Minnesota Dept. of Natural Resources: Palsburg Fire Response Project


Participants from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources used the Adaptation Workbook at a workshop in September 2015. Staff from the Division of Forestry and the Division of Ecological and Water Resources worked together on the project, and some of their climate adaptation ideas are already being implemented. 

Staff from the Minnesota DNR used the Adaptation Workbook to refine ideas for post-fire salvage and restoration treatments following a recent wildfire.

Project Area

In April 2015, the Palsburg fire burned approximately 4,447 acres on a beach ridge area of the Beltrami Island State Forest in Lake of the Woods County. The majority of the burned area is dominated by jack pine and red pine, and classified as the northern dry-sand pine woodland community (FDn12), which has a state conservation status rank of imperiled (S2).

Management Goals

A burned red pine plantation in the Palsburg fire area. Stands like this have been targeted for salvage treatments.

Short-term goals for this area include capturing timber value of the burned trees, managing forest health risks (e.g. bark beetles, Diplodia), and preparing sites for subsequent silvicultural treatments. Longer-term (50 year) goals for the burned areas include regenerating the site to a mix of suitable tree species (incorporating climate change considerations), continuing to provide a sustainable yield of forest resources, and managing the age and structure of these stands to match larger landscape goals (following Section Forest Resource Management Plan recommendations). Additional goals for this area include Department priorities to maintain the rare native plant community (FDn12), and to protect rare species populations in the area.

Climate Change Impacts

For this project, the most important anticipated climate change impacts include both abiotic and biotic factors and their subsequent feedbacks. A few of the major impacts may be:
Changes in precipitation patterns and growing season length could add additional stress to vegetation growing in this already dry, sandy area, and may also result in altered/exaggerated disturbance regimes (i.e. increased fire risk).
Some of the important tree species in this area are expected to decline as a result of projected climate changes as well- including jack pine, quaking aspen, paper birch, and balsam fir.
Climate-driven changes to the range and abundance of native and introduced forest pests/pathogens, such as mountain pine beetle, could also result in negative impacts for the communities across this site.

Challenges and Opportunities

DNR staff considered key challenges and opportunities from climate change, including:


Changes to the growing season and precipitation patterns may result in changes to native plant communities, and the disturbance regimes which maintain them.
Milder winters could increase abundance of white-tailed deer and subsequent browse impacts.


Other native tree species may have more positive (or less negative) responses to changing conditions, such as red pine and white pine.

Adaptation Actions

Project participants used the Adaptation Workbook to develop several adaptation actions for this project. They found that many of the actions already planned for this area have great win-win benefits for climate adaptation, including:

Wildfire response
2.2. Prevent the introduction and establishment of invasive plant species and remove existing invasive species.
Treat roadside populations of spotted knapweed with herbicide, monitor populations of Canada thistle in harvested areas.
5.2. Maintain and restore diversity of native species.
On sites to be planted, use a mix of species, including white pine, red pine, and jack pine, to increase tree diversity across this landscape.
10.2. Allow for areas of natural regeneration to test for future-adapted species.
Approximately 1050 acres of jack pine and quaking aspen are being allowed to natural regenerate.


Tree regeneration has been closely monitored following the fire and subsequent salvage harvests. Conditions across the burned area are quite variable, but overall natural regeneration has been good. Sites with non-salvageable trees have regeneration between 10,000 - 20,000 trees per acre (tpa), and sites receiving salvage harvests had variable regeneration ranging between 200 - 6000 tpa. Regeneration surveys will be conducted on planted sites at 1, 3, 5, and 8 years post disturbance, and on seeded sites at 3, 6, and 10 years post disturbance. These are the standard MN DNR regeneration survey practices, however, and can be done more frequently if sites seem to be problematic (i.e. competition, not-stocked). The presence and condition of rare species records across the burned area were re-confirmed following green-up immediately after the fire (May 2015) and specific, site-level management recommendations were provided to field staff. Additional surveys of these species (including Botrychium spp.) will occur opportunistically or as needed to provide management recommendations for areas containing these features.

Project Photos

Click to enlarge photos

Jack pine regeneration has been good in places, and follow-up surveys will determine if supplemental planting is necessary.
The Palsburg fire actively burning.

Next Steps

Rehabilitation of upland sections of the initial fire line has already occurred, however some wetter areas will need to be surveyed to determine whether additional work is required on those dozer lines. Additional monitoring of invasive species along roadsides and other locations across the site will occur as the opportunity arises, and as needed to guide control efforts. Native plant community monitoring efforts are still under development, but may include sampling species-area plots across varying disturbance/harvest treatments.

Learn More

To learn more about this project, contact Stephen


Upland conifers, Fire and fuels

Last Updated

Friday, February 17, 2017