Superior National Forest: Barker Project


Superior National Forest staff used the Adaptation Workbook in the winter of 2015. The team refined their ideas for an Environmental Assessment, published in September 2015. A final decision for the project was released in August 2016, and the project will be implemented over the course of the next 10-15 years. 

The project planning team for a large vegetation management project on the Superior National Forest used the Adaptation Workbook to assess climate change risk and contemplate adaptation actions.

Project Area

The Barker Project Area is located in Cook and Lake Counties in northeastern Minnesota. The project area generally runs parallel to Lake Superior, covering the high ground and ridges a few miles away from the lake. The Barker Project Area encompasses approximately 78,000 acres, of which, about 56,000 acres are National Forest System land. This project includes three different Landscape Ecosystems: Sugar Maple, Mesic Aspen-Birch, and Lowland Conifer.

Management Goals

The Poplar River runs through the Barker project area.

The Barker Project is being proposed to promote diverse, healthy forest ecosystems and wildlife habitat and to reduce hazardous fuels. Specifically, some of the major goals of this project are to increase the proportion of the forest in the 0-9 year age class (currently only about 1% of the Barker Project Area), increase within-stand diversity, improve moose habitat, enchance the Caribou Grouse Management Area, improve riparian function, and improve health and productivity in red pine and white spruce plantations. Hazardous fuels are accumulating mostly in the older aspen and birch forests and older plantations with thick balsam fir regeneration.

Climate Change Impacts

Sugar maples in the Oberg Mountain area of northern Minnesota.
The Barker Interdisciplinary Team considered broad climate change trends that are expected for northern Minnesota 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:
The Sugar Maple LE contains more tree species with the potential to increase under climate change (basswood, northern red oak, red maple) and a greater potential to retain additional future precipitation.
The project area has a relatively complex topography, with north-facing slopes that might be potential refugia for cooler, wetter conditions and south-facing slopes that will tend to get hotter and drier.
Deer are less concentrated in the Barker Project Area in the wintertime than in areas closer to Lake Superior.
White spruce plantations in the project area are located on hardwood sites and tend to be very overcrowded, and root rot is common.
The Barker Project Area has the largest concentration of sugar maple and red maple in the local area – these species are projected to increase in the future.

Adaptation Actions

After considering the menu of adaptation strategies and approaches from the Adaptation Workbook, the Barker project team generated several possible adaptation actions, ranging from conservative to more aggressive and proactive. The team consided how these ideas fit into the final Environmental Assessment. Some example adaptation actions include:

5.3. Retain biological legacies.
7.1. Reduce landscape fragmentation.
Maintain a large (10,000+ acre) mature patch in a predominantly sugar maple forest, coordinating with the Manitou Collaborative and other National Forest project areas
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Underplant long-lived conifers within riparian areas to provide future coarse woody debris and restore native plant communities - red and white pine, cedar, and white spruce.
3.1. Alter forest structure or composition to reduce risk or severity of wildfire.
Fuels reduction mechanical treatments along Crooked Lake/Ninemile and Pike Lake/Lutsen Township Wildland Urban Interface Areas
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Create young age classes in black spruce, aspen, and paper birch stands through clearcut harvests
Create young age classes in northern hardwoods forests through group selection.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Underplant a diversity of species in declining forest types such as white pine, white spruce, yellow birch, and paper birch

Next Steps

A final decision for the project was released in August 2016, 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

Last Updated

Monday, December 12, 2016