Chippewa National Forest: Little Winnie

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The Chippewa National Forest has completed the Mid-scale Review for the Little Winne Project, and during this review the project planning team considered climate change impacts and potential adaptation actions. The Forest will continue to collect data in the project area and refine the project idea over the next year. 

The Chippewa National Forest is considering climate change impacts and adaptation opportunities during early planning for a large vegetation management project.

Project Area

The Little Winnie project area is located south and east of Lake Winnibigoshish, on the Deer River District of the Chippewa National Forest. Portage Lake and Leech Lake are the western boundaries of the project area, which stretches to the National Forest boundary to the east. The Little Winnie project area mostly lies within the Bena Dunes Landtype Association, which is a level outwash plain formed by glacial melt and re-shaped by the wind. There are extensive dune-swale areas, with dry conifer and hardwood forests on the uplands and lowland conifer swamps in the lowlands. There are also extensive wetland meadows, and the whole area is of high importance to local and migratory waterfowl. Common forest types in the project area include northern white-cedar, red pine, and aspen-birch.

Management Goals

Prescribed fire may be an important management tool in uplands and lowlands across the Little Winnie project. Photo credit: Kelly Barrett.

Management goals for this project are still being refined. Generally, there is a strong interest to sustain habitat for native plant and wildlife species and to restore conditions more representative of native plant communities. Some of the initial goals identified for this project include: 

  • promote more white pine and jack pine in appropriate locations across the landscape, and protect northern-white cedar
  • increase structural diversity (age classes, snags, coarse woody debris) in forested stands, particularly in young red pine stands
  • identify and protect large patches of mature forest
  • restore fire to fire-adapted systems and reduce hazardous fuels
  • reduce aspen across the landscape

Climate Change Impacts

Sandhill cranes and other bird species use many wetland habitats across the Little Winnie area.
For this project, the team discussed some of the most important anticipated climate change impacts for each major resource area during the Mid-level Review meeting. Some of these include:
Many focal species in this project area are projected to decline over the long term: black spruce, aspen, and jack pine
Deer browsing may increase with milder winters
Changing hydrology may affect many wetland habitats across the project area
There may be higher potential for earlier fires before green-up as snowmelt comes earlier in the spring
Warmer, drier conditions overall may lead to more large wildfires

Challenges and Opportunities

Climate change will present challenges and opportunities for accomplishing the management objectives of this project, including:

Challenges

Low diversity in red pine stands limits their options going forward
Converting acres to black spruce and jack pine (as suggested by Forest Plan goals) may be more challenging over the long term.

Opportunities

This project area has a relatively lower deer population than the rest of the forest - not as much browse pressure.
There is good access across the project area.
The dune-swale topography offers many micro-sites for suitable habitat.

Adaptation Actions

Project team members brainstormed several initial ideas for adaptation actions that could be incorporated into this project, including:

Area/TopicApproachTactics
Silviculture
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.
Plant species that would be more suitable for warmer conditions: white pine, red pine, oaks.
1.4. Reduce competition for moisture, nutrients, and light.
1.5. Restore or maintain fire in fire-adapted ecosystems.
Reduce hazel by using repetitive entries of mechanical treatments or prescribed fire.
2.3. Manage herbivory to promote regeneration of desired species.
Install deer exclosures to allow natural cedar regeneration.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
5.3. Retain biological legacies.
Increase species and structural diversity in red pine plantations - thinning, planting, and adding woody debris.
Identify red pine stands that are naturally tending towards hardwoods and focus on these for diversity treatments.
Wildlife habitat
5.4. Establish reserves to maintain ecosystem diversity.
Leave some areas from the 2012 blowdown alone to provide complex habitat and dead wood.
7.2. Maintain and create habitat corridors through reforestation or restoration.
Create habitat corridors between existing mature forest patches.
1.5. Restore or maintain fire in fire-adapted ecosystems.
Burn larger landscapes in partnership with other agencies in checkerboard areas.
Burn in appropriate NPCs, including lowlands.

Next Steps

The Forest will continue to collect data in the project area and refine the project idea over the next year.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen

Keywords

Lowland/ wetland conifers, Upland conifers, Fire and fuels

Last Updated

Tuesday, November 29, 2016