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Superior National Forest Update - May 3, 2019

Superior National Forest Update – May 2, 2019.

Hi, this is Steve Robertsen, interpretation and education specialist on the Superior National Forest, with the first National Forest Update of May!  We have to take our signs of spring where we find them, because with the recent snowfall, it’s not very spring-y out there.

We’ll deal with that depressing winter stuff first.  As you can imagine, the recent snow, rain, and infamous ‘wintry mix’ has not been kind to our road system.  For the past several editions of this radio spot, we’ve been highlighting soft roads, frost boils, bad shoulders, and icy patches.  All that still applies.  It is not great driving out there.  The driving during our Monday mini-blizzard was some of the worst of the entire season, and while it is better than that now, you still should be extra cautious when driving in the Forest, particularly if you are on roads where you don’t expect other vehicles which could help in an emergency.  Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.  Weight limits are still in place, so the one thing you don’t have to deal with are large trucks.

Trails are also in poor condition.  ATV use on state grant-in-aid trails is not allowed during this mud season with good reason.  An ATV can severely damage a trail when the ground is this soft and ruin the riding for everyone else for the rest of the summer.  Please respect restrictions, and also follow your own common sense – just because a trail is officially ‘open’ doesn’t mean it is actually ridable.  Hikers can also damage trails – the Leave No Trace recommendation is that if you come to a wet part of the trail, hike through it.  Skirting the puddles will simply widen the trail, leading to more erosion problems later.

As the snow has left the roadsides, a winter’s worth of litter has appeared.  We’d like to take the time to thank volunteer groups and just individual people who have taken the time to pick up the trash they see.  Overall, the vast majority of people up here in northern Minnesota don’t litter, and if you travel the US, you’ll notice that the Superior is a very clean place.  Thanks for keeping it that way!

We do have a couple of signs of summer coming.  On May 1st, we entered what we call the quota season for the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.  That means that overnight campers in the wilderness will need to have a permit issued to them though one of our offices or at a cooperating business.  There have been a few changes this year, so it is worthwhile to visit our webpage and the reservation system for more information.  One change has been to the Leave No Trace video, which is required watching for permit holders.  It has been broken into three shorter segments, the first two of which you watch at home before picking up the permit.  This means you can get useful information on planning and preparing for a trip ahead of the day you enter the wilderness…and that you will spend less time in the office when you are actually picking up the permit.  Our new videos came out at the same time as a certain superhero movie, and for a while at least, we were in close competition for box office numbers.  Maybe if we’d only introduced the character ‘Kevlar-tron’ in our videos…

Starting with May 1st and running through the quota season, our offices are now open seven days a week from 8:00 to 4:30, and are staffed by our own superheroic front desk people.  Not only can they help you with Boundary Waters permits, but they can help with everything else you may want to do on the Forest from hiking to gravel permits, all while simultaneously selling Smokey’s 75th birthday items and operating the video player.  Now that’s a superpower for you!
In the fire shop, there are a few prescription burns planned, mostly to maintain wildlife openings.  Current weather conditions are not good for burning, but you can expect those burns to happen if we get a few good days.  Check our webpage for announcements of burns, and follow posted traffic signs if you end up driving near a burn in progress.

Until next week, we will hope for better weather and the return of spring to the Superior.  This has been Steve Robertsen with the National Forest Update.