The stands of ancient pines on Lac La Croix embody the ideal of wilderness, yet they have felt the tread of moccasins and boots on their roots for centuries. Recognizing the role of past human influences in creating these magnificent stands may help people learn how to be better stewards of wilderness today.
In the end, people decide the definition and designation of wilderness. Today, public land managers are charged with the difficult task of preserving the beauty, function, and biodiversity of wilderness areas in the face of changing climate conditions and increasing human use. A growing body of evidence suggests that active management that includes the use of prescribed fire can help maintain resilient forest communities. Wild places that were profoundly impacted by the actions of people in the past need not devalue the wilderness concept. Rather, this knowledge can make them richer through tangible connections to our human history.
In his essay "The Loons of Lac la Croix," Sigurd Olson evoked a longing for the deep connections between people and wilderness through his lyrical descriptions of pictographs on granite cliffs and a hill challenged by Ojibwe runners.
In The Boundary Waters Wilderness Ecosystem, Heinselman stated that "old-growth red and white pine groves of the Boundary Waters reserves are among the most endangered forest communities of the entire Great Lakes region of the United States and Canada. They are an irreplaceable element in the biodiversity of the region." Our data suggest that at least some of these pine stands took root and flourished in the presence of frequent surface fires, many of which were likely set by people. By burning away tree seedlings and underbrush, these fires created the open, parklike forest structure prized by people in the past and today.
Forests The Gift Of Nature Essays
The rings of long-dead pines may now bring an answer within reach. Our research uses a technique known as crossdating, which provides us access to information hidden from Heinselman. Through previous research, we know that the amount of moisture available to red pine trees during the growing season influences the relative width of each annual growth ring. Wide rings correspond to wet summers, and narrow rings to dry ones. As weather and climate vary, uniform patterns emerge in the rings of trees across the region. Distinct as fingerprints, the patterns can be read to assign calendar dates to the rings of dead trees with absolute certainty. Through crossdating, we used fire scars in remnant stumps to produce a network of sites with fire history that spans the wilderness and tells a detailed story of fire activity over the last 400 years.
The Gift of Wilderness | Scotchman Peaks Wilderness
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Into the Wild by John Krakauer Thesis Statements and Essay Topics
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