Superior National Forest: Kabetogama Project


Superior National Forest staff used the Adaptation Workbook in the winter of 2014. The team refined their ideas for an Environmental Assessment, published in December 2015. A final decision for the project was released in June 2016, and the project will be implemented over the course of the next 10-15 years. 

Superior National Forest staff considered climate change effects and possible adaptation actions for a large forest management project in far northern Minnesota.

Project Area

The Kab Project Area is located in St. Louis County in northeastern Minnesota, covering approximately 68,000 acres. National Forest System land covers about 22,000 acres within this landscape. The project area is approximately seven miles north of Orr, Minnesota and nine miles south of Kabetogama Lake. This area includes two primary Landscape Ecosystems – Mesic Birch/Aspen/Spruce-fir and Dry-Mesic Red and White Pine. The uplands within the project area are dominated by aspen, with a variety of other northern forest types.

Management Goals

Paper birch is one of the species to be promoted in the Kab project.

The LaCroix Ranger District of the Superior National Forest is proposing the Kabetogama (Kab) Project to promote diverse, productive, healthy, and resilient native forest communities; improve forest health and productivity; provide sustainable forest products; improve riparian function; improve moose habitat for browse; and improve the Forest transportation system. Generally, aspen and mature/old forests exist in abundance, while there are zero acres in the young age class. Specifically, some of the major vegetation management goals of this project are to: 

  • increase the proportion of the forest in the 0-9 year age class,
  • increase the acreage of jack pine,  and
  • increase within-stand species diversity (paper birch, white cedar, white spruce, white pine, red pine, and tamarack) and structural diversity. 

Climate Change Impacts

Dense balsam fir exists in the understory of many fire-dependent stands in the Kab project area.
The Kabetogama Interdisciplinary Team considered broad climate change trends that are expected for northern Minnesota forests and the site conditions across the project area. They identified several risks associated with climate change, as well as several opportunities. Some of these include:
Jack pine is underrepresented in the Kab project area, but this species might do well on drier sites in the future. Many jack pine stands have balsam fir, red maple, and brush in the understory and may convert to other forest types if not treated.
This project area has better soils than are typical across the Superior NF, and it may be a good place to maintain aspen and paper birch into the future.
White pine tends to be confined to poorer sites in this project area, which may increase stress under future climate conditions. Also, there are no stands in the 0-9 or 40-80 year age classes.
Most aspen stands in the project area are either overmature or young – not much in the middle age classes. Past management in this area was very heavy and led to big areas regenerated to aspen.

Adaptation Actions

After considering the menu of adaptation strategies and approaches from the Adaptation Workbook, the Kabetogama project team generated several possible adaptation actions. The team considered incremental adjustments that could put the forest in a better position to adapt or tolerate continued climate change. They determined that many activities identified to move the forest towards the desired condition outlined in the Forest Plan would also be beneficial as climate change adaptation tactics. These “win-win” opportunities were preserved.  Some example adaptation actions for the Kab project include:

Jack pine
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Regenerate old jack pine stands in the project area to introduce a young age class on the landscape.
Locate regeneration stands next to each other to improve economic feasibility
9.3. Guide changes in species composition at early stages of stand development.
In regenerated jack pine stands, also plant pockets of red and white pine.
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
Thin younger jack pine stands to improve vigor.
6.1. Manage habitats over a range of sites and conditions.
Manage for jack pine on a range of wet and dry sites.
9.5. Disfavor species that are distinctly maladapted.
Focus on off-site aspen for conservation to other forest types.
Control competing vegetation in stands converted to spruce.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Plant white spruce in some aspen stands.
Maintain paper birch as a forest type and as a component of aspen and spruce stands.
White pine
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
Thin mature white pine stands to prepare them for future regeneration harvests, leaving the strongest trees.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Favor white pine in other forest types following harvest.
Retain advance regeneration in red pine thinning.

Project Documents

Next Steps

A final decision for the project was released in June 2016, and the project will be implemented over the course of the next 10-15 years.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen or learn more at:


Upland conifers, Upland hardwoods, Early-successional habitat, Fire and fuels

Last Updated

Tuesday, December 13, 2016