ST. PAUL (AP) -- Several thousand acres of federal land in northeastern Minnesota may be torched or logged over the next three to five years to reduce the fire risk after last year's windstorm that toppled millions of trees.
U.S. Forest Service officials said their proposal would affect 5,000 to 7,000 acres in the northern half of the Gunflint Trail, a 30-mile stretch of road about 25 miles north and west of Grand Marais.
The corridor contains about 600 cabins and resorts on private land, and approximately 31,500 acres of federal forest land just outside the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
A July 4 windstorm flattened about 25 million trees across nearly 500,000 acres in northeastern Minnesota, including the Gunflint corridor.
The proposal, offering four alternatives aimed at reducing fire risks to property, is part of an environmental impact draft released late Wednesday that will be available for public comment in the next 45 days.
The Forest Service's preferred alternative is to log 2,435 acres and to burn another 3,680 under controlled conditions. The proposal would require building 15 miles of temporary roads and would reforest the area with red, white and jack pine during the next few years.
''I think it's great they're finally doing this,'' said Dan Baumann, a fire chief on the Gunflint Trail who also runs the Golden Eagle Lodge. ''Right now, it's valuable timber, so it makes sense to salvage it.''
Other alternatives include logging or burning storm-damaged timber at different sites and in slightly different proportions. The Forest Service is not recommending the option of taking no action, because it considers the threat to life and property substantial.
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