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Monitoring on Blue Lakes Fire damage guides forest management

Courtesy Photo
Michigan DNR
A man inspects the damage to a stand of trees after the Blue Lakes Fire.

It's been just over two years ago since a lightning strike resulted in a massive blaze that burned 2,516 acres across Cheboygan and Montmorency counties.

The state is still monitoring the damage from the Blue Lakes fire to understand how the area is recovering.

The blaze burned for seven days, wiping out swaths of forest in the lower peninsula's largest block of undeveloped land.

Mark Monroe is the manager of the Pigeon River Country State Forest, which lost roughly 800 acres of trees to the fire. He said the state is will make a management decision — on whether to replant or let the area naturally recover — within the next year.

"Do we want to go in and reforest it, or are there some benefits to having some areas more in the open condition of a grassy area for certain wildlife species?" Monroe said. "So we'll make those decisions after we do our monitoring treatments."

Monroe said the scale and intensity of the fire was unusual, and the department will assess its environmental effects long into the future.

"Not just one, two, five years down the road, but hopefully someone beyond my time will still be monitoring to see what these long-term effects are from this particular fire," Monroe said.

Editor's note: The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is a sponsor of WCMU. We report on them as we do with any other organization.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.
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