Aurora cuts down a tree, Justin picks up nails, Jenna builds a wall, Louis burns a pine cone, Johnny Ray makes pictures, and Kelsey jumps in the lake on June 25, 2018 at the Steger Wilderness Center. Watch excerpts from the full video dispatch below:

The resident forester at the Steger Wilderness Center burns a jack pine cone. This “serotnious” species makes cones that open to release their seeds in response to fire. What’s the ecological purpose of such a life-history trait? Let’s ask Louis.

There are fewer balsam trees in the woods every day at the Steger Wilderness Center thanks in part to Aurora, chainsawer. Thinning overabundant balsam lowers the fuel load in the forest and encourages the growth of other species like white pine, red pine, blueberries, and hazelnuts.

Wilderness Word
by Jenna Pollard

June 25, 2018

A return to normalcy! A bit of a joke as there is no “normal” here at the Center, but after a weekend hosting the “Life Off the Grid” workshop sponsored by Anoka-Ramsey Community College, it feels like home again with just our core crew of staff and residents around the breakfast table this morning.

Will and I put our heads together to prioritize projects for the next few weeks before our next Summit Academy student group arrives. We’ll be focusing on finishing up our first wall tent so that visiting students and volunteers can stay there rather than having to bring their own tents. It’s a huge improvement and helps minimize our impact on this delicate landscape.

We had a chillier-than-usual morning, perfect for sweaty work in the woods. Our crews today divided and conquered – eradicating balsam fir from the surrounding forest, hauling brush, installing flooring and pouring concrete for a wrap-around porch at the wall tent. It was a cool, partly-cloudy day and the upbeat energy of the residents on the job site made the time fly.

Our meals were over-loaded with weekend leftovers. An end-of-the day swim was a perfect Monday nightcap and a beautiful start to a productive week!

-JP

IMG_4319 Nick Sallen is a 21 year-old resident intern from New Hope, Minnesota. He is a senior fish and wildlife biology major at the University of North Dakota and the Editor-in-Chief of The Dakota Student, UND’s bi-weekly student newspaper. This summer, Nick will be responsible for managing the website and social media accounts with help from other residents.
Nick first heard about the center through his roommate, who met Will Steger at UND during the Culture and Climate Festival. After connecting with with Will via email, Nick and Will met in Minneapolis to discuss the possibility of coming to Ely to work on the center’s website and social media.
“Will is a hard-working visionary who knows when to take the lead, and when to empower others to take the initiative. He is a reserved educator, and the world would be better off if there were more people with his personality and mindset,” Nick said.
Nick enjoys the sustainable living that is done here through the use of solar panels, well water and no motorized boats. He is excited to see the center become a place where people from all walks of life can meet to enjoy the flourishing landscapes and life around the center while discussing what can be done on a societal and personal level to limit and possibly reverse climate change damage that’s already being done.
Nick thinks the center is a breath of fresh air from the daily school grind. He enjoys the physical labor that’s done everyday during nice weather. When the weather is bad, Nick also enjoys being able to work from a computer under a roof, compared to being out in the rain.
One of the biggest challenges Nick has had to face at the center is a poor Wi-Fi connection, noting that it’s tough to get any work done when two or more people are connected and surfing the web. Nick hopes to learn more about everyone at the center, because he believes you can learn more from other people than you can from a textbook. One thing that Nick misses is his family, who will be coming up to visit over the Fourth of July.
An avid camper who enjoys spending a portion of his summer in the Boundary Waters, Nick was 13 years-old when he first visited the BWCA, where he fell in love with the land and it’s many lakes shortly thereafter. “I’m more familiar with the Gunflint Trail lakes outside of Grand Marais, but the lakes I’ve paddled through here so far are just as magnificent,” he said.
The other interns can rely on Nick for his curious mind, enthusiasm and honesty. Nick is not a morning person, therefore he was nicknamed “Mogo” which stands for morning gorrilla. During his free time, Nick enjoys running, canoeing, camping, reading and practicing card tricks. The best book he’s read is the Lord of the Rings trilogy.