Boreal Forest: Minnesota/Canada's Boundary Waters and Threatened Animals [BOOK]
The Boundary Waters in northern Minnesota and in Canada's Quetico Provincial Park contain more than a million acres of southern boreal forest that has never been logged. This craggy, water-defined area left by glaciers contains more than 2,000 miles of rivers and streams. The Minnesota section also represents the northern third of Superior National Forest. You can learn more about the geologic formation of the Boundary Waters and other parts of Minnesota here.
This huge expanse of taiga and streams is home, of course, to many animals. However, several of those animals are endangered or on "special concern" lists, including the moose, elk, and northern bog lemming. Alces alces andersoni, the type of moose that is found only in the Midwest, numbers about 3,500 today. In rising global temperatures, the moose are having difficulties with their thick fur and wide feet built for walking in snow.
Elk, which are Cervus elaphus canadensis in Minnesota forests, are present in particular as a couple of herds, including one in northwest Beltrami County, which is located near the Boundary Waters but not in them. Going forward, the Minnesota Fish & Wildlife Service is arranging to work with Canadian authorities to manage elk herds.
The northern bog lemming is considered fairly rare in Minnesota, but ranges across boreal North America and is found near the Canadian border in seven states. This retiring animal has been reported seen in the state fewer than 10 times since its first sighting in 1932.
If you'd like to read more about the Boundary Waters and its place in American and North American culture, you might try Sue Leaf's book Portage: A Family, A Canoe, and the Search for the Good Life (University of Minnesota Press 2015). This well-written book evokes the feeling of exploring one of the continent's wildest forests. The author notes at one point that while she had often camped with family in other parts of the state, "It wasn't boreal forest, though, and I continued to hear the echo of that first line from Canoe Country, 'I'll always turn to the North!' in the recesses of my mind." Hearing about these things is never a bad thing in early autumn, as the weather starts to turn.
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