The major characteristics, unique features, special issues and management activities of the Chippewa National Forest form the four major themes which are woven through the programs on the Forest.
Lakes and Wetlands
Imagine a forest of half water! Over 400,000 acres of the Chippewa National Forest are actually lakes and wetlands. The Chippewa contains two of Minnesota's five largest lakes, and eight different types of wetlands each with distinct plant and animal life. Sixty seven of the 314 wildlife species that make their home on the Chippewa National Forest are dependent on lakes and wetlands. Over 230 species use wetlands and only 20% of Minnesota's original wetlands remain today. The Chippewa National Forest is one of the few areas with wetlands essentially unchanged since settlement.
From the spruce-fir forests that followed the glaciers, to prairie and then the forest we see today, this area has been home to people for over 10,000 years. After the nomadic PaleoIndians hunted here, the Woodland people survived by fishing, gathering maple sugar, berries and wild rice. Pottery was made from local clays. The long established link to the land was interrupted by European explorers and traders in the early 1800's. The introduction of metal and glass changed the lifestyle of the Anishinabe (Chippewa or Ojibwe) people forever. The logging era at the turn of the century further changed and settled the land. Concern over Indian rights and use of the remaining pine forests promoted the formation of the Minnesota Forest Reserve -- later called the Chippewa National Forest to honor its original inhabitants. Women played an active role in establishing this first National Forest in the eastern U.S. Today the Chippewa National Forest and the Leech Lake Reservation share their boundaries. Many of the Anishinabe (Ojibwe/Chippewa) continue to live in the traditions of their ancestors with close ties to the forest and it's resources.
The Chippewa National Forest is home to the highest breeding population of Bald Eagles in the lower 48 Unites States! Over 150 pairs of the magnificent birds live among the pines and lakes of the Forest. Eagles have been monitored on the Chippewa since 1962. Eagles are often seen soaring near the larger lakes and along the Mississippi River, or perching in old growth trees on points of land on the windy side of lakes. The bald eagle is a threatened species in Minnesota. Productive lakes, abundant nest trees and careful management to limit human disturbance maintain healthy populations of this bird once threatened with extinction.
Located near the boundaries of three major vegetative communities; the coniferous forest (pine, spruce, and balsam fir) to the north, the hardwoods (aspen, birch, oak and maple) to the south, and the prairie to the west, the Chippewa has a very diverse ecosystem. Timberwolves, eagles, towering pines and vigorous aspen are just part of the picture. The Forest is actively pursuing a broader ecosystem management philosophy.