Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources: Itasca Moraine Hardwood Thinning


Foresters from the Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources used the Adaptation Workbook to evaluate a planned timber sale at a workshop in the summer of 2015.  The sale has been finalized and sold, and it will be harvested sometime before 2018. 

Two Minnesota DNR foresters used the Adaptation Workbook to help refine a timber sale in oak-hardwood stand. Many of their intended management actions also will likely have climate adaptation benefits, and they made a few small adjustments to put the stand in a better position to tolerate future climate conditions.

Project Area

The Itasca Moraine was formed in north-central Minnesota through glacial advance and retreat. Today, this moraine is a major landscape feature in Becker County, Minnesota, which supports a mix of mesic forest types on uplands surrounded by many lakes and wetlands. This particular timber sale is planned for a block of state land east of Height of Land Lake and south of Island Lake. The sale covers 49 acres, including a mix of aspen, paper birch, oak, basswood, sugar maple, and ash.

Management Goals

An aerial landscape view of the Itasca Moraine in Minnesota.

The overall management goal for the DNR in this parcel is to grow and maintain a diverse stand of high-quality hardwoods, which will satisfy values for economic production, providing wildlife habitat, and sustaining native plant communities. In the oak-maple-basswood stands, the objectives are to thin down to 80 BA while reserving all pines and non-hazardous snags. Ash and maple will be targeted first in the order of removal. Aspen and birch will be clearcut to regenerate these species.

Climate Change Impacts

For this parcel, the DNR foresters determined that the most important anticipated climate change impacts include:
Fewer days with extreme cold
Increases in forest pests and pathogens
More frequent and intense storms

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the long-term management objectives of this sale, including:


Reduced soil moisture during the growing season can stress trees and slow growth
More intense storms can damage crop trees and reduce the quality of growing stock


Many northern hardwood species are at their northern range limits in northern Minnesota and could benefit from more temperate conditions.
A longer growing season could mean faster growth for northern hardwood species.

Adaptation Actions

Using the Adaptation Workbook helped Mike Lichter and Scott Burns recognize that many of their intended management actions for this sale also have climate adaptation benefits.  They also generated a few new ideas to put this stand in a better position to tolerate future stress.  A few of their ideas included: 

Entire property
1.1 Reduce impacts to soils and nutrient cycling.
Follow site level guidelines to avoid rutting and compaction. Operations will be limited to non-rutting conditions.
Lop and scatter slash evenly across the site, which will allow nutrients to be retained on site and will help prevent erosion.
Aspen and birch
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Clearcutting these species will encourage regeneration and a younger age cohort on the landscape.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
9.1. Favor or restore native species that are expected to be adapted to future conditions.
Reserve order is red oak>bur oak>basswood>sugar maple>ash. Favoring oaks and basswood over maples will enhance the diversity of the stands.
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
Removing individuals of poor quality and health will help the stand vigor overall.
3.3. Alter forest structure to reduce severity or extent of wind and ice damage.
Use topography and gap orientation during tree selection - align cut rows with prevailing wind direction.


Project participants identified several monitoring items that could help inform future management, including volume by species and growth by species. These metrics can be accomplished during recurring stand inventories and will help determine if the stand is indeed getting more diverse with a higher proportion of species expected to do will under climate change. Regeneration checks will also help determine how the stands responds to aspen clearcuts and hardwoods thinning.

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

DNR foresters Mike Lichter (far right) and Scott Burns (second from right) discuss adaptation ideas with co-workers at a workshop.
A map of the timber sale.

Project Documents

Next Steps

The sale has been finalized and sold, and it will be harvested sometime before 2018. See the timber sale document above. This page will be updated with photos and information as the harvest is completed.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen


Oak, Upland hardwoods

Last Updated

Thursday, November 17, 2016