USDA Agencies Support North Shore Coastal Forest Restoration

Lake Superior North Shore Coastal Forest Restoration

If you have visited the north shore of Lake Superior in northeast Minnesota lately, you probably noticed that many trees are dying and the landscape is changing. A convergence of challenges including climate change, invasive species, and a lack of conifer regeneration are degrading the health of the forest and degrading the potential economic and ecological benefits the forest could provide. Rather than allow this to continue, several interests are working together to make a change for the better. 

Photos of standing dead birch surrounded by brush

Much of the birch and aspen forest that grew following logging and wildfire in the early 1900's is now declining and transitioning to brush, invasive grasses, or low-stocked forests.



Two United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) agencies, the Forest Service (FS) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), are investing funds and technical expertise to support ongoing efforts to restore and protect forest health, maintain clean water, and improve wildlife habitat in the North Shore Coastal Forest. The Lake Superior North Shore Coastal Forest Restoration project was selected under the USDA Joint Chief’s Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration program to receive $200,000 in 2015 and an additional $187,000 in 2016 to support forest restoration efforts along the North Shore of Lake Superior. 

Support from this new NRCS - FS partnership will add to the momentum that has been achieved in the past few years by the North Shore Forest Collaborative (NSFC), an active and diverse group of more than 30 tribal, federal, state and county agencies, non-profit organizations, and private landowners.

Photos of mature white pine tree

Today, long-lived native conifer species such as white pine and white cedar are rare and very little natural regeneration is occurring because of a lack of seed source, soil disturbance, and browsing by deer. Restoring native conifers is a priority.

Photo of forester showing field trip use of exclosure to protect seedlings

A large part of the collaboration is sharing "lessons learned. At left, a field trip demonstrates how fence exclosures protect tree seedlings from deer.


As part of this landscape collaboration, the FS completed an environmental analysis and is implementing the North Shore Restoration Project on the Superior National Forest within the collaborative area. Flexibility was built into this adaptive management environmental assessment to allow, without additional analysis, for adjustments in treatments to address changed stand conditions between the project decision notice and implementation as well as uncertainty concerning species diversity outcomes. As a Climate Change Demonstration Project, the interdisciplinary team worked with staff from the Northern Institute of Applied Climate Science to incorporate the needed flexibility.
The over-arching vision is to restore the coastal forest which is critical to a healthy North Shore ecosystem that sustains wildlife, residents, and visitors alike.

Joint Chiefs Collaborative Forest Landscape Restoration Program

In 2014, the Chiefs of the FS and NRCS entered into a multi-year partnership with the goal of improving the health and resiliency of forest ecosystems. This collaboration, known within USDA as the Joint Chiefs’ Landscape Restoration Partnership, is an example of two agencies working together to get more done. The Chiefs view these projects as investments in areas of ecological importance that will benefit through long-term collaboration.