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Superior National Forest Update



Contributor(s): 
USDA Forest Service

The Superior National Forest Update helps you keep up to date with Forest activities that you might encounter while driving, boating, or hiking in the Superior National Forest’s Tofte and Gunflint Ranger Districts.  It includes road and fire conditions, logging and other truck activities, as well as naturalist programs and special events.  

The USDA Forest Service has more information on the Superior National Forest website.


What's On:
 

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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Superior National Forest Update: December 16

Hi. This is Renee Frahm, visitor information and administrative support specialist, 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 16, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

 Only about a week to get out and get a Christmas tree for this year! Tags are five dollars, but if you have a fourth grader in the ‘Every Kid In A Park’ program, they can get a free tree tag! When you are looking for a tree, keep an eye out also for the dense clusters of branches often called witch’s brooms. While witch’s brooms might seem to relate more to Halloween than the current season, they are caused by Eastern Dwarf Mistletoe. Mistletoe has long been considered a mystical plant, and the tradition of kissing under it was once considered a promise of marriage. Peace treaties were also signed under mistletoe, and warring couples could kiss and make up beneath a ball of mistletoe. So, depending on who you are tree hunting with, you may choose to steer them under, or take them far away from any mistletoe you find!

There’s a lot of winter though before summer travels begin. We’ve lost over six hours of daylight since June 21st, so if you think it has been dark, you are absolutely right. We are close to the longest night of the year, the winter solstice on December 21st, but after that low point, our days will start to lengthen again. The average temperature lags behind day length though, so it won’t be until much later that we start seeing increases in average temperatures. Since you can’t do much about our long cold nights, you may as well get out and enjoy them. Winter is one the best times to go stargazing. The cold air is still and dry and gives a better view of stars than the warm wet summer air. Long nights mean you don’t have to stay up late to see the stars, there are no mosquitoes, and there’s better chances of seeing the aurora as well.

We finally have some snow on the ground, and our trail partners have been working on grooming cross country ski and snowmobile trails. Most ski trails are in the process of being groomed. Pincushion and Sugarloaf ski areas are compacted, but not groomed, although that information could already be out of date. Similarly, bogs in the Flathorn-Gegoka ski area were insufficiently frozen for grooming, but with our recent cold spell, that may have changed. Check our website for links to the grooming organizations, which will give you more up to the minute information on trail conditions. Snowmobiles need a bit more snow that skis, so most of the snowmobile trails are still not groomed, and many are closed.

While you’re out checking out trails, you may find some log hauling going on. On Gunflint, hauling is taking place on Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Trestle Pine Road, Rice Lake Road, Clara Lake Road, and Honeymoon Trail.  Portions of Firebox Road and Trestle Pine Road are also designated snowmobile trails, so snowmobilers need to be extra cautious and aware that hauling may be taking place on these roads. In Tofte, you’ll have logging traffic on the Grade and Trapper’s Lake Road. Please use caution when driving or recreating in these areas. 

There will be no update next week, so happy holidays to everyone from the Superior National Forest! Enjoy the woods, watch out for mistletoe, and until next time, this has been Renee Frahm with the National Forest Update.

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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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Superior National Forest Update: November 18

Hi.  This is Chris Beal, Gunflint wildlife biologist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest.  For the week of November 18th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
This is the last weekend of the rifle deer season, so wear your orange and be on the lookout for parked vehicles along roads.  While Sunday will be the end of the rifle season, bow hunting will continue, and the muzzleloader season will begin on the 26th.  Seasons for small game and grouse are also still open, so even after Sunday, orange is a good color while you’re out and about. 
Heavy snow is coming, and it is time to think about winter driving.  Plowing in the National Forest is done by state and county plows on state and county roads, and by private contractors on forest roads.  Many forest roads are unplowed in the winter.  If you are wondering if a road you are planning to travel is plowed, check with a Forest Service office.  While driving, if you run into a small Forest road which is plowed, be aware that this is usually an indicator that there may be logging activity up the road.  Watch for trucks!
In fact, watch for trucks particularly in these areas.  On the Tofte District, log hauling is taking place on Sawbill Landing Road near Sawbill Landing, the Dumbell River Road, Rice Lake Road, and Clara Lake Road. On Gunflint, expect trucks on the Greenwood Road, Shoe Lake Road, Blueberry Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road. 
With snow comes snowmobiling and skiing!  Snowmobiles are allowed to travel cross-country on the Forest and use unplowed roads if the snow depth is over four inches.  Travel on designated snowmobile trails also requires adequate snow cover, and that depth may vary between trails.  The DNR website is the best source of information on which state trails are officially open. 
For cross-country skiing, our website provides links to the websites of our trail partners who groom the trails.  This is your best source of information on trail conditions.  There are also maps of trail systems on our website.  These maps should not be considered to be totally accurate as trail locations may have shifted since the data was collected.  They will, however, give you a good indication of the extent and location of the trail system. 
If you are interested in getting outside and helping on a worthwhile project this weekend, the Northwoods Volunteer Connection is hosting a clean-up on The 600 Road (Forest Service Road 166) this Saturday, November 19th from 10 am to 1 pm. Volunteers will work to pick up litter along the roadside near the junction with the Sawbill Trail. The group will meet at the Tofte Ranger Station at 10 am and carpool to The 600 Road at 10:15 am. Gloves, safety equipment and lunch will be provided to volunteers.
Whether by car, truck, ski, or snowmobile, take it easy through this first round of winter until we are all used to it again.  We are switching to doing these updates every other week, so on behalf of the Superior National Forest, safe travels and have a wonderful Thanksgiving next week.  Until next time, this has been Chris Beal with the National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: November 11

Hi. This is Steve Robertsen, forest interpretation and education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For the week of November 11th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

We are in the middle of the firearms deer season. That means that there are lots of hunters out in the field, and a fair number of vehicles parked by the side of the road. Both are things to watch out for. If you are out in the woods this time of year, you need to be wearing orange and be aware of your surroundings. Hunters need to know that you may not discharge a firearm within 150 yards of a recreation site or trail, not including designated hunter walking trails. Hunting from vehicles and on the road is not legal. Also not legal is cross-country travel by ATV, so plan on doing some walking if you are hunting. People who are not hunting need to respect the hunters, and give them the room and quiet they need. If you are just out for a hike during these few weeks, consider hiking in an area where hunting is not allowed.

With the nice weather, people are extending their summer into November. If you are planning on camping or boating, know that the water is off in campgrounds, and the boat docks are out for the winter. Possibly more importantly, while outhouses are open, we don’t restock toilet paper during the off season. Be prepared! Prepare yourself in other ways too. It is not hard to get turned around in the woods when you are concentrating on something else, like hunting. Besides map and compass, there are excellent mapping apps available for smartphones which will help you find your way back to the car. They only work though if you’ve downloaded maps ahead of time, as there is little cell coverage out here, and if your battery is charged. Don’t rely only on having a smartphone or GPS as it is too easy to drop them or have their batteries run low.

While driving, there is some logging activity to be aware of, mostly in the same places as the last few weeks. On the Tofte District, trucks will be using the Sawbill Landing Road near Sawbill Landing, the Dumbell River Road, the Rice Lake Road, Clara Lake Road, and the Honeymoon Trail west of White Pine Lake. On the Gunflint, trucks are on the Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road. If you are planning to park your vehicle off the road while you go into the woods, be extra careful in these areas to make sure your vehicle is completely off the roadway so a truck can pass. Always park your vehicle in a safe location with good visibility.

Enjoy our extra dose of summer, and good luck hunting, whether it be with a rifle, or binoculars and camera. Until next time, this has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: October 28

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 the week of October 28th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

The Forest is really entering ‘winter hibernation’ mode now.  All campgrounds are in their winter status and the docks are gone from the boat landings.  Except for two pit piles, our fire crew is finished with all the pile burning that they have been doing, and their engines have been winterized and won’t be staffed again until spring.  We are also starting to see people out harvesting balsam boughs for holiday wreaths.  Remember, you need a permit for this. Personal use permits are free, but commercial use permits are based on the amount harvested.  If you’re out for firewood instead of balsam boughs, a permit is needed for that as well.  For both firewood and boughs, information covering what specifically you can harvest, where you can legally harvest, how you do the harvesting, and how much you’ll pay for the permit, is available online, or at the Tofte or Gunflint Ranger Stations.

We’ve had a lot of moose sightings by our crews in the woods this past week.  That’s a good sign, and everyone loves seeing the big animals.  Be careful though, it is easy to approach a moose too closely while trying to get a good photo.  Get your pictures from far enough away so as not to disturb the animal.

Trapping seasons for beaver, otter, mink, and muskrat open on October 29, and the deer firearm season opens on November 5.  Remember, for all firearms, whether you are hunting grouse or deer, you may not shoot unless you are at least 150 feet from a developed recreation site or road. 

Speaking of roads, if you are out driving, here’s where you can expect some logging traffic.  On the Tofte District, trucks will be using the Sawbill Landing Road near Sawbill Landing, the Dumbell River Road, the Rice Lake Road, Clara Lake Road, and the Honeymoon Trail west of White Pine Lake.  On the Gunflint, trucks are on the same roads as last week.  Harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road.

This week was National Bat Week!  You may have seen the bat boxes on posts at our district offices and at some campgrounds.  If not, you may want to check out this “government subsidized housing” for bats.  In honor of Bat Week, we’ve put up signs under the boxes explaining more about what you can do to help our native flying bug zappers.    

Last, but not least, watch out for zombies, ghosts, vampires, and the occasional Disney princess on Monday.  Enjoy your weekend, and have a scary but safe Halloween!  Until next week, this has been Brandee Wenzel with the National Forest Update.
 

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Superior National Forest Update: October 21

Hi,
This is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For the week of October 21st, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.

While some fall colors still cling to the branches right along Highway 61, most of the leaves in the interior have fallen to the ground.  Despite this, there are still some slow moving vehicles out looking for leaves.  It is also grouse season, so you’ll find slow and parked vehicles belonging to hunters out there as well.  That means that you still have to take it easy rounding corners or cresting hills as you never know what might be blocking the road ahead.

There are some beautiful warm fall days still ahead of us, but this time of year can also have rapidly deteriorating weather conditions.  When you head out, make sure to prepare for all kinds of weather.  A t-shirt that was comfortable in the sunny morning will not be enough when the temperature drops and sleet starts to fall in the afternoon.  In addition to personal preparedness, part of being prepared means leaving word with someone at home about where you are planning to go, and when you plan to be back.  A walk out from a broken down car may be just an inconvenience in summer, but can lead to hypothermia in the fall.

All our campgrounds are now in their winter status.  Fees are no longer being collected, and water and garbage service is no longer available.  You are still welcome to use the campgrounds, but be aware that campground regulations, including the “nine people per campsite” and “no more than 14 days at a site” regulations, still apply.  As the season progresses, you should also know that we don’t plow out campgrounds or outhouses in the winter, and, most importantly, we don’t restock toilet paper either. 
Docks have mostly been removed from boat launches, and all should be gone by the end of the week.  If you are still planning on some fall fishing, be ready to get a little wetter than you might have earlier in the season, but you can still use the boat launch, and there are still fish out there just waiting to be caught.

Speaking of campgrounds, our fee campgrounds are operated by concessionaires.  We are taking bids for the operating concession on three campgrounds in the Tofte District.  If this sounds like a good opportunity to you, check out our website, or call the Tofte or Gunflint Ranger District for more information.  Bids close on Friday, December 2nd.

On the wildlife front, fall bird migration is still going on, with the swarms of white throated and white crowned sparrows giving way to juncos and snow buntings.  Hawks and saw-whet owls are also still moving through.  The hawks are great to watch overhead as thousands of them end up following the shore of the big lake.  Saw-whets, one of the smallest owls, also follow the lake shore, but since they are doing it at night in the forest, you never see them.  You can listen for them though.  They don’t hoot like an owl should, they make a repetitious slow beeping noise.  Count yourself lucky if you do manage to spot one, the hand sized owl is probably one of the cutest birds around.

If you are out driving, there are some logging operations which will have trucks on the road.  Harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road on the Gunflint District.  There are also operations off the Honeymoon Trail near White Pine Lake and off the Rice Lake Road.  On the Tofte District, hauling is taking place on the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing, and on the Dumbell River Road.

No matter which road you choose to take, and whether you are hawk watching, grouse hunting, leaf peeping, fishing, or all of the above, enjoy your Forest and the late fall season.  Until next week, this has been Steve Robertsen with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update: October 14

Hi.  This is Renee Frahm, visitor information specialist, with this week’s National Forest Update -  information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the east end of the Superior National Forest. For the week of October 14th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Wet, windy, and somewhat warm temperatures for fall have all played into a slightly below average fall color season.  Right now though is the peak of the yellow aspen and birch along the shore.  It’s almost worth getting up at dawn just to drive Highway 61 along the lake at sunrise.  You’ll notice too that there is a lot of animal activity along the road.  Migrating juncos, sparrows, and flocks of snow buntings are flying at low altitudes across the roads right now, so keep your speed down and give them a chance.  It’s a good idea anyway as there are also plenty of larger animals like deer moving around in the fall, and while a collision with a sparrow is mostly bad for the sparrow, a collision with a deer is bad for everyone.
Those same weather conditions have made it impossible for us to conduct planned fall burns in the Boundary Waters.  For safety, and so we get the results we want from a burn, weather conditions have to be within a certain narrow window, and nature just hasn’t cooperated this fall.  Fire crews instead have been working on pile burning.  Slash piles from other activities are being burned in many places around the Forest.  They are watched carefully while active, and then monitored when no longer burning actively.  They may continue to smolder for several days, so there may be lingering smoke in the air where this is taking place.
For most of our fee campgrounds, this will be the last weekend with water
and garbage service.  To prepare for winter, water systems are being drained and shut off, and dumpsters are being emptied for the last time.  Campgrounds will go into a non-fee status during the off season.  They remain open for use, but snow will not be cleared and water and garbage service will not be available.  You will have to pack in water, and pack out your garbage.  Please do not leave garbage bags beside closed dumpsters, it will only attract the last bears of the fall, and bring in the first bears of the spring.
Speaking of bears, the end of October and the first part of November is the usual time for them to enter hibernation.  They are flexible though depending on weather.  It’s a good idea to keep bringing your bird feeders at night through the month of November.  Bats will also be settling down for the winter as the bug supply is running short.  Many of our bats locally will winter in the Soudan Mine.  White nose syndrome, the fungal disease which has been wiping out large numbers of bats, strikes during hibernation, so we are all hoping our bat population does well this winter and will return to the skies in time for the spring mosquito hatch.
If you’re out to see the last of the fall leaves, or in search of a grouse or two, the logging activity is the same as it has been for the last few weeks.  On the Tofte District, hauling is taking place on the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing and on the Dumbell River Road.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road. 
Enjoy your Forest, and until next week, this has been Renee Frahm with the Superior National Forest Update.

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Superior National Forest Update

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 the week of October 7th, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Just like you, we are taking care of some tasks before winter comes.  When undergrowth is cleared for fuel reduction in some areas, brush piles are made.  This is the time of year when our fire crews burn those piles.  Pile burning will be attended by fire personnel while they are actively burning, then they will be checked on a daily basis until they are out completely.  They may be smoldering for a few days while all the material is consumed, and you may notice smoke in the air in these areas.
We’ve started with the last round of road grading for the year, so watch for loose gravel and slow moving graders along gravel roads.  The culvert work which has been happening on The Grade is done for the year.  That means that there are no further road closures on that road, though some ditch and gravel work will still be happening until freeze up. 
Major work has been taking place on the Border Route Trail.  The Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa, the Border Route Trail Association, personnel from the Flathead National Forest, and our own crews have been working steadily to clear and maintain this wilderness trail.  It should start out 2017 in great shape.
Campgrounds will be going into their winter hibernation on October 15th.  This means that the water will be shut off and garbage service will end at our fee campgrounds.  Fee collection will end when those services end.  The exact date will vary between campgrounds, so be prepared to pay the camping fee if the campground hasn’t been winterized, but also be prepared to supply your own water if it has.  Bears are also looking at hibernation soon, and as summer food sources dry up, they may be more actively looking for alternatives - like your cooler or garbage bag.  Be sure to store your food and garbage safely while camping, particularly since dumpsters may be closed.
Our leaf color is at its peak right now.  If you haven’t gotten a chance to drive the Forest, now’s the time to do it.  Be careful of other leaf watchers out there, and be sure to respect other drivers by parking responsibly and not blocking roadways. 
In a few places, you may also be sharing the road with logging traffic.  On Gunflint, harvest is taking place off of Greenwood Road, Firebox Road, Powers Lake Road, and Trestle Pine Road.  On Tofte, watch for logging trucks on the Sawbill Landing Road near Silver Island and Sawbill Landing, and on the Dumbell River Road.
Of course, another fall color is blaze orange.  There are a lot of grouse hunters out looking for birds.  Be sure to check the hunting opportunities on our Hunter Walking Trails, developed in cooperation with the DNR and the Ruffed Grouse Society.  The trails do loop around, so watch your field of fire.  Recreational Opportunity Guides with trail maps are available on line and at our offices in Tofte and Grand Marais.
Whether you are camping, hunting, hiking, or just driving around, this should be a great weekend to get out and enjoy the Forest.  Until next week, this has been Brandee Wenzel with the Superior National Forest Update.
 

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