Minnesota - North Dakota - South Dakota

Nature Now: Forests

Doug Thompson’s favorite place for outdoor fun—whether skiing, hunting, fishing or camping—is America’s northern forests. He has been working to protect forest habitats in Minnesota, Wisconsin and New York for more than 14 years.

Today, Doug is the director for The Nature Conservancy’s Northeast Minnesota program and collaborates with multiple partners to protect and restore the forests of northeast Minnesota. spoke with Doug to learn about the challenges forests face, what the Conservancy is doing to protect them and why they are important to all of us.

What do you love most about forests?

Doug Thompson:

I have moved around quite a bit in my life, but I’ve always gravitated to the northern forests. I love to be outdoors hunting, fishing and skiing, and forests are a great place to do all these things. The big trees, the solitude and the wild lakes and rivers found in forest habitats are all big draws for me.

Why do forests matter to people?

Doug Thompson:

Forests are important to people in so many ways. I’ve already mentioned the recreation opportunities they provide, but forests also help clean our air, collect and store carbon dioxide and provide timber products and forest-related jobs. They protect the headwaters of rivers and lakes like the Mississippi River and Lake Superior. And they are home to wildlife including the birds we love to watch and the deer and many other game species we hunt.

What are the big challenges forests in our region face today?

Doug Thompson:

Forest fragmentation is one of the biggest challenges. Hundreds of thousands of acres of forestland in Minnesota have been sold, subdivided into smaller pieces and resold, often for development. With this fragmentation, we lose wildlife habitat, public access, local jobs and the ability to manage the land effectively as working forest. Another looming issue is how our northern forests will fare over time in response to changes to our climate.

How is The Nature Conservancy working to protect forests?

Doug Thompson:

As northern Minnesota’s forests changed hands over the past decade, the Conservancy joined with the Blandin Foundation and others to form the Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership and protect more than 330,000 acres of industrial forestland. Now we’re collaborating with partners on forest management and restoration to make our forests more healthy and resilient, which will help them adapt to climate change. It will also protect the integrity of the rivers and lakes that are found in these forest habitats or whose headwaters are protected by them.

How will a gift to the Conservancy’s Nature Now campaign protect forests?

Doug Thompson:

Minnesota’s forests are iconic. They are part of who we are as a state. Through the Nature Now campaign, supporters have already helped protect thousands of acres of working forest. Now their gifts will help ensure that these forests are healthy and capable of adapting to change so they continue to provide the habitat that wildlife need and the many economic, recreational and health benefits we all enjoy.

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