Not much happening at BRDF’

Staff Writer

Grand Rapids, Minn. Rick Horton got a call the other day from a
reporter asking about the Bear River Demonstration Forest north of
his Grand Rapids home.

It was just the second time in at least a few months the Ruffed
Grouse Society biologist had heard mention of the forest, the
brainchild of former DNR Commissioner Allen Garber.

The demonstration forest, in St. Louis and Itasca counties in
northeast Minnesota, came after a 2001 forestry summit and was
intended to be a testing ground and showcase for various forest
management strategies.

“The concepts are still out there, they are still being applied,
but they were before and they will be after,” Horton said.

The forest’s board of directors, chaired by Jim Marshall,
forestry resources manager for Blandin Paper Company, hasn’t met
since last summer. A meeting is planned for sometime during the
next few weeks, but Marshall isn’t sure what the outcome will
be.

“The mood of the group is hard to say,” Marshall said. “We’re
going to get together and talk about it in the next few weeks and
decide what the future is.”

Not all the people and agencies who own land within the forest
are interested in the project anymore, Marshall said. The land is a
mix of federal, state, county, private and forest industry
ownership. The forest is contained largely in a triangle between
Hibbing, Cook, and Effie.

The promotional aspect of the forest demonstrating forest
management strategies has mostly ended, but signage still exists,
and owners are involved in managing their parcels.

“We are not putting any new resources into the forest, per se,”
said Brad Moore, DNR assistant commissioner. “When we look at our
other priorities in forest management, those take precedent.”

The DNR continues some timber management at the forest, like
harvesting, planting, thinning and using light-on-the-land forestry
equipment, said Chuck Spoden, DNR northeast regional director.

Some of the techniques originally showcased in the forest are
now being used by foresters across the state, Moore said.

Blandin, which owns 10,000 acres in the park, has a forest
ecologist who is doing some pilot projects to see how they work
out. She’s doing things like non-traditional harvest patterns, and
the mechanical release of young seedlings, Marshall said.

There’s hasn’t been a concerted effort among the owners to do
things together in quite a while, Marshall said.

“They are doing things, but we haven’t met with the purpose of
creating demonstration sites with new signs, and so forth,”
Marshall said. “It seems there’s been somewhat of a lukewarm
interest from the folks who would benefit.”

There were some field tours at the forest in 2004, but they were
poorly attended, Marshall said.

Horton heard of a forestry committee from another county that
had some interest in the forest. But his original concerns about
the apparent promotion of converting aspen to pine young aspen is
good grouse habitat has been allayed.

“The damage was that there was a heck of a lot of promotion that
was anti-aspen and pro-conifer during that period because that’s
what the commissioner was interested in,” Horton said. “But it
essentially went away as soon as Garber did.”

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