Forest Service invites public comment on North Shore Restoration Project at Jan. 10 open house

In December 2012, the U.S. Forest Service Gunflint and Tofte Ranger districts introduced a proposal to restore the forest along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Gunflint Ranger Nancy Larson and then-Tofte District Ranger John Wytanis noted that anyone traveling on Highway 61 could see that birch trees along the North Shore are dying. The rangers explained that it is not just the birch trees along the highway dying, they reported that 80 percent of the birch forest on national forest land is old and declining. Concerns were raised that succession of conifer (balsam fir, spruce, cedar and white pine) was not occurring. To address the situation, the Forest Service and a number of community partners worked to create the North Shore Restoration Project, which has now gone through an environmental review process.  The public is invited to learn about the environmental assessment and restoration plans at an open house on January 10, 2014 at the Gunflint Ranger District Office at 2020 West Highway 61 from 3:00 - 7:00 p.m.

Gunflint Ranger Larson and Tofte Ranger Kurt Steele invite the public to attend the open house and comment on the recently released North Shore Restoration Project Environmental Assessment. Technical experts will be at the open house to provide information on performing restoration on private lands in the North Shore Project area. 

“We have received numerous public comments about the North Shore Restoration Project in the past year,” said Ranger Larson.  “As a result of the comments received and conversations we had, we modified the proposed action and focused the environmental assessment on those resources the public said were important to consider.  In addition, many people asked about what they could do on their property to help out. I am excited to say that members from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and consulting foresters will be available at the open house to answer landowner questions about performing restoration activities on private property.”  The main emphasis of the project is restoration of conifer species such as white pine, white cedar and white spruce.  To date, regeneration of conifers has been limited by factors such as heavy browse from deer and heavy competition from grasses and shrubs.  Harvesting, reforestation, and installing deer exclosures are among the strategies suggested to overcome the limiting factors.

Activities in the proposed North Shore Restoration Project would occur only on national forest system land, but the project is part of a larger collaborative effort.  The Forest Service, with the North Shore Forest Collaborative (comprised of tribal, federal, state and county agencies, non-profit organizations and private landowners) is working together to accomplish restoration activities across all ownership and members from the North Shore Forest Collaborative will also be present at the open house.

The Forest Service will use the comments received through the open house and 30-day comment period to determine if further analysis or changes are necessary prior to making a decision. The North Shore Restoration Project Environmental Assessment and supporting documents can be seen online on the Superior National Forest website at www.fs.usda/goto/superior/projects or you may request a copy from the Gunflint Ranger District. Comments on the project are due 30 days from December 14, 2014, the date the legal notice was published.