As a child growing up in the Minneapolis suburbs, I learned about the North Woods from my father. Born into a poor family in a small Nebraska town, my Dad’s ticket to the big world came from the Navy ROTC. When the Korean War ended he came to Minnesota to enroll in graduate school. A child of the prairie, my father’s first experience with Minnesota’s north country came when a University buddy invited him on a canoe trip. They drove up to Ely, down the Fernberg Trail to Lake One and on into Lake Insula. The experience changed him forever. Soon he had bought us a canoe and trips to the BWCA became a beloved family ritual. Around the campfire at night my Dad would read to us aloud from Sigurd Olson’s Singing Wilderness and Listening Point.
Some years later he and my Mom bought 80 acres of woods and a modest “deer shack” in Cass County. Long a devoted birder and fisherman, my Dad now also became a tree lover. He got a forest management plan for his land. Every winter he’d order seedlings. We’d plant them in the spring and bud cap them in the fall to protect them from the deer. Now his second growth forest of balsam and poplar is intermixed with young pine stands, the kind of trees that grew there before the “Big Cut.” My Dad will turn 80 this year, but he’s still planting trees. It’s his gift to the future.
The good news for Minnesotans and especially for future Minnesotans is that there are a lot of people like my Dad taking care of their woods. Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources’ Forest Stewardship Program has written management plans for over 10,000 family forest landowners, affecting 1.5 million acres. The Program is now in the process of updating its five-year plan, due to be unveiled in July. The plan provides technical advice and long range planning guidance to forestland owners, including new information about emerging opportunities for family forest stewardship in the state. It endorses a goal set by Blandin Foundation’s Vital Forests/Vital Communities Initiative to bring an additional million acres of family forest lands under stewardship by 2015. The plan revision process is being facilitated by Dovetail Partners with support from Blandin Foundation.
There will be opportunities for stakeholder review before the plan is finalized. Those with questions about the project can contact Andrew Arends, Cooperative Forest Management supervisor for the DNR Division of Forestry at 651/259-5261.