the birds don’t need the extra chemicals, and there is no reason that the sugar solution has to be red. Honey and unrefined raw sugars are not recommended, they both contain amounts of iron that can be harmful to hummers. Sugar water can go bad in the sun, so it is best to not fill the feeder full, and refill more often. Extra nectar can be stored in the fridge.

Have a great weekend, and until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: April 28

Hi. I’m Joe Mundell, timber sale administrator, with the National Forest Update for April 28 - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the end of April, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

After some beautiful weekend weather, things seem to have taken a turn back toward winter. The recent rain, ice, and snow storm has left the roads in the forest in not the best of shape. Rain-soaked roadways are not stable, and in places on less traveled back roads, it is like driving in pudding. Please avoid these areas – you could easily get stuck, and you’ll also leave permanent ruts for the summer. If the road isn’t thawed into pudding, it is probably very icy. Until the sun thaws off the ice, you can expect hazardous driving. After the sun has been out, you’ll still have to drive cautiously because you’ll run into icy patches on the north slope of hills, or where the road is shaded by trees. The ice and snow have also caused some minor fallen branches, and the occasional major one. This weekend promises higher winds, so some bigger trees whose root system has been loosened by the rain may be falling as well. The roads are still under spring weight restrictions, so there should be limited truck traffic in the woods.

The weather has moved back to wintry, and some of our migrating birds have reversed course as well. Migration is stalled out right now, and there are some indications that there is reverse migration happening as birds temporarily move southwards to where there are more insects to eat. It’s only temporary though. We expect that with the next southerly flow of air, birds will be riding the wave of warmth, headed north once again.

Human visitors to our Forest will also be headed north soon. They will find that our campgrounds are coming back on line, one by one. Rustic campgrounds are open for use, and the fee campgrounds are becoming fully open as we are able to open water systems. Once fully open with water and garbage services, the fee campgrounds will start collecting fees, prior to that you may camp without a fee. Usually all the fee campgrounds are fully open and in fee status by around May 15.

Monday, May 1, is the beginning of the quota season for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. You need a permit for the Boundary Waters all year, but during the winter you can use a self-issued permit available at entry point kiosks. During the quota season you can still use those self-issued permits for day use, but starting on May 1, overnight users must use a permit issued at a ranger district office or at one of our cooperators, and pay the associated fee. The fees help us maintain portages and campsites and the permits help to maintain the wilderness character of the land by distributing visitors more evenly in time and space. More information about Boundary Waters permitting, including information on motor permits and exempt permits, can be found on our website or at our offices. Also starting May 1, our offices will be open seven days a week, but with the same hours of 8 to 4:30. The Isabella work station will remain closed this year.

Last, but not least, starting next week, this Update will be aired every week instead of every other week. Take advantage of this short time between using the snowblower and the lawnmower to go for a hike this weekend, or just enjoy the new birds of the season at the feeder. Until next time, this has been Joe Mundell with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: February 17

Hi. This is Patrick Krage, Engine Module Leader, Engine 621, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For February 17th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

With temperatures in the forties and rain forecast for this weekend, skiing and snowmobiling don’t sound very appealing. But, there is one activity this weekend which you can participate in from the comfort of a chair by the window with a cup of coffee in your hand. This weekend is the annual “Great Backyard Bird Count.” This is a national citizen science effort to track on winter bird populations, and the Forest Service uses the data for monitoring our local birds. The Audubon Society is the organizer of the event, and it is easy to record what you see at your feeders on line, as well as see who else is reporting on birds in your area. Just search for Great Backyard Bird Count on the web to get started, or look for the link on the Superior’s Facebook page and our website.

Our changing winter weather has also seen an increase in a newer form of recreation: Fat tire biking. Fat tire biking can be a great way to get out in the winter, but we are becoming aware of a growing number of bikers and cross country skiers who have been using area snowmobile trails. These trails are not designed for use by skiers or cyclists, and the mix of snowmobiles, skiers, and cyclists on the same trail presents a safety hazard for everyone. Contact a Forest Service office for information on locations where winter biking is appropriate, and for locations of our cross country ski trails.

The alternating warm and cold spells have been hard on our forest roads. During the warm times, watch for soft shoulders and even soft spots in the roadway itself. In the cold, ice has been an issue as snow melts or packs down into some really slippery areas. All this means that regardless of the weather, slow down going around corners because you don’t know what the road conditions will be like up ahead. As always with driving, be defensive and prepare for the worst.

There is some winter timber harvesting going on as well. On the Tofte District, watch for logging traffic on the Trappers Lake Road, Cook County 3, the Sawbill Trail, the Honeymoon Trail, and the Grade. On the Gunflint, expect traffic on the Firebox Road and Greenwood Road.

If you do stop in at the Tofte Ranger Station, you’ll see a new face as district ranger. Lenore Lamb will be filling in behind Kurt Steele for a few months. Stop by and say hi, but she’s coming to us from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, so watch what you say about the Packers. Also, if you are planning on visiting any of our ranger stations, remember that this Monday is President's Day and federal offices will be closed.

Enjoy the woods, or enjoy sitting counting birds from the comfort of your home. Either way, have a great week. This has been Patrick Krage with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: January 6

Hi. This is Steve Robertsen, forest interpreter, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For January 6th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

It may be cold, but we do have snow! That’s great news for all of us winter recreation enthusiasts, whether you like going out on a snowmobile, skis, dogsled, snowshoes, toboggan, or all of the above. Winter trails are currently being groomed for various uses across the Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts. Our trails are maintained through the coordinated efforts of dedicated volunteer organizations and the Superior National Forest. These volunteer organizations work very hard on our trails to offer quality recreation experiences and we ask all listeners to respect their efforts by following the rules of the trail. For example, a trail designated as a ski trail should not be used by individuals who are snowshoeing, hiking, or biking. Misuse of a trail can ruin the grooming for the intended use, spoil the experience for others, and make more work for our volunteers and our recreation crew. Help to preserve our trails for everyone by using only the trails which are designated for your activity. Remember too that off-trail is an option for many winter sports. The general Forest is open for most winter uses, though with some restrictions based on location and snow depth. If you have questions about where you can hike, bike, or snowshoe, please contact a Forest Service office for details.

Speaking of trail use, dog sleds will be out this Saturday for the annual Gunflint Mail Run. Keep an eye out for both participants and spectators if you are traveling on or near the Gunflint Trail. Good luck to all the mushers and the dogs!

If you’re traveling elsewhere, there are only a few places where you might encounter logging trucks. You may have truck traffic on the Sawbill Trail and the Grade on the Tofte District, while on the Gunflint District, trucks will be on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, and Trestle Pine Road.

When you are out on the trail, you may see some newer blue signs with letters and numbers on them. These are emergency location signs which refer to the National Grid system. If you have an emergency while on the trail, you can use the numbers on the sign like an address when you call 911 on a cell phone. Of course, it is unlikely that your emergency will happen right next to a sign, so you will probably have to backtrack to the last sign, or go ahead to the next one. There also might not be cell phone reception at the sign, so you’ll have to remember or write down the numbers, and then call it in where you have reception.

With all the trails to use, and all the winter activities, how can you not like northern Minnesota in January?! The Forest Service has two slogans right now, both of which have to do with enjoying our winter. The first is ‘Get Out There’ … so turn off the TV, close the chip bag, and put on a coat. The second is ‘Go Play’. No explanation necessary.

Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update, and I’ll see you on the trail!

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North Woods Naturalist: Varied weather and otters

Cold weather swings and not-the-usual suspects at the bird feeder.  WTIP’s Jay Andersen talks with naturalist Chel Anderson about the winter so far.

(Photo by Amit Patel on Flickr)

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Jay Walljasper

Workshops offered to improve "walkability" of Grand Marais

The Cook County Chamber and Moving Matters are hosting two “Walkabout” workshops to explore the things that might be done to improve the “walkability” of Grand Marais. WTIP’s Jay Andersen spoke with Jay Walljasper, who’ll be leading the workshops.

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Superior National Forest Update: December 2

Hi. This is Brandee Wenzel, administrative support assistant, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For December 2nd, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

Our website is all set for winter if the weather would cooperate. There are links from our recreation page to our trail partners who groom ski trails, and to other sources for ski and snowmobile trail information. We also have some tips for driving on winter roads for those of us who have forgotten what snow is like over the summer.

One reason to be out in your car in the forest is that it’s the season for harvesting holiday greenery! Tags for Christmas trees are available for five dollars at district offices, and, if you are in fourth grade, you are eligible for a free Christmas tree tag through the Every Kid In A Park program! When you are selecting a tree, there are some rules to keep in mind. Trees cannot be ‘merchantable timber,’ in other words, they need to be small trees, not just the top off a big tree. The maximum stump height you can leave behind is 12 inches. The best tree to cut from a forest point of view is balsam fir. They grow back readily, and in many places we are looking to actually decrease the number of fir trees. True pines grow back more slowly, so we’d like to keep the young pine in the forest. You are not allowed to cut white pine or cedar for Christmas trees.

Balsam boughs may be harvested for wreaths, though you will need a permit for this activity. Princess pine, which is actually an herbaceous plant called a club moss, is often used to decorate wreaths, but its harvest is not allowed on the Superior National Forest.

Speaking of cutting balsam fir, people may have noticed either a piece of equipment or a crew with brush saws working in several areas this past season to remove brush and balsam fir. These areas will be planted in the spring with white pine, white cedar, and yellow birch. The young trees will be protected from deer with cages. We are doing this along the North Shore where we are working with partners including the state, private landowners, and the North Shore Forest Collaborative to restore some of these
long-lived forest trees. You may have seen the material being hauled with ATVs along County Road 6 and 60, at Pincushion, and around Cascade State Park, the Onion River Road, and Hovland.

On a grander scale, you can expect trucks hauling larger trees on Trestle Pine Road, Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Firebox Road, and Powers Lake Road. They are also using Blueberry Road, Rice Lake Road, Clara Lake Road, and the Honeymoon Trail. On the Tofte District, expect trucks on the Trappers Lake Road, Dumbell River Road, and Wanless Road. Use caution in these areas, especially with our wintery mix of road conditions including ice, mud, and slush.

Good luck to all in selecting the perfect tree, balsam bough, or just selecting the right road to travel. Enjoy the woods, and until next time, this has been Brandee Wenzel with the National Forest Update.

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