Hi. I’m Tom McCann, resource information specialist, with the National Forest Update for April 14th - information on conditions affecting travel and recreation on the Tofte and Gunflint Districts of the Forest. For the middle of April, here’s what’s going on in the Forest.
Every week brings more and more ‘firsts’ of the year. The first geese, the first loons, the first mergansers, the first juncoes, the first truck stuck in the mud. Spring is an exciting time in the north as things reappear from the winter. Not only are birds back, but butterflies and other insects have begun to be seen as well. Our rivers have shaken off the ice, and if you haven’t gone to visit any of the waterfalls along the shore, you really need to take the time to do that.
But, along with the good comes the bad. If you haven’t yet, it is a good time to start treating your dog with a tick repellent and tucking in your own socks as well. Bird feeders which are hung where they can be bear attractants need to be taken in at night, and garbage cans need to be stored in closed garages.
Our Forest roads are very mushy right now. There is a four ton weight limit which minimizes truck traffic, but you don’t have to weigh four tons to get into trouble. One of the hidden dangers is undermining, where moving water can wash away the base of the roadway, leaving a thin layer of apparently safe road at the surface. Avoid the edges of the roads, and beware of dips where small drainages could have undermined the roadway. If possible, avoid traveling at all on the smaller roads where you can leave ruts behind that will be with us for the entire summer.
While not as bad as last year’s ‘snowdown’ event, the winter did topple a few trees across the roads, and the soft soil in spring will drop a few more. Watch for fallen timber, and also be very careful if you attempt to clear any material off the road. When you cut a deadfall and change the balance, parts may fly into the air, or fall onto the ground. It can be very dangerous, and it is better to report fallen trees to have them professionally removed.
This is also the beginning of the fire season. With less than normal snow cover, and early melting, we have areas which have dried out before the spring green-up has begun. This is particularly true in forest openings where last year’s grass has become this year’s fuel supply. Inland, shaded areas and deeper snow minimize the fire danger, but along the shore and at the southern edge of the Superior National Forest, some areas are starting to see some higher fire potentials. Please check on fire conditions and possible restrictions before you begin any burning. These conditions have made it possible for us to begin our prescribed burning season. We maintain several openings in the Forest for wildlife use, and these smaller “less-than-20-acre” burns are best done in the spring before the grass gets green and less flammable. We post notice of prescribed fires on our website, so you can check there to see if any will affect your plans, or to check on possible causes for smoke you see or smell. If there is any question of a suspected fire, let us know. It never hurts for us to check it out.
Keep an eye out for more signs of spring, and watch out for those muddy roads! Until next time, this has been Tom McCann with the Superior National Forest Update.