Fire in Minnesota Ecosystems

Fire in MN Ecosystems graphic - MN state boundary with forest background

This event is over. It was popular, with 151 registered attendees. See below for slides, recordings, and other info.

Fire is a major driver of ecosystem dynamics across much of Minnesota. Fire suppression, while beneficial, has changed these systems in ways that may threaten long term ecosystem health and productivity. While a variety of silvicultural and other treatments attempt to mimic some fire effects, there is interest in better understanding the roles and outcomes of fire in order to improve the function of our fire-dependent plant communities in the fire suppression era. This two-day event will explore how fire has shaped Minnesota's natural systems and how land managers can safely reintroduce fire where appropriate. Sessions and panel discussions will focus on fire effects in pine- and oak-dominated forest and woodland communities and in the aspen parklands system. These discussions are planned with and for the diverse community interacting around fire-related issues, and seek to build the understanding and communication to support further work toward collaborative solutions.

Offered by the Sustainable Forests Education Cooperative and the Lake States Fire Science Consortium. The Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium, the Oak Woodlands and Forest Fire Science Consortium, and the Minnesota Sharp-Tailed Grouse Society are also supporting this Workshop.

Event information:

Dates: January 29-30, 2020
Location: University of Minnesota Cloquet Forestry Center, 175 University Rd, Cloquet, MN 55720
CEUs: This event has been approved for 8.5 CAT1 continuing education credits by the Society of American Foresters (Day 1: 4.5 CAT1, Day 2: 4.0 CAT1 CFEs)
Contacts: For any questions please contact Eli Sagor, or Jack McGowan-Stinski,, 989-287-1734
More information: Keynote address, Topic areas and presentersplanning team and a special note for Forest Service employees

Event resources:

Keynote addresses:

Keynote One: Gregory Nowacki, PhD (Regional Ecologist, Acting Soil Program Leader, Forest Service, Eastern Region) will provide the keynote address exploring and providing a general overview of Minnesota’s ecosystems at the Province Level (Boreal, Pine-Hardwoods, Oak-Hickory, Parklands, and Central Plains Prairie), and then wrap up with a focus on the fire-adapted/-dependent oak-hickory ecosystem, the consequences of fire suppression (mesophication), and the need for Rx burning.

Keynote Two: John Almendinger (Ecological Land Classification Program Consultant, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources) will follow Greg Nowacki and provide more detail on Minnesota’s fire-dependent ecosystems: fire-dependent pine forests in the Laurentian Mixed Forest Province, fire-dependent oak forests in the Eastern Broadleaf Forest Province, prairie and brushland in the Prairie and Aspen Parklands Provinces.

Topic areas:

Fire History in Minnesota

Presenters and Panel:

  • Vignettes of North American fire histories, Michael C. Stambaugh, PhD, Associate Research Professor, Missouri Tree-Ring Lab, University of Missouri
  • History as Guide in Approaching a Reciprocal Relationship with Fire and Forests of the Border Lakes Region, Evan R. Larson, Associate Professor in the Department of Geography, Director of the Tree-Ring, Earth, and Environmental Sciences Laboratory, University of Wisconsin-Platteville

Oak Ecosystems and Fire

Presenters and Panel:

    • Managing oak ecosystems with fire in the Eastern U.S. - Daniel C. Dey, PhD, Research Forester, Project Leader, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station
    • Fire as a mediator of competition among oaks, grasslands and mesic forests - Lee Frelich, PhD, University of Minnesota
    • Prescribed fire effects on oak timber value - Joseph M. Marschall, Sr. Research Specialist, Missouri Tree-Ring Lab, University of Missouri

Pine Ecosystems and Fire

Presenters and Panel:

    • Reconstruction of old growth pine and disturbance factors, Brian Palik, PhD, Research Ecologist and Team Leader, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station
    • Pine woodland and barren restoration: What is possible with late dormant season burns?, Brian Sturtevant, PhD, USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station
    • Managers perspective of reintroduction of fire in pine systems, Patrick Johnson, Prescribed Fire and Fuels Specialist, USDA Forest Service, East Zone Superior National Forest

Parkland Ecosystems and Fire

Presenters and Panel:

    • Aspen Parkland- a most dynamic ecosystem of northwest Minnesota- W. Daniel Svedarsky Ph.D., Emeritus Research Biologist, NW Research and Outreach Center, University of Minnesota 
    • Prescribed burning (and seasonal effects) to improve management for brushland-dependent species - Rebecca Montgomery, PhD, Department of Forest Resources, University of Minnesota
    • Strategies for Success: Fire in the Aspen Parklands – Jonathan Eerkes, Land Steward, The Nature Conservancy

Organizers and planning team: 

  • John Almendinger – Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • Paul Dubuque – Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • Matt Graeve – Minnesota Chapter of The Nature Conservancy
  • Craig Maier –Tallgrass Prairie and Oak Savanna Fire Science Consortium
  • Jack McGowan-Stinski – Lake States Fire Science Consortium 
  • Brian Palik – Northern Research Station, USDA Forest Service 
  • Mike Reinikainen – Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
  • Madison Rodman – Cloquet Forestry Center, University of Minnesota 
  • Eli Sagor – Cloquet Forestry Center, University of Minnesota

All interested learners are welcome. For accommodations related to ability please contact us at

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Contact Us

Eli Sagor, SFEC Program Manager | 218-409-6115