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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: June 30

Hi. I’m Cathy Peterson, administrative support assistant in Tofte, with 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 1, here’s what’s up out there.

July 4th is here already, and with it comes the annual message about fireworks on the Forest. That message is “No, None, Never.” Fireworks are prohibited everywhere on the National Forest, including gravel pits and over lakes. This includes all types of fireworks. Please don’t release any of the popular fire balloons either. These are plastic bags with a candle which work like hot air balloons. While pretty, they are both a source of litter and wildfire ignition, so just say no. You don’t have to be without fireworks though. There are great fireworks shows in Grand Marais, Tofte, and Silver Bay, so grab a lawn chair and head to town for the 4th. 

While we’re on the subject of safety, it is also the time of year to be reminded of water safety. Almost every year, there seems to be drownings or near drownings in our local rivers around the 4th of July. River swimming is always dangerous to some degree, and with the high water from rain, it is particularly dangerous this year. Moving water is powerful, and even a slow-moving river can push a strong swimmer off their feet and into faster water from which there is no escape. Many drownings involve at least two people - the original swimmer and the person who tried to rescue them. Even if you feel confident risking your life, realize that you are also risking the lives of the people who will try to save you. If you do get caught in an undertow going into Lake Superior, or you’re caught in a hydraulic which pulls you under below a waterfall, the correct thing to do is to head for the bottom. Swim along the bottom parallel to the shore for an undertow, or away from the falls for a hydraulic. But, it is best to avoid the problem in the first place and swim only in approved areas.

If you are heading into the Forest this July 4th, there is some logging activity. On Tofte, there will be hauling on the Trapper’s Lake Rd, Lake County 705, Cook County 33, the Sawbill Trail, and The Grade. On Gunflint District, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, the Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, and the Trestle Pine Road.

With the rain, there’s not much in fire news. Some of our fire people are headed out west to help with wildfires there, and we wish them success in controlling those fires. 

While our fire crews are helping in the west, our recreation shop has had a lot of help clearing trails from the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa. Take advantage of our renewed hiking opportunities and go for a walk this week. If you notice any blocked trails, make sure to report them to our offices so we can take care of them while we have our extra summer help.
If you are more in the mood to sit by a fire instead of hiking, our naturalist programs are in full swing with two presentations every night from Tuesday to Saturday. You can enjoy a campfire, check out a resort that you may never have visited, and learn a little about our natural history. These programs happen rain or shine with an indoor location during the rain, so it is a good rainy day activity for camping families looking to dry off for a while. The complete schedule can be found on our website.

Have a great 4th of July! There isn’t a better place to celebrate a national holiday than on a national forest. Public land is part of what makes America a wonderful country, so celebrate America’s birthday on the Superior – three million acres of forest owned by all Americans.

Until next week, this has been Cathy Peterson with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: June 23

Hi. I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, on the Superior National Forest, with the National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation in the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the week of June 23rd, here’s what’s up out there.

This weekend, you can expect a lot of traffic out in the Forest, but most of it will be bikes. This is the weekend of the Lutsen 99er, a mountain bike event which has been growing for the past several years. If you are traveling on forest roads in the Lutsen area, keep an eye out for posted information about the race route and the presence of bikers on the roads. There are also several spots for spectators where cars will be parked along the roadside. You may want to be a spectator yourself; it’s a fun race to watch. While the race itself is on Saturday morning, often participants stay the weekend and you can expect bike traffic in the Forest all weekend long.

Highway 61 is a designated scenic byway, and as such, it is often a destination for people who like to drive. Every year, various clubs come to drive the road, and in the past you’ve been able to see classic cars, great motorcycles, and, one year, the largest gathering of DeLoreans on the planet, all cruising 61. Some of these groups drive slowly, so exercise caution when passing them, and don’t try to pass the entire group at once. Pay attention to oncoming groups as well because there may be people pulling out into your lane to pass.  And… keep your eyes on the road, not on the very cool 1939 Ford coupe going by, but do take the time to appreciate our yearly mobile car show.

We may not have classic cars in the woods, but we do have some logging trucks out on the forest roads. On the Gunflint District, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Gunflint Trail, Forest Road 1385, and Trestle Pine Road.  On the Tofte District, hauling is happening around the Sawbill Landing area.

This past week was the start of our summer series of naturalist programs at area resorts and campgrounds. These programs are brought to you through a cooperative agreement with Visit Cook County. The schedule is posted in many places, and is available on our website as well as on Visit Cook County’s website. The programs are free and open to the public, and while you learn about bats or wolves or bogs, you also get a great chance to visit some of the resorts along the shore and grab a s’more by the fire.

Speaking of fire, recent rains have kept the fire danger low. With our long days and warm sun, the forest can dry quickly, and people should check on fire conditions before heading out on trips when you plan a campfire. Crews are doing some work in Sawbill Lake, Wilson Lake, and Baker Lake campgrounds to clear understory brush and trees which would provide fuel in the event of a wildfire. While it may look destructive, fuel reduction actually keeps the forest in a more natural condition, mimicking what an understory fire would have done naturally. By reducing fuel on the ground, the intensity of a wildfire should be reduced. This makes it more likely that if there was a fire in the area, the fire would spare large pines, do less damage to structures, and be more easily brought under control. To minimize impact to campers, these crews are only working during the work week, during daylight hours, or when there are no campers in the area.
 
Enjoy the woods this weekend, and until next week, this has been Tom McCann with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: June 16

Hi. I’m Susan McGowan-Stinski, administrative assistant 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 June 16, here’s what’s going on in the forest.

With the recent rainy and stormy weather, it seems like a good time to talk about what to do if you get caught out in severe weather. Northern Minnesota is not in the tornado belt, but Mother Nature seems to compensate for that by making us one of the areas with the most lightning strikes per year. Our fire-based forest ecology actually derives from this fact: Without lightning, there’d be no natural source of fire in the forest, and we wouldn’t have the kind of woods that we do. This means, though, that lightning is something that you have to be ready for on any extended camping trip in this area. 

The first rule is one everyone knows. Get off the water during a storm. Actually, get off the water before the storm as lightning strikes ahead of the storm front. That means don’t wait for one more fish, or try to get to the next campsite - it means get off the lake now. Once off the lake, avoid scenery. That is, the beautiful, high, rocky knob with the lone tall pine isn’t the place to be. You want the low areas, free of trees that may fall during winds. Avoid standing on roots that could connect to tall trees, and minimize your contact with the ground by crouching instead of lying down. Use life jackets or other equipment to help insulate you from the ground. If you are at a campsite, look at the potential for trees to fall when putting your tent up. During a storm, shelter in your rain gear outside of the tent so you can watch for falling trees and see what is going on. Be aware, and you can weather the storm.

We’ve got some logging truck activity this week, the same as last week. Keep an eye out for trucks in the Greenwood Lake area on the Gunflint District, and around the Sawbill Landing area in Tofte.

There still may be some prescribed fires happening if the weather permits. If you see signs on roads concerning prescribed burns, drive with caution and be aware that trucks and personnel may be on the roads.

That’s all for this week! Enjoy the week and the forest, and hope for good weather! Until next week, this has been Susan McGowan-Stinski with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: June 9

Hi. I’m Renee Frahm, visitor information 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 June 9, here’s what’s going on in the woods.

Schools are out in most of the state, and people are heading north! Expect some road congestion on Hwy 61 and Hwy 1 on Fridays and Sundays as people travel to and from the south. There can also be some congestion at our offices as people stop in to pick up Boundary Waters entry permits. Our offices are open from 8 to 4:30 every day during the summer, but there are often multiple groups picking up permits first thing in the morning, so there could be a wait. You may want to plan to get your permit at a later time of day to avoid the line.

There’s been an increase in people using emergency locator devices in the Boundary Waters. These small devices use a satellite system to send a location and pre-recorded help message in an emergency. If you plan on having one with you, make sure you know how to properly operate it so that you don’t accidentally trigger an emergency response. Pack these devices in a way so that the buttons can’t be accidentally pressed, and program them with different levels of concern, such as a ‘we’re late, but don’t worry’ message, or ‘there’s a problem, but don’t send help,’ or ‘send help immediately.’ Usually these devices contact a friend or family member, and those contact people should be prepared to respond by knowing the names of people in the party and what their itinerary was. They also should know that the correct next contact is the county sheriff, as search and rescue operations are run out of the sheriff’s department. In this area, that would be either the Lake or Cook County Sheriff, so the contact should find out which county the party will be in, and what the phone number for the sheriff is. The sheriff will contact the Forest Service if necessary. Remember, false alarms are expensive, and can needlessly risk emergency responders.

We are welcoming a new temporary ranger to the Tofte District. If you are passing by, stop in and say hi to Ben South who will be here for a few months. He’s coming from Colorado, so the Sawtooth Mountains may not impress him, but our 10,000 lakes are pretty spectacular.

While we are looking at some rain this weekend, we have had a recent dry spell and fire danger is moderate. During the summer, fire danger can change quickly as warm weather dries the forest quickly. Calculating the fire risk uses many factors. High temperatures, low humidity, and strong winds will all increase fire danger, so it is more than a measure of how long ago the last rain was. The drier forest did allow the fire crew to do a prescribed burn last Wednesday near Isabella. The underburn we conducted will allow for better growth of pine seedlings beneath the mature pines, and used up the fuel beneath the pines in a controlled way. That fuel could otherwise have created a major wildfire. As always, check for any fire restrictions before you head out camping, and be sure campfires are totally out before you leave the area.

Our roads are in pretty good shape, although they have yet to be graded this year. In fact, the dry weather has made them so hard that they can’t be graded right now. There is some logging traffic. On the Gunflint District, you may find trucks on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Gunflint Trail, FR 1385, and Trestle Pine Road. On the Tofte District, logging traffic will be around the Grade and Trapper’s Lake Road.

Enjoy the woods this weekend, and until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: June 2

Hi. I’m Phillip Hass, botany technician 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 start of summer and the first week of June, here’s what’s going on in the woods.

There has been a lot of deer activity recently with plenty of new fawns appearing. Child care in deer is a little different from child care in humans. The doe will leave the fawn alone for most of the day while she goes out foraging. Fawns will lie down where they are left and stay as still and hidden as possible. Mom may not return to the fawn until sundown. These quiet little fawns are often seen by people who think they have been abandoned, and worried people will pick them up, or otherwise try to help, and end up actually causing problems instead of helping. The best thing to do if you find a fawn is leave it alone. Take some pictures from a distance, but otherwise don’t disturb it. Mom will be back later; the fawn is going to be fine. It’s also worth mentioning that does can be very protective of their fawns. We had a report of someone’s dog getting hoofed yesterday by an aggressive deer defending its fawn, so it is best to just keep your distance right now, and keep your pup away from deer.

If you are out and about this week, there is some log hauling going on. Watch for trucks on the Trapper’s Lake Road, the Grade, and the Sawbill Trail, as well as on the Shoebox Road and Greenwood Road. Also it is graduation weekend, so keep an eye open for students and parents traveling to and from graduation parties.

You’ll also see traffic in town from the Northern Landscapes Festival at North House Folk School. The Forest Service is a part of this event, and is putting on two programs which are free and open to the public, not just open to Festival attendees. The first of our programs is a talk on loons given by loon expert biologist Kevin Woizeschke. Loons are truly amazing birds, able to dive to incredible depths, and also fly at high altitudes. Imagine trying to design a flying submarine…it seems almost impossible. Kevin’s loon presentation will take place at the Folk School on Friday, June 2 at 7 p.m. Be sure to mark your calendar. Our second program is bird banding at the Sweethearts Bluff trail, just past the Grand Marais campground. It will take place on Saturday morning from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. Stop by any time to watch birds being banded, find out more about birds and bird monitoring, and be able to see some of our birds up close and personal.

After bird banding, it might be a great time to take a hike or go for a bike ride. It is National Trails Day this weekend, so it is time to celebrate all the trails we have for your use on your public lands. There are a lot of places to visit on the Forest, and a lot of those are only accessible by trail. So, go visit Magnetic Rock, or find the Paulson Mine on the Centennial Trail, or look over Honeymoon Bluff, or try the mountain bike loops at Pincushion or Britton Peak. With all those trails for you to explore, maybe it should have been National Trails Month!

We have to say a few farewells with the end of May. Long term employees and Superior National Forest fixtures Jeff DeShaw and Becky Bartol are retiring, and short term Tofte District Ranger Lenore Lamb is returning to her full time position elsewhere. We will miss all of them and wish them the best

Happy hiking, and until next week, this has been Phillip Hass with the National Forest Update.

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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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