Volunteers Safeguard 30K Reforested Seedlings at Rajala Woods | www.WDIO.com

Volunteers Safeguard 30K Reforested Seedlings at Rajala Woods

Heidi Enninga
September 26, 2015 10:42 PM

A massive undertaking to protect white pine seedlings was underway on Saturday at Boulder Lake as a team of volunteers spent the day bud capping acres of reforested trees there. 

The white pine buds are a favorite meal for deer, so capping is meant to prevent that. The effort was just another step in Minnesota Power's Rajala Woods initiative to provide for industry and natural benefit with new, healthy forests. 

While it may be the end of growing season at the Boulder Lake Rajala Woods, for some of the smallest seedlings, it's already time to look ahead to next spring. 

Alan Hodnik, CEO of ALLETE, Minnesota Power's parent company said spotting the six-inch seedlings can be a bit of a challenge for volunteers, but not for the deer who love to snack on them. 

"You have to have radar eyes at times to pick them out of there, Of course the deer have no trouble finding them. They sniff them out," Hodnick said. "The idea is to cover the leading bud, so the tree can continue to grow."

Nearly 100 volunteers in Rajala Woods searching over acres for the 30,000 of tree buds they planned to cap. Among them was Itasca County man, Jack Rajala. He has been a 25 year member of Minnesota Power's parent company Allete's board, a long-time advocate for white pine conservation and forest product businessman.

Rajala said this time of year, he's usually out in the forest capping buds, but on Saturday, he had a lot of help. Volunteers ranged from kids to Minnesota Master Naturalists volunteers with the University of Minnesota and even a volleyball team from UWS. 

"It's wonderful, I've been working with white pine regeneration for 35 years now, and I've never been involved in a crew this big," Rajala said. 

Attaching a small piece of paper with a few staples to each seedling is labor intensive, but a simple way to keep the buds off the menu for browsing deer. 

All the white tags sticking out of the ground is a sign of the new life cycle starting for the trees in the forest that has been mostly cleared, with the wood being put to use for industry. 

"It was harvested last winter, it was planted this spring and now we're going through and putting the bud caps on these little seedlings," Rajala said. "We're at the regeneration stage. There's a real good feeling because we're really doing something important for the environment."

The new batch of long life white and red pine are joining the ranks of a few stately conifers towering over the forest land. It's all part of a Minnesota Power reforestation effort to grow three million trees on five plots of its Northeastern Minnesota land. 

"There's sort of a view out there that you don't cut a tree, you don't take it down, you just let them die and rot in the woods. That's not really good forest management practice," Hodnik said.  

Minnesota Power said Boulder Lake is a prime example of good forest management practices where trees are expected to be grown, then put to productive use, and the area reforested. 

The seedlings will need capping for five years, until they are out of browsing range for deer. 

"We've got years ahead of us, but we're going to see it through, and we're very proud of this initiative, not only here, but on the north shore at Taconite Harbor, in Hoyt Lakes, and even over on the west range in Grand Rapids," Hodnik said. "I think is just a wonderful thing, because this is going to go on for many many hundreds of years, so it's leaving something behind."


Heidi Enninga

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