Fire Breathes New Life into the Boundary Waters

By KBJR News 1

May 15, 2012 Updated May 15, 2012 at 8:08 PM CST

Isabella, MN (Northlands NewsCenter)
-- The word fire has many negative connotations with the destructive force it can cause on homes, businesses and other man made structures.

But, when it comes to forests, fire can be cleansing and healthy.

On the southern edge of the boundary waters, among scorched trees from the 93,000 acre Pagami Creek fire are charred beer cans, blackened limbs, and little blades of green grass swaying in the spring breeze.

It's the first step, in a long process of the BWCA's recovery.

Before the fire, this area was overgrown with older vegetation.

Carl Skustad works for the Superior National Forest and says the fire can clear out a clogged forest.

"When you have a build up of those fuels and fire has been withheld from that environment for so many years it starts to get a little stagnate."

Now, there is room on the forest floor for new growth.

A reason that you do see new growth in a forest after a wildfire is because of pine cones; they stand up to 900 degrees worth of heat and when it does heat up it spreads into the nutrient rich ash.

The fire and re-growth process has shaped the boundary waters ecology time and time again.

"The ecology of the boundary waters canoe area wilderness has evolved over time based on recurring wildfire. It's not that fire is always bad, it's a matter of where and when," says Superior National Forest Public Relations contact Kris Reichenbach.

As for the wildlife, in the near future, they'll be moving into a less congested, more colorful home.

"For the next couple years we'll see berries, raspberries, blueberries, bing cherries coming back wildlife will love. Small mammals as well as the moose, deer. Those sorts of animals will move back into the area."

Visitor's to the BWCA this year will also benefit; seeing a unique, mosaic that will be gone, sooner than later.

Outfitters will be giving guided trips through out the Pagami Creek Burn Area this summer.

Campers should look out for damaged trees and make sure to put their fires out completely because the fire danger is still high.

Zach Vavricka

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