Rydell National Wildlife Refuge near Erskine, Minn., will offer woodcutting permits to the public beginning in mid-October and continuing through January. Earlier this year, staff began removing pine and spruce from a roughly 1 acre portion of the headquarters/visitor entrance area of the refuge.

When homesteaders settled in what is now Rydell NWR, many of the trees were cleared for farming. Later, when landowners replanted trees, they planted several small conifer plantations. Historically, woody habitats on the refuge included aspen parklands, dogwood-willow swamp, bur oak savanna and woodland and maple-basswood forest.

Conifers are not part of the natural habitat at Rydell NWR.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff members are responsible for maintaining and improving the biological integrity of the lands they manage. For this reason, refuge personnel are removing these non-native conifers and plan to interseed this site with a diverse mix of prairie grasses and forbs.

After the understory is re-established, Mother Nature by the process of succession will continue to recreate native habitat at the site, which likely will consist of a combination of grasses, forbs, shrubs and deciduous trees, according to a refuge news release.

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Cut trees have been placed into three piles in a large gravel parking area just north of the refuge headquarters and visitor center. One pile consists of 15 to 20 cords of large timbers that range from 13 inches to 18 inches diameter, and are roughly 18 feet long. The other two piles consist largely of slash, but include some usable firewood, up to 6 inches in diameter.

Permit holders will be allowed to cut up and take these downed trees on a first-come, first-served basis, and chainsaws will be allowed. Wood may be taken for personal use only. No sale of the wood will be allowed under these permits.

For more information or to get a permit, contact Gregg Knutsen, refuge manager, at (218) 687-2229, by email at gregg_knutsen@fws.gov or stop in at refuge headquarters at 17788 349th St. S.E., Erskine.