Bad River Natural Resources Department


Stand silvicultural prescriptions are being written to incorporate climate change considerations.

The Natural Resources Department of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians in northern Wisconsin is concerned about changing climatic and environmental conditions that have already affected key cultural resources, such as wild rice.  A changing climate is expected to aggravate existing stressors on ecosystems, as well as introduce new challenges to management. This adaptation project is designed to provide a real-world example of how climate change considerations can be incorporated into sustainable forest management. 

Project summary (pdf)

Contact: Maria Janowiak

Left: Aerial photograph of the Kakagon Sloughs and lands in the Bad River Reservation. Photo courtesy Bad River Natural Resources Department.



Project Location and Partners

This adaptation project includes 164 acres of forest managed by the Natural Resources Department of the Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians  (Bad River NRD). Two stands of aspen-dominated forest on red clay plain soils, with mixed hardwoods and pine in the understory, and one stand of large white pine over mixed hardwoods. The adaptation project sites are near the Bad River and less than 10 miles from the Kakagon/Bad River Sloughs—16,000 acres of wild rice, grasses, sedges, trees, streams, and open water located on Tribal lands along the southern shore of Lake Superior. The Sloughs are part of the largest and healthiest full-functioning freshwater estuarine system remaining in the upper Great Lakes region and are culturally significant to the Bad River Tribe. 

The Bad River NRD works to maintain and improve the health of ecosystems within the Bad River Reservation for at least the next seven generations, while providing the sustainable provision of resources. This includes over 124,000 acres of land, primarily owned by the Tribe or held in trust. Much of the management on Tribal lands works to maintain the integrity of the Bad River watershed and associated ecosystems. Forestry activities also strive to enhance tree species that have cultural importance, including white pine, paper birch, and northern white-cedar. The Bad River NRD plans to use the lessons learned from this adaptation project to incorporate climate change into its next Integrated Resource Management Plan. 

Climate Change and the Bad River Reservation

A team of scientists and natural resource specialists from the Bad River NRD, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science (NIACS) used the Adaptation Workbook from Forest Adaptation Resources: Climate Change Tools and Approaches for Land Managers to evaluate the potential impacts of climate change on the Bad River project sites and suggest a variety of actions that could enhance forest resilience to climate change under a wide range of future conditions. 

Northern Wisconsin is already experiencing the effects of climate change, and many of these impacts are expected to increase in the future.  Potential climate change impacts that are of particular interest in the adaptation project areas include:

  • Changing precipitation patterns may have an especially large impact on the lands surrounding the Bad River because of the unique red clay plain soils. More intense storms could increase issues related to erosion, sedimentation, and flooding. At the same time, it is uncertain whether potentially drier summer conditions would create conditions more or less suitable for tree growth.
  • Changes in precipitation patterns may also affect the amount of water present in forested wetlands. Reduced water levels, or water levels that fluctuate greatly between seasons, could increase the amount of stress on forests and reduce their ability to provide clean water and wildlife habitat.
  • Many northern tree species may experience declines due to warmer temperatures and changing climatic conditions. Aspen, black spruce, balsam fir, and other species are expected to have greater declines. In contrast, future conditions may also be more favorable for some desirable tree species, such as white pine.

Adaptation Actions

Many actions were identified that can help achieve the current management goals in the identified stands, as well as enable ecosystems to adapt to future conditions. Examples include:

Table of possible adaptation actions

Project Outcomes

The climate change adaptation project will fully integrate climate change into forest management in these stands. Future activities include:

  • Continued collaboration between the Bad River Natural Resources Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to develop the stand prescriptions and implement the adaptation actions.
  • A set of monitoring metrics will be developed to evaluate the effectiveness of adaptation actions.
  • Lessons learned from this effort will be used to help incorporate climate change into the next Bad River Integrated Resource Management Plan.
  • NIACS and the Bad River Natural Resources Department will work with the Shared Landscapes Initiative to communicate the outcomes and lessons from this project to land owners, natural resource managers, and others.

Current Project Status

Draft forest management prescriptions are being prepared for the stands in order to provide examples of on-the-ground management that incorporates climate change considerations, as well as to identify specific adaptation actions for future implementation.

Last updated: 1/9/2013