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U.S. Forest Service's Kawishiwi Field Lab Designated as Historic District

Kawishiwi Field Lab. Photo by Rolf Hagberg. ELY, MINNESOTA, January 24, 2012 - The Kawishiwi Field Laboratory, a U.S. Forest Service, Northern Research Station facility largely built by the Civilian Conservation Corps and at the heart of fire and wildlife research for decades, has been designated as an historic district by the National Register of Historic Places.

The facility’s architecture and association with the Civilian Conservation Corps were cited by the National Register in making the designation. The National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation's historic places worthy of preservation.

“We are honored and pleased with this recognition of the Kawishiwi Field Lab by the National Register of Historic Places,” said Michael T. Rains, director of the Northern Research Station. “The Lab is testimony to the lasting beauty of Civilian Conservation Corps structures, and I hope that this designation contributes to efforts to re-use the Kawishiwi Lab and continue its long history of benefitting people and natural resources.”

Nominating the site for historic designation was part of the Northern Research Station’s ongoing work with partners to find a new career for the Kawishiwi Lab. A grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation last spring was instrumental in the Forest Service’s ability to prepare the nomination. Designation as a historic district may make the Kawishiwi Lab eligible for grants that would assist partners with the re-use and restoration of the site.

The Station’s primary partner, the Duluth-based Northern Bedrock Conservation Corps, is working to raise money to fund a plan that would identify whether the Kawishiwi Lab can be adapted to meet the organization’s programming needs and, if so, what infrastructure changes would be needed.

“K-Lab is a rare find, conservation corps do not often have the chance to have a permanent facility largely built by the Civilian Conservation Corps,” according to Rolf Hagberg, executive director of the Northern Bedrock Conservation Corps. “This site has great potential to add a unique dimension to our programs that work with youth. The Kawishiwi Lab has a deep history with the CCC and has been at the center of wolf research and fire research that has had a global impact. Our goal is to share that history with others as we preserve and reuse the site. It’s great! This place has a pulse.”

Located 13 miles east of Ely, Minn., the site served as the Superior National Forest’s Halfway Ranger District beginning in 1910. Forest Service researchers assumed management of the facility in 1931, and between 1934 and 1935 several buildings were added to the complex by the Civilian Conservation Corps. A district office, garage, and ranger’s dwelling built by the Civilian Conservation Corps reflect the Rustic/Adirondack architectural style that is characteristic of Forest Service buildings dating from the Depression Era.

Although the Northern Research Station has retained ownership and responsibility for the Kawishiwi Lab, Forest Service research at the site ended in 1987. U.S. Geological Survey scientists continued to use the facility for wolf research until last summer, when the condition of the buildings made it necessary for scientists to relocate to the Superior National Forest’s District Office in Ely.

A year ago, the Northern Research Station proposed to demolish the 12-building Kawishiwi Lab site because it was not being used for research and required extensive restoration and maintenance. In response to strong community support for preservation of the Lab, the Station began looking for partners who could use and maintain the facility.

Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the National Park Service's National Register of Historic Places is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America's historic and archeological resources.

The Northern Bedrock Conservation Corps will connect youth to the earth, culture and traditions while they learn fundamental life skills and values through outdoor experiences, work and service programs. Trained crews will be available to perform meaningful natural resources work in the region for a variety of entities, including: local, state, tribal and federal governments, schools, and private businesses and non-profit organizations.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. The mission of the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station is to improve people’s lives and help sustain the natural resources in the Northeast and Midwest through leading-edge science and effective information delivery.