Northern forests need urgent attention

Without reforestation efforts, northern Minnesota will lose rich habitat that its residents greatly value.

In southern Minnesota we often think of “up north” as a place to vacation where we enjoy cooler temperatures, different animals, and trees not commonly found in this farming region.

It’s not, however, just a nice place to visit. The interconnectedness of nature and humankind can’t be ignored when we examine dying forests in northern Minnesota.

The loss of these forests is not just a problem for those who live there or for vacationers who like the scenery. Without healthy northern forests, there is no timber harvest and no habitat for wildlife that we watch, photograph, fish and hunt.

In the 3 million acres of the Superior National Forest, the forest is home to moose, black bears and wolves — the last stronghold of the gray wolf in the lower 48 states, according to the National Forest Foundation. Cool waters, shaded by the tall trees, produce an abundance of fishing opportunities. Within the forest boundaries are 445,000 acres of surface water.

But bugs, invasive species and hotter temperatures could turn the north woods into a savanna, some scientists predict. Changes are already occurring; we don’t have time to waste.

Crews from the Minnesota Conservation Corps are busy planting pine seedlings to try to regenerate coniferous forests that were long ago cleared, MPR reports. Without human intervention that comes from groups such as the Conservation Corps and the Nature Conservancy, the forests could be lost. And what a loss that would be — just think of the Boundary Waters without its majestic pine and spruce trees.

Forest restoration is a proactive way to try to hold back that drastic change. We have to acknowledge the science that warns of the ill effects of ignoring climate change and we have to support efforts to re-establish healthy forests in the northland.

The diverse areas of Minnesota and the unique commerce and tourism tied to each of the regions are worth preserving for as long as we can.

— The Free Press of Mankato

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