Skip Navigation

Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership - Minnesota

Banner graphic of MN brochure

Caribou Trail at Superior National Forest, USDA Forest Service photo

Planting a Healthier Future for Lake Superior

The Superior National Forest encompasses more than three million acres of land, trees, water and rock that is home to many wildlife and aquatic species. As host for recreation activities, such as hiking, walking, fishing and relaxing for more than 89,000 visitors, forest-based businesses rake in $61.2 million in annual spending. Treasured for its rich water resources, the Superior National Forest filters and cleans water, prevents flooding and supplies 445,000 acres of surface water. Also, tributaries that cross North Shore coastal forests flow to Lake Superior and other Great Lakes, which provide drinking water for millions of people downstream. However, early 20th century logging removed slow-growing white pines, which left a forest made up of trees that were all roughly the same age, and today, those trees are nearing the end of their lifespan.

Invasive pests, climate change and an over-abundance of deer are worsening the problem. In the winter, deer congregate along the North Shore because of moderate temperatures and low snow levels. They also trample and eat young trees, eliminating the potential for natural regrowth. This Joint Chiefs’ project worked to combat these pressing issues by providing technical expertise and funding to help private landowners sustainably manage their property to protect water quality and improve forest health.


Lake Superior North Shore Coastal Forest Restoration Project - Results

Improved water quality:

Native trees were planted on public and private land to stabilize soil and reduce the quantity of sediment flowing into streams, ultimately improving water quality in Lake Superior. In the Superior National Forest, white pine, white spruce, northern white cedar, yellow birch and red oak were planted on 597 highpriority acres of land. Planted areas were also fenced to keep deer away.

Planting long-lived conifers like white pine is critical to wildlife habitat. Over time, these trees will grow strong branches capable of supporting heavy nests for eagles and ospreys, and the trunks of large diameter trees will provide shelter for cavity-nesters, such as pileated woodpecker and boreal owl.

Project Impact: 45 Million People Impacted

Lake Superior’s coastal forests are home to tributaries that impact the water quality of the Great Lakes. More than 20 percent of the earth’s surface is freshwater, and the lakes provide drinking water for 45 million people and habitat for a vast array of plants and wildlife, including more than 200 globally rare species.

Total awarded through the Joint Chiefs’ from 2015-17: $465,000

Randy Bowe is a man on a mission. He plans to plant a lot of trees on his 380 acres of land onthe North Shore. “I’m at 87,000 now,” Bowe said, “and I’m not stopping until I get to 100,000!”

A lifelong resident, avid outdoorsman and taxidermist by trade, Bowe has seen the forests around his home change. “There’s more deer, more recreational use, and many larger tracts of land have been cut up and developed,” Bowe said. Seeing these changes over the years has motivated Bowe to add to his acreage and get involved by doing his part to ensure the forest and waterways have a healthy future. In addition to planting trees, Bowe thinned lessdesirable timber and protected the trees he has planted with fencing to keep deer from the saplings.

“I have made every mistake there is – from planting in the wrong areas to not protecting the trees, but I’ve learned from my mistakes,” Bowe said. “I wish I had known back in the 1980s about programs to help landowners like me.” Working with the North Shore Forestry Collaborative, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Conservation Service has helped Bowe prioritize where to plant and how to do it better. Bowe says the Joint Chiefs’ project made him aware of funding sources that helped him accomplish more than he could have on his own.

“I won’t be here to see these trees grow tall,” Bowe said. “But I’m about to be a grandfather for the first time, and it makes me happy knowing my grandchild will have this beautiful forest and a healthy lake to enjoy.”

Forest restoration using conifers






Forest restoration, NRCS

Key Partners

Cook County Firewise

Cook and Lake County Soil and Water Conservation Districts

Grand Portage Reservation

Lake County Firewise

Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

North Shore Forestry Collaborative

Sugarloaf: The Stewardship Association

The Nature Conservancy

Download PDF brochure (PDF, 530KB)

USDA’s Forest Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service are working together to improve the health of forests where public forests and grasslands connect to privately owned lands. Through the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, the two USDA agencies are restoring landscapes by reducing wildfire threats to communities and landowners, protecting water quality and enhancing wildlife habitat.