Superior National Forest: Pearl Project


Superior National Forest staff used the Adaptation Workbook in the summer of 2013. The team refined their ideas for an Environmental Assessment, published in Feruary 2015. A final decision for the project was released in May 2015, and the project will be implemented over the course of the next 10-15 years

Superior NF staff completed a FAR workbook session and included climate change considerations into the final design of a large vegetation management project.

Project Area

The Pearl project will be implemented across more than 75,000 acres of the Superior National Forest, as part of an overall project area of more than 126,000 acres. This project area is five miles east of Babbit, MN, and two miles south of Birch Lake (see map). The dominant landscape ecosystems in the project Area are Dry Mesic Red and White Pine, Jack Pine-Black Spruce, Lowland Conifer, and Mesic Birch-Aspen-Spruce-Fir.

Management Goals

Jack pine and other fire-dependent forest types are a main focus of the Pearl project.

The Superior National Forest is generally trying to improve forest conditions and create larger contiguous forest patches south of Ely, Minnesota.  This project will also provide a real-world example of how forest management can enhance adaptation to climate change.  Specifically, some of the management goals for the Pearl project include: 

  • create 12,330 acres of young forest (age 0-9 years), particularly of jack pine, aspen, black spruce, and paper birch
  • increase species diversity by planting long-lived conifers on over 3,000 acres
  • increase structural diversity with thinning and gap creation on almost 7,000 acres
  • use prescribed fire on almost 7,200 acres of red and white pine stands and 500 acres of jack pine to control hazardous fuels and promote fire-dependent vegetation
  • improve riparian forests by maintaining and promoting long-lived conifers on 720 acres along lakes and rivers

Climate Change Impacts

The Pearl project planning team considered many expected impacts from climate change in northern Minnesota. Among these, a few seemed to be most important for the Pearl project in particular:
Warmer temperatures, including 4 to 12 °F warmer during winter months.
Changing precipitation patterns, with a net change toward drier conditions during the growing season that could be exacerbated on sandy and shallow soils.
More frequent intense rainfall and changes in spring snowmelt.
Future conditions may increase the risks from wildfire, invasive species, and forest pests.

Adaptation Actions

After considering the menu of adaptation strategies and approaches from the Adaptation Workbook, the Pearl project team generated several possible adaptation actions. These ideas were further refined as the team developed the Environmental Assessment and Alternatives for the project (available below). Some example adaptation actions for the Pearl project include:

Jack pine
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Regenerating older jack pine stands will introduce a young age class on the landscape.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
In jack pine stands, plant pockets of northern red oak and northern pin oak on dry sites.
Plant pockets of red and white pine, and also a lesser amount of white spruce.
8.2. Favor existing genotypes that are better adapted to future conditions.
Try a jack pine seed source from further south or west in Minnesota.
6.1. Manage habitats over a range of sites and conditions.
Manage for jack pine on wetter and drier sites.
9.5. Disfavor species that are distinctly maladapted.
Focus on off-site aspen for conversion to other forest types - drought-prone areas.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Plant white spruce within aspen stands to retain the aspen-spruce forest type.
White pine
2.3. Manage herbivory to promote regeneration of desired species.
Use bud caps on planted seedlings.
Emphasize planting in known areas of lower deer density - interior forest areas, etc.
8.2. Favor existing genotypes that are better adapted to future conditions.
Try seed or planting stock from further south or west in MN.

Project Documents

Next Steps

A final decision for the project was released in May 2015, and the project will be implemented over the course of the next 10-15 years

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen or learn more at:


Lowland/ wetland conifers, Upland conifers, Upland hardwoods, Fire and fuels

Last Updated

Tuesday, December 13, 2016