Hiawatha National Forest – Raco Project


Hiawatha National Forest staff considered climate change effects and possible adaptation actions for a large habitat and fuels management project.  

The primary purpose of the project is to move the project area toward the 2006 Hiawatha Forest Plan Forest-wide and Management Area direction. Specifically, some of the major goals of this project are to restore fire-adapted ecosystem structure and function, regenerate roughly 3,400 acres of jack pine for Kirtland’s warbler habitat, reduce wildfire risk next to the wildland-urban interface, and improve the growth of red pine plantations. 

Project Location

The Sault Ste. Marie and St. Ignace Ranger Districts of the Hiawatha National Forest are proposing a vegetation management project on the Raco Plains, located within Chippewa and Mackinac Counties, Michigan. The Raco sand outwash plain is a dynamic, fire-adapted ecosystem that was historically shaped by wildfire. Fire was instrumental in removing mature and dying jack pine, while preparing the site and releasing seeds for a new generation of jack pine. Regenerating jack pine provided habitat for the federally listed endangered Kirtland’s warbler (KW). Wildfire was historically responsible for maintaining open barrens and savannas used by species like sharp-tailed grouse and black-backed woodpecker.


Climate Change Risks and Opportunities

The Raco Interdisciplinary Team considered broad climate change trends that are expected for Michigan forests and the site conditions across the project area.  They identified several risks associated with climate change, as well as several opportunities.  Some of these include:

  • Aspen and jack pine are projected to decline across northern Michigan under a range of climate scenarios. Jack pine might be less vulnerable because it is adapted to harsh environments and other species are unlikely to outcompete it on sandy outwash plains.
  • Conditions that promote large wildfires may occur more frequently in the project area, and the wildfire season may shift beyond normal timeframes. This is a particular risk in such a fire-prone landscape.
  • Kirtland’s warbler habitat in the Upper Peninsula might become particularly valuable in the future, as habitat in the Lower Peninsula is likely to be more stressed by climate change.
  • Streams and rivers in the project area may be a risk of increasing water temperatures and altered flow regimes.

Adaptation Actions

After considering the menu of adaptation strategies and approaches from the Adaptation Workbook, the Raco project team generated several possible adaptation actions, ranging from conservative to more aggressive and proactive. Some example adaptation actions include:
















Current Project Status

Hiawatha National Forest staff completed the Adaptation Workbook in the fall of 2014 and used this information to incorporate climate change considerations into the Proposed Action and Scoping Package for the public. More information is available on the Hiawatha National Forest Raco project page.

Updated 8/6/15