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Forest, Bay Mills Indian Community ink deal

By Journal Staff

GLADSTONE — Hiawatha National Forest and Gnoozhekaaning, Place of the Pike, or Bay Mills Indian Community, recently signed a Good Neighbor Authority agreement, making the parties among the first in the nation to use the tribal GNA authority granted in the 2018 federal Farm Bill.

The authority provides an opportunity for the parties to cooperatively carry out “authorized forest, rangeland and watershed restoration services” on national forest system lands.

In the first year’s program of work, the U.S. Forest Service will contract services from the BMIC fire crew, which will benefit the crew by keeping members employed for a longer season.

“The Forest Service is excited to partner with the Bay Mills Indian Community in managing public lands. The Good Neighbor Authority agreement will benefit both parties and the public through timber stand improvement and additional fire protection,” said Emily Platt, acting forest supervisor at Hiawatha National Forest, in a statement.

Bay Mills Indian Community President Whitney Gravelle said in a news release, “We are excited to expand existing cooperative efforts with the Hiawatha National Forest. We hope this will be the first of many collaborative efforts utilizing the 2018 Good Neighbor Authority.”

For the first year, the program of work will focus on expanding existing cooperation between the USFS and BMIC’s fire crew.

“In addition to expanding their existing contribution to the forest’s prescribed fire and wildfire response programs, the BMIC fire crew is slated to accomplish about 500 acres of timber stand improvement on the national forest,” said Marjorie Allmaras, the Forest Service silviculturist on the Hiawatha’s east zone, in a news release. The fire crew has assisted Forest Service fire crews for six years.

According to Chelsea Murawski, a Hiawatha forester who will oversee the GNA contract in field, the timber stand improvement work will include manual site preparation such as cleaning in canopy gaps and precommercial thinning in hardwood stands to promote high quality desirable regeneration. It also includes pruning in pine stands to improve tree quality and reduce the risk for forest health issues like white pine blister rust.

“Our fire crew has the skills needed to help the Forest Service care for the land. The projects will provide great experience for our crew members and provide additional stability to our fire program,” said Joe Carrick, BMIC crew leader, in a news release.

Carrick and Don Mikel, who oversee the BMIC fire crew, are both retired Forest Service employees familiar with the agency’s land management.

Thinning young trees, BMIC fire crew members assist with Hiawatha timber stand improvement projects.

Murawski said, “Having an agreement with the BMIC crew will allow us far more flexibility for implementation of timber stand improvement. Unlike other contractors, the BMIC crew will be available throughout the year, which will allow us to schedule projects for optimal outcomes.”

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