Brule River State Forest sees increase in visitors for 2010DNR staff also hopes to revisit Cloverland logging proposal in 2011
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Visitors flocked to the Brule River State Forest in 2010, and the pattern seems set to continue in 2011.
At the state forest’s annual fall meeting Dec. 18, the Brule Department of Natural Resources staff reviewed data from the year’s recreational seasons. The biggest spike in activity came in the winter months, when the Afterhours ski trail nearly doubled its use. The Afterhours Trail brought in about $16,000 in trail fees compared to $8,200 the year before.
Kevin Feind, a ranger with the Brule DNR, said the early snowfall has put the Afterhours Trail on pace to draw similar numbers again this season.
“We’ve been selling trail passes for several weeks already,” Feind said at the Dec. 18 meeting.
The Brule River State Forest also saw increased use of its campgrounds in 2010, despite near record rainfall in June. And visitors continued to frequent the state forest well into fall, with the Copper Range Campground averaging a 52 percent occupancy race for the month of October.
Brule River State Forest superintendent Dave Schulz also offered an update on the master plan variance discussed during the 2009 annual meeting.
At that meeting, the state forest proposed adjusting its master plan to allow for better management of the almost 6,000 acres of land near Cloverland obtained in 2007. One aspect of the variance — the addition of gravel pull-offs along roads to provide parking for the hunting season — was approved with no negative feedback.
The second part of the variance was not as well received. It called for the addition of 75 acres to the yearly timber harvest in the Cloverland area.
Many residents responded to the Brule DNR with questions about the necessity and effectiveness of the measure. Some just wanted more information, but others felt there should be no logging at all in the newly obtain section.
The Brule staff pulled the lumber harvest proposal from the variance, but Schulz said he hopes to revisit the issue this winter and hold another public meeting to better articulate the DNR’s intent.
The increased harvest was proposed to help state forest staff cull the burgeoning aspen population in the Cloverland segment, thereby allowing the land to return to its more natural boreal forest state. The region had been managed by Wausau Paper Mills for years before the state took over ownership, and surveys found 4,890 acres of the 5,889 parcel were comprised of aspen.
Schulz also addressed a question from an audience member who wanted to know what changes might be in store for the state forest when Gov.-elect Scott Walker takes office in 2011.
Schulz said the DNR may face some budget cuts, but nothing is certain at this point.
“There’s a lot of stuff up in the air,” Schulz said. “We really don’t know what he will do with his administration.”
The Brule River State Forest has operated with its full-time forester position unfilled for more than four years now due to lack of funding.