A View From The Woods: 2019 in Review

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From the Director’s Desk

Andy David, CFC & HWRC directorAndrew David

Welcome!  Boozhoo!

Since becoming Director, I have discovered that many visitors are curious to know more about what we do at CFC and HWRC. This brief newsletter provides a snapshot of the past year for the University of Minnesota’s experimental forest properties. As part of the Research and Outreach system within the College of Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resource Sciences (CFANS), CFC and HWRC are the only University sites dedicated to the study of forestry and natural resources. Inside you can read about student opportunities, research projects, cooperative functions, usage data, remodeling efforts, and public access to the sites. 

Hopefully after you read this newsletter you will have a better appreciation for the activities at both locations. What is harder to appreciate is the dedication of the staff. As the Director, I have the honor and privilege of working with them and I know that together we move forward because of our combined efforts. 

Andrew David, Director of Operations, CFC and HWRC

The CFC and HWRC Connection

Borlaug, Mohn and Ahlgren at the CFC in 1980Norman Borlaug, Carl Mohn, and Cliff Ahlgren discuss white pine breeding techniques during Borlaug’s 1980 visit to CFC. Borlaug, a UMN & CFC alumnus (class of 1937), was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for his wheat research in 1970. Mohn (UMN forestry faculty member) and Cliff and Isabel Ahlgren (Quetico-Superior Wilderness Research Center scientists) would have been collaborating on breeding blister rust resistant white pine at this time.

The Cloquet Forestry Center is the University’s experimental forest and has been in continuous operation since 1909. The Hubachek Wilderness Research Center has its beginnings in the Quetico-Superior Wilderness Research Center of the late 1940’s and was a generous gift to the University by the family of Frank Hubachek, Sr. in 2014. Although the two sites share a common Director and strive to build understanding of northern forest ecosystems, they are separate Research and Outreach Centers with different approaches. CFC is a research and teaching forest and has a substantial natural resource outreach program; the land base is primarily actively managed. HWRC focuses on wilderness research and teaching; the land base is primarily passively managed. Together, activities at the two locations are complimentary and demonstrate a full breadth of how humans value, investigate, and interact with northern forest ecosystems.

2019 Program Highlights


Stephanie Oberg

CFC Welcome SignCFC’s rustic wood signage was repainted by Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps, June 2019.

CFC facilities staff had a busy year providing space for over 250 meetings serving more than 9,850 day users as well as hosting 4,500 overnight lodgers including spring and summer undergraduate student sessions. When CFC is not hosting UMN groups, our facilities are available to rent by organizations whose use is consistent with our mission.

Amidst periods of high visitor use, several aesthetic improvements were made to the CFC Classroom-Administration Building. The building exterior received fresh paint and interior hallway walls, floors, and select rooms were updated with new paint and carpet tile. Thanks to Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps, the CFC signs at the corners of University and Cartwright and University and Moorhead roads were repainted with UMN branded maroon and gold to improve visibility. 

Forest Management & Research

Kyle Gill

CFC employee using leafblower to blow snow off plotA leaf blower is used to remove new snowfall from an experimental peatland frost plot at CFC, January 2019.

Researchers, students, interns, and colleagues were in and around the forest all year. There were over 100 active projects. Of note from the 24 new ones: an exploration of biochar impacts on seedlings and soils and a narrative on 200+ years of human-forest interactions in the Camp 8 old-growth stand. Continuing projects of note include: B4WarmED completed its 11th season exploring tree response to climate change and the 52nd annual Conservation Education Days youth education program hosted 580 Carlton County 5th graders.

In 2020, we’ll continue to support new and ongoing projects. We’ll be starting a prescribed burning program on 80 forested acres. Fire will stimulate fruit production, support 150+ year community wellness, and create project opportunities. Stop by the FMR Cabin any time!

MN Tree Improvement Cooperative

Julie Hendrickson

eastern larch coneAn eastern larch (tamarack) cone and summer growth, July 2019.

For 38 years the Minnesota Tree Improvement Cooperative (MTIC) has been selecting and breeding trees with the goal of producing seedlings with faster growth, better form, and disease resistance. We have improvement programs for our native conifers including red pine, white pine, jack pine, white spruce, black spruce, and tamarack, and are discussing incorporating additional species in light of climate change. We work with state, county, tribal, and private industry cooperators to establish and manage seed orchards to produce a genetically diverse, local seed supply for their reforestation programs. 2019 highlights include 15-year measurement of the 2nd generation white spruce population and a fall field tour of member orchards and trials.

Find MTIC online at: mtic.cfans.umn.edu

Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative

Eli Sagor & Madison Rodman

Workshop participants out in a harvested standSFEC workshop participants discussing forest adaptation strategies in a recent timber harvest, October 2019.

Our job at the CFC’s Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative (SFEC) is to help resource managers build and share their knowledge. Our programs keep Minnesota resource managers connected to CFANS faculty and foster an ongoing exchange of questions, answers, and ideas.

How are we doing? In 2019 our online Great Lakes Silviculture Library (silvlib.cfans.umn.edu) passed the 100 case study mark. The Library continues to give practitioners a unique platform and voice to share the results of their on-the-job experimentation. Our workshops, symposia, and webinars brought together over 900 foresters, ecologists, loggers, and others to engage with current research, mind-bending tools and technologies, and practical discussions on pressing forest issues.

More about SFEC at: sfec.cfans.umn.edu

Hubachek Wilderness Research Center

Beckie Prange

Trailcam photo of 3 black bearsA black bear mother and her two cubs explore the walking trails at HWRC, August 2019.

With several climate-change-related experiments in progress, Hubachek Wilderness Research Center (HWRC) is gaining on-site biodiversity data and other information through additional research, student, and citizen-science efforts.

Collections data and 3D digital images of the Ahlgren Herbarium will soon be available online through the Bell Museum’s Minnesota Biodiversity Atlas. Digitization and accessioning into UMD’s Olga Lakela Herbarium is currently underway. Originating in 1949 at HWRC’s former location on Basswood Lake, the Ahlgren collection contains about 6,000 botanical specimens primarily from the Superior National Forest and Quetico Provincial Park areas through the 1950s and ‘60s.

2019 student experiences included Boundary Waters paddling trips, remote camera trapping of local wildlife, and successfully discouraging two black bears seeking a free spaghetti dinner from the HWRC lodge.

Noteworthy Activities

The Ganawenjigewin Trail is a collaborative project between the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa and the University that seeks to better connect FDL and UMN communities. The physical trail, once built, will connect the FDL tribal administration campus with the CFC buildings and grounds. Surfaces will be a mix of crushed gravel and elevated walkway through both upland and lowland habitats, including a span across Otter Creek. The proposed trail route was surveyed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs Autumn 2019. Next steps include finalizing engineering plans, wetland delineation, and pursuing funding for trail construction.

Three planned fires are scheduled for 80 acres of red pine woodlands at CFC in May 2020. A target burn window from May 5-15 is set to best take advantage of seasonal weather and fuel conditions. CFC staff are collaborating with area fire management partners to safely implement these burns and to limit smoke impacts. Questions related to planned fire activities at CFC can be directed to Lane Johnson: lbj@umn.edu or 218-726-6411.

students in the forestForestry Adventure Days 2019

Forestry Adventure Days (FAD) will be held in the spring (April 10 or 13) and summer (July 8-9 or 15-16) of 2020. The goal of FAD is to use an outdoors classroom to expose kids to science and forestry concepts using hands-on learning. The 2019 FAD included wagon forest tours; projects such as forest faces, leaf rubbing, and field guides; activities such as boat races and wildlife tracking. Those invited include youth ages 3-5 year olds ($15/day) with an adult, 6-12 year olds ($15/day) without an adult, and 13-18 year olds (free) as event assistants. Lunch and snacks are included. Please register by contacting Rachael Olesiak at: rolesiak@umn.edu or 218-269-4324.

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Save the dates for these 2020 events!

Forestry Adventure Days (ages 3-18)

  • April 10 & 13 
  • July 8-9 & 15-16

CFC Open House

  • August 19 at 4:30 p.m.

Conservation Education Days (Carlton Co. 5th graders)

  • September 30 & October 1 (tentative)

5k Forest Run/Walk

  • October 6 at 5:30 p.m.

Visitor Recreation Opportunities

The CFC forest is open to public recreation that does not conflict with research activities. Our forest roads and trails are open to non-motorized recreation including: walking, birding, running, biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing. Dogs are allowed on-leash. Foraging is allowed with a permit. Prohibited activities include: off-leash dog walking, hunting, horseback riding, camping, campfires, and motorized vehicle use.

The HWRC remains closed to public recreational use.

View our recreation maps!