By Scott Weyenberg, Fire Ecologist, Voyageurs National Park
Voyageurs National Park is blessed with miles of shoreline covered with towering red and white pine forests. If you are one of the lucky ones to grab a campsite amongst the pines, you will enjoy the fresh scent of pine and the sound of the needles as they whistle in the wind.
The presence of these pines forests is no accident of nature. Fire played a key role in shaping the landscape of the park’s forests, especially pine forests. Without fire, the beautiful forests of pine simply would not exist in their current state. They would slowly be replaced by trees that are more tolerant of shade such as maple, balsam fir, and spruce. These trees are also very sensitive to fire, unlike many pines. Fire weeds out these fire sensitive species creating a more open forest, which is necessary for pines to regenerate.
The park uses prescribed fire to maintain the open forest conditions that favor pine. You will see evidence of this in the area of Mica Bay, where the most recent fires have been. As you relax beneath the pines, remember fire has played key role and allows for a more diverse animal population in the park.