Hi. I’m Brie Schueller, fire management 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 April 17, here’s what’s going on around the Forest.
Currently, roads are fairly clear of snow and ice, but they are still pretty soggy from the meltwater. County road restrictions due to the soft roads have stopped most timber hauling operations on the Forest. Some cutting of timber is still going on, but the work is mostly within the units and doesn’t involve hauling on the roads. That means that these spring days are nice for exploring the Forest without having to be too concerned with large truck traffic. You do have to be concerned with the same road conditions that have kept the trucks off the roads. Soft shoulders and mud are the obvious problems, but a recent drive showed just how alert you need to be while driving. On that short drive, in two spots, trees whose roots had loosened in the soft soil had blown over across the road. In other spots, the road had sunk sufficiently to create an area that was less a bump and more of a jump ramp. Drive with care, road conditions vary greatly and hazards appear with very little forewarning this time of year.
If you are looking for early camping, you need to know that while snow is off most major roadways, many smaller camping areas still have snow over campsites and access roads. Camping is possible, but in the spring before our fee season begins, campers will not have water or garbage pick-up in campgrounds, and outhouses may not be accessible. The fee season begins when the water systems can be turned on, usually around mid-May.
Spring migrant birds are coming through in larger numbers each day. Juncos, vultures, robins, and grackles are just a few of the birds that have arrived over the past two weeks. Red winged blackbirds are calling in the Twin Cities, but I have yet to hear one up here. Bears are awake and walking about. People who are feeding the migrating birds need to make sure to bring in bird feeders and store bird food securely so they don’t end up feeding the bears. The best way to deal with bear encounters is to avoid them in the first place by making sure food, garbage, and other attractants are not where bears can get them.
It is the mud season, and the spring bird season, but it is also the spring fire season. Conditions remain dry throughout Minnesota and multiple red flag warnings have been issued this week in our area. A red flag warning is issued when there are weather conditions that can cause extreme fire behavior. These conditions include a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures. On these red flag days, people need to be extremely careful with fire. Most people are not aware of it, but there have already been multiple small fires on the Superior this spring, and most of these were somehow ignited by human activity. You may not think of fire danger because you can still see some patches of snow in the woods, but open areas with brown dry grass will readily carry fire. There are many of these areas along the Lake Superior shoreline. During spring, as the last of the snow melts and before the trees green up, is a prime time for fire, particularly in the absence of rain. Our fire personnel, along with state DNR and local firefighters, will be monitoring conditions closely, but it is up to you to help by reporting any possible fires to 911, and by preventing any accidental ignitions. Right now, the Superior National Forest has firefighters and engines assisting the Chippewa National Forest to the west in their firefighting efforts but we also have crews on standby locally, just in case.
Enjoy our spring weather, and until next week, this has been Brie Schueller with the National Forest Update.