Superior National Forest: Stony 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 January 2016. A final decision for the project was released in July 2016, and the project will be implemented over the course of the next 10-15 years. 

Superior National Forest staff considered climate change effects and possible adaptation actions for a large forest management project in far northern Minnesota.

Project Area

The Stony Project Area is located in Cook and Lake Counties in northeastern Minnesota, covering approximately 81,000 acres, of which about 46,000 acres are National Forest System land. This project includes three different Landscape Ecosystems: Sugar Maple, Mesic Birch/Aspen/Spruce-fir, and Lowland Conifer.

Management Goals

A "witches broom" on a black spruce, caused by dwarf mistletoe.

The Stony 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 Stony Project Area), increase within-stand diversity, improve moose habitat, improve riparian function, improve health in lowland black spruce stands, 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

The Stony 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:
There are a lot of potential fire breaks in this landscape – lowlands, lakes, sugar maple stands – so large-scale fires might be less of a risk compared to other project areas.
Warmer, shorter winters may reduce access and operability in lowland areas or uplands that need to be accessed through lowlands. This is more of a concern in the west side of the Stony area.
Stony River in particular might be at risk of increasing water temperatures, because it is a wide, shallow river.
Much of the aspen in the project area is less than 40 years old, so it may be less vulnerable than other areas of the forest.
Large lowland complexes of black spruce occur in the west side of the project area and may be less vulnerable to water table change than small isolated wetlands on the east side of the project area.
White pine, red pine, and tamarack all have potential to increase in this project area in the future.

Adaptation Actions

After considering the menu of adaptation strategies and approaches from the Adaptation Workbook, the Stony project team generated several possible adaptation actions. The team was able to fit many of these adaptation ideas into the Proposed Action and preferred Alternative for the project. Some example adaptation actions include:

Lowland conifers
2.1. Maintain or improve the ability of forests to resist pests and pathogens.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
Clearcutting stands of black spruce will create a young age class on the landscape.
Cutting and follow up shearing/crushing operations will control dwarf mistletoe in infested stands
Fire and fuels
1.5. Restore or maintain fire in fire-adapted ecosystems.
Conduct broadcast burns to kill overstory trees and stimulate regeneration on roughly 200 acres in the Tanner Lake area.
3.1. Alter forest structure or composition to reduce risk or severity of wildfire.
3.2. Establish fuelbreaks to slow the spread of catastrophic fire.
Reduce hazardous fuels on roughly 1500 acres through mechanical and prescribed fire treatments.
Riparian areas
1.3. Maintain or restore riparian areas.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Plant long-lived species such as red pine, white pine, cedar, white spruce, and yellow birch in roughly 400 acres of riparian areas.
Manitou Collaborative
3.1. Alter forest structure or composition to reduce risk or severity of wildfire.
Mechanical treatments will remove dead and downed trees and ladder fuels, such as small balsam fir.
5.1. Promote diverse age classes.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
Create canopy gaps and plant white pine and yellow birch.
6.2. Expand the boundaries of reserves to increase diversity.
7.1. Reduce landscape fragmentation.
Maintain a 10,000-acre patch of mature hardwood forest across federal, state, and county land.

Project Documents

Next Steps

A final decision for the project was released in July 2016 (available below), 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:


Diseases, Lowland/ wetland conifers, Upland conifers, Upland hardwoods, Early-successional habitat

Last Updated

Wednesday, December 14, 2016