Wiidookodaadiyang Giniigaanayi'iiminaaning - “Working Together for our Future”

Red Lake Forestry Greenhouse: Will Restore The Great Pine Forests


Greenhouse manager Gloria Whitefeather-Spears describes how the seeds are planted. Gloria has been doing this work for 32 years and is completely self-taught.

NOTE: Over the rest of Summer and into the Fall, we will be publishing stories and many photos of; recently completed, current, and future projects in progress on the Red Lake Indian Reservation...for the betterment of the Nation and it’s members.

The Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians has several million dollars worth of construction going on this Summer and Fall, including; housing, environmental and energy initiatives, elder and youth services, transportation, infrastructure and more.

In this SECOND of the series, the Red Lake Forestry Greenhouse is highlighted, along with the recently completed Red Lake Nation Energy, Propane.

Red Lake Forestry Greenhouse: Will Restore The Great Pine Forests


Recently, Red Lake Nation completed construction of a new Forest Development Center that will enable the Red Lake Band to begin the reforestation of the majestic pine that once covered it’s aboriginal homelands.

Most of these great pine stands were gone, and replaced with other species long before most of us were born. The big red and white pine were gone, logged by the BIA, the resource depleted. The time has come to bring the great pine forests back.

Part of the plan of the Forestry Settlement Agreement with the federal government requires reforestation of the Red Lake Indian Forest. The big pine area which has been replaced by poplar and other types of deciduous trees, will be reforested with pines. According to Red Lake Chairman Floyd Jourdain, Jr. “a certain amount of money has been allotted to reforest, re-stock our forests, I feel it mirrors the return of the walleye”.

Part of a loan agreement with the Shakopee Mdewankanton Sioux Community, providing funds for Seven Clans Red Lake, Ponemah Elderly Nutrition, Ponemah sub-station for police, and public safety; included monies for a Forest Development Center or Greenhouse, so that Red Lake could reforest from seed that is indigenous to the homeland.

Forest Development Center (Greenhouse)

The Forest Development Center contains three state of the art computer controlled greenhouses, a technologically advanced nursery, and seed bank, along with a laboratory and testing facilities.

The center has the capability of producing 1,000,000 seedlings annually. Adjacent to the Red Lake elementary school, the center will do much more than grow trees, it will soon open its doors to students for historical, cultural, and natural resource education. The forest work itself will also be an area for education.

“The 50-year plan is to replant the 50,000 acre Red Lake Indian Forest”, said Gloria Whitefeather-Spears, Red Lake Forestry Greenhouse Manager during a recent tour. “That’s 1,000 acres per year”. Whitefeather-Spears noted that “10% of the land is infrastructure, so 10% of the planting has been shifted to the ceded lands. The goal is to plant 250 acres each year per district, of an overall goal of of 1000 acres per year.

The first stop on the tour with Whitefeather-Spears was “cold storage”. “We pick our own cones wherever the loggers are," she said. “Tribal members are employed to pick the cones and are paid by the bushel. The cones are then shipped to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Akeley, who separate the cones by species."

And there is a reason why Red Lakers are hired to pick cones on the reservation. Because the pines have great cultural significance to the Red Lake Band of Chippewa, Whitefeather-Spears asserted, “we pick our own cones so that Red Lake maintains it owns species indigenous to Red Lake, so these pines will be as native as they were over 100 years ago."

Seed storage is important because seeds will seldom be used as nature would have it...which is to fall in the Autumn, lay over the Winter, and germinate in the Spring. So the greenhouse is set up to simulate all four seasons.

“We fool the seeds so that we can plant anytime of year by using cold storage” said Whitefeather-Spears. “The freezer is Winter for the seeds., then they are moved to the refrigerator to simulate Spring, then Summer is in the greenhouse. Seeds fall in the Autumn which is their time for acclimating to the out of doors. In the near future, plans call for a shade house which will simulate Autumn."

At the Greenhouse, workers do soil tests to make sure the seeds have exactly what they need to be healthy. “We do ph tests on the water, and then modify the water for acidity that’s proper for a particular tree so that we can provide perfect conditions," she said.

The greenhouse is controlled by an environmental controller that regulates heat, light, cooling, shade, ventilation, and a CO2 generator. The CO2 helps get and keep the trees green and healthy. The Greenhouse has irrigation too, which can be automatic or manual. Lighting is provided by sodium arc lights.

Red Lake continues to support “green” technology in many areas, and the Greenhouse is no exception. The three greenhouses measure 120 X 42 feet. The walls of the greenhouse are twin wall polycarbonate. All water in the greenhouse is reused, with a “flow-through” system, water is saved and then recycled. In winter the heat comes from five huge wood burning stoves.

Keeping in mind the tribal council’s policy of “jobs for members first”, firewood is obtained from Red Lake loggers. The stoves are staffed 24 hours a day, temperature is tightly managed with computer controlled thermostats and blowers. Last year the greenhouse went through 200 cords of wood.

This is the first crop with the new equipment at the new Greenhouse. Currently the trees being planted and grown are Red Pine or Norway Pine, White Spruce, and Jack pine. White Pine will be added soon. Trees need to be treated individually, because like vegetables, they germinate slower or quicker, and grow at different rates. Jack pine grow faster. White spruce grow slower at 1/8” per month.

The old greenhouse at Redby was dismantled in 2009. It grew trees for other tribes and four state DNR’s. All trees grown at the new Greenhouse are only for the Red Lake forest. None of the trees are for sale. In accordance with the agreement on the suit with the federal government, all trees grown at the Forest Development Center are to replace the Red Lake Indian Forest that was depleted so many years ago.

The Greenhouse employs two foresters, manager (Whitefeather-Spears), three technicians, and four greenhouse aides.

Red Lake Indian Forest Pine Restoration Plan:

According to Jeff Fossen, Red Lake Forestry Director, the Red Lake Indian Forest Reforestation Plan implements the Red Lake Band of Chippewa Indians’ goal of restoring pine to pine site within the Red Lake Indian Forest.

This goal reflects the Band’s independent determination that the perpetual timber crops mandated by Congress in the Act of May 18th, 1916 are of great cultural and economic significance for the Band.

Pine sites are those areas capable of supporting valuable species of pine as the primary cover type, and can be determined in large measure by where pine was historically found before the massive logging efforts of the 19th and 20th century. The plan calls for reforesting approximately 1000 acres per year for 50 years.

“Many things need to be considered when analyzing this Plan," cautioned Fossen. “One consideration, the program cannot jump to 1000 acres in one year. It will require several years to expand seedling growing facilities, accomplishing necessary site preparation, develop and implement alternative planting strategies, and gradually increase staff, including the training of band members where appropriate."

Employment of as many band members as possible at all levels of the Plan’s implementation will not only provide badly-needed jobs but will also increase the cultural understanding of the need for the practice of sound forestry for the Band’s future. Significant capital expenditures will also be needed in the initial years of the Plan. Availability of funds for these infrastructure expenses may affect the Band’s ability to implement the Plan as drafted.

“The figure of 1000 acres per year is a goal and will vary based on a number of factors”, Fossen observed. “Harvest and conversion of existing cover types, wild fires and weather patterns will affect planting and production."

He added that growing experience and changes in technology may facilitate more aggressive efforts. And finally, availability of funds and other tribal needs also may influence what may be done and when.

The three new greenhouses measure 120 X 42 feet each


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