A Man Spends Almost 40 Years Restoring the White Pine

By KBJR News 1

July 16, 2013 Updated Jul 16, 2013 at 8:40 AM CST

Grand Rapids, MN (NNCNOW.com) --- A Grand Rapids man is working to bring back one of Minnesota's most important natural resources.

The white pine was once a staple of Northland forests, but not anymore.

Jack Rajala, author of 'Bringing Back the White Pine', has been on a mission to restore these trees for almost 40 years.

"White pine are natural to Minnesota, and it's great to be able to preserve and to propagate and to harvest what is naturally here," said Former Site Manager for the Grand Rapids Forest History Center, Skip Drake.

The white pine almost became extinct due to logging, land clearing, natural enemies, and poor forest policies.

The issue now is how to save what's left of these magnificent trees.

"They're such monarchs. They have such beauty and they truly are the prize of the northern forest," said Rajala.

The main threat these days to white pines is white tailed deer.

"One of their favorite browses happens to be the white pine seedling," said Drake.

A labor intensive process of capping the single terminal bud on these trees with white scrap paper protects the vital bud from grazing deer.

Planting white pine seedlings in the proper soil is also a must in regenerating these trees.

"Trees will grow best in the soils that they love the best," said Drake.

Almost all of the first 1,000,000 trees planted by Rajala died because of improper care.

During the past 36 years, Rajala has perfected the process.

There are 13 lakes along the camp's property, which help for the regeneration of the white pine.

"Now we have millions of white pine trees, young trees growing and we are keeping the big old ones healthy and growing as well, and it's all pretty exciting," said Rajala.

With proper planting and care, these beautiful trees look destined to make a comeback.

Rajala owns thousands of acres of land occupied by large red and white pine trees, as well as aspen, birch, spruce, maple, and basswood trees.

Elsa Robins
erobins@kbjr.com