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Project Name: North Shore Collaborative RestorationCredit: smokemob

Location: Superior National Forest, MN

Number of Trees: 88,000

Last year, Minnesota’s Superior National Forest experienced the state’s largest wildfire, in acreage, in the last 80 years – the Pagami Creek Fire burned through more than 90,000 acres. Four years earlier, the forest had experienced a similarly devastating fire, the Ham Lake Fire, which destroyed about 75,000 acres split between the U.S. and Canada, as well as 150 buildings in the region.

Superior National Forest is part of the North American-boreal forest, which covers 1.5 billion acres from Alaska across Canada. In fact, almost 60 percent of Canada is covered by this forest ecosystem. In boreal forests, fire is a natural occurrence, but shifts in the forest’s species composition have made it much more susceptible to devastating fires.

In areas of Superior, the old-growth aspen and birch trees are dying and being replaced by brush, balsam fir and aspen, which makes the canopy more susceptible to fire: Balsam fir serves as “ladder fuel,” allowing fire to reach the higher canopy, where dying treetops are vulnerable to flames. This fire risk can be reduced by reforesting areas of Superior National Forest with diverse species, such as red and white pines that can better withstand fire, but have trouble breaking through thick understories of brush and balsam fir naturally.

This is one of the reasons why American Forests is partnering with the USDA Forest Service in Minnesota to reforest areas of Superior National Forest in 2012. By planting 88,000 white, red and Jack pine; white and black spruce; and northern white cedar across a variety of Superior locations, this project will reduce fire risk and burn intensity, restore wildlife habitat (osprey and bald eagles, in particular, are fond of pines for nesting) and benefit the area’s lakes and streams. After this project is completed, American Forests will have planted more than 400,000 trees in Superior National Forest since 2007.

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