Redefining Wilderness in the BWCAW

CSS to Superimpose Title

Redefining Wilderness

In 1964 the United States Wilderness Act defined wilderness as “an area where the earth and community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” This definition has guided management decisions pertaining to some of the most spectacular landscapes in North America yet is based on an incomplete and potentially problematic ignorance of the long-term legacies of past cultural and land-use practices that resonate in vegetation communities to this day. This project reconstructed the fire history of a network of sites across the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) of northern Minnesota and supplemented these data with absolutely dated scars on 243 culturally-modified trees across the same area to assess the potential impacts of Ojibwe land use on the historical fire regimes and modern vegetation patterns of the study area. This research will update and increase the spatial and temporal resolution of the ground-breaking fire history research conducted in the BWCAW by Miron ‘Bud’ Heinselman in the 1960s and 1970s. The results of this work will advance the debate over the extent and magnitude of human influences on landscapes that are often considered pristine or natural, address the important question of the meaning and usefulness of the concept of an ecological baseline in the management of North American forest systems, and advance innovative thinking around the concept of wilderness in order to help transform the ecological basis and implications of wilderness management as defined under the 1964 Wilderness Act.

Funding sources: National Science Foundation Geography and Spatial Sciences and Archaeology programs through awards #1560919 and #1359868

Products

Press
  • Keep your Eyes Peeled: A Guide to Identifying BarkPeeled Pine in the Border Lakes Region of Minnesota and Ontario pdf
Publications
  • Johnson, L.B., Johnson, L.R., Larson, E.R., and Kipfmueller, K.F. In press. Culturally-modified red pine, birch-bark canoes, and the fur trade on Lake Saganaga, Minnesota, USA. Historical Archaeology Journal.
  • Larson, E. R.  2017. Seeking wilderness: Tree rings, history, and the meaning of wilderness in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. Minnesota Conservation Volunteer 80: 22–30. pdf
  • Kipfmueller, K.F., Elliott, G.P., Larson, E.R., and Salzer, M.W. 2010. An assessment of the dendroclimatic characteristics of three conifer species in northern Minnesota. Tree-Ring Research 66: 113–126.
Presentations
  • Evan R. Larson. 2017. People, fire, and pines: Reconsidering wilderness in the Border Lakes Region of Minnesota and Ontario. Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences Lecture Series, Indiana State University, May 5, Terre Haute, Indiana
  • Evan R. Larson. 2017. Drought, water, people, and fire: Environmental history of the Great Lakes Region through the rings of trees. Department of Geoscience Colloquium Series, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, April 13, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2017. People, fire, and pines: Reconsidering wilderness in the Border Lakes Region of Minnesota and Ontario. Archaeology Brown Bag Lecture, University of Wisconsin-Madison, February 3, Madison, Wisconsin.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2016. People, fire and nature: The idea of wilderness and creation of place. Ox-Bow School of Art Visiting Faculty Seminar Series, July 29, Saugatuck, Michigan.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2016. Water, people, and the land: An environmental narrative of northern Minnesota. Crooked Lake Association Healthy Lakes Meeting, May 7, Deerwood, Minnesota.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2016. History of the land through tree rings. Bois Forte Heritage Center, April 21, Bois Forte Reservation, Minnesota.
  • Evan R. Larson, Kurt F. Kipfmueller, and Lane Johnson. 2016. Fire history, climate, and Ojibwe land use over the past 400 years in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness of Northern Minnesota. Lake States Fire Science Consortium Webinar Series, March 17. Webinar available: http://carmenconnect.osu.edu/p7uih249iog/
  • Evan R. Larson, Lane Johnson, and Kurt F. Kipfmueller. 2017. People, fire and pine in the Great Lakes Region. Annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, April 4–9, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Kalina Hildebrandt*, Evan R. Larson, and Thomas Wilding. 2017. The many faces of peels: Defining a normalized language for describing culturally-modified trees in the Great Lakes Region. Annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, April 4–9, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Kurt F. Kipfmueller, Evan R. Larson, and Lane Johnson. 2017. Fire, climate, and people in the Border Lakes Region of northern Minnesota: A new perspective. Annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, April 4–9, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Thomas Wilding, Evan R. Larson, Kalina Hildebrandt*, Lane Johnson, and Kurt F. Kipfmueller. 2017. A new network of crossdated culturally-modified trees in the Border Lakes Region of Minnesota. Annual meeting of the American Association of Geographers, April 4–9, Boston, Massachusetts.
  • Mara P. Larson and Evan R. Larson. 2017. The Fur Trade at Fish Stake Narrows. Westview Elementary Science Fair. February 9, Platteville, Wisconsin.
  • Evan R. Larson. 2016. People, fire, and the concept of wilderness. University of Wisconsin-Platteville Biology Brown Bag seminar, November 15, Platteville, Wisconsin.
  • Kurt F. Kipfmueller, Evan R. Larson, Lane Johnson, Ben Mathys, Elizabeth Schneider, and Scott Weyenberg. 2016. Revisiting fire history in the Border Lakes Region: An overview of fire history, climate, and Ojibwe land use over the last 400 years. The Heart of the Continent Partnership 1st Science Symposium, March 10–11, International Falls, Minnesota.
  • Evan R. Larson, Lane Johnson, and Kurt Kipfmueller. Identifying and preserving Heritage Forest Stands through tree-ring records: Culturally-modified trees in the BWCA Wilderness. University of Minnesota Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative Forest and Wildlife Research Review, January 12, Cloquet Forestry Center, Minnesota.
  • Elizabeth A. Schneider, Kurt F. Kipfmueller, Evan R. Larson, E.R., Lane B. Johnson, and Ben J. Matthys. 2016. Developing a more complete understanding of fire, people, and landscape interactions in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. American Association of Geographers Conference. March 29–April 2, San Francisco, California.
  • Evan R. Larson, Lane B. Johnson, Ben Matthys, Kurt Kipfmueller, and Elizabeth Schneider. 2015. Fire and people in the forests of the Boundary Waters. Superior National Forest Research Slam!, November 10, Duluth, Minnesota.
  • Ben Matthys, Evan R. Larson, Kurt F. Kipfmueller, and Lane B. Johnson. 2015. Spatial patterns in fire interval frequencies in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and their relationship to historical landuse. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April 20–25, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Elizabeth E. Tanner*, Nicholas Harnish*, Lane B. Johnson, Kurt F. Kipfmueller, Evan R. Larson, Ben Matthys. 2015. Fire history, composition, and age structure of two red pine stands along the Border Route of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April 20–25, Chicago, Illinois.
  • Lane B. Johnson, Lee R. Johnson, Kurt F. Kipfmueller, and Evan R. Larson. 2015. Bark-peeled pine, fire and the fur trade: New tree-ring records from Lake Saganaga in Minnesota's Boundary Waters Wilderness. Annual Meeting of the Association of American Geographers, April 20–25, Chicago, Illinois.

Footer Anchor