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Decision on Disposition of Historic Kawishiwi Buildings Postponed

The site of the Kawishiwi Field Laboratory was originally established in 1910 as the Superior National Forest Half Way Ranger District.  This was a halfway point within the district, and was located along the Stony Tote Road which became Highway 1 in 1921.  Nine of the buildings on the site were built by CCC workers during the Great Depression (1931-1939).  These buildings have historical significance for the quality of their workmanship and their Rustic or Adirondack style of architecture.  St. Paul, MN, October 12, 2010 - The USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station Assistant Director Tom Schmidt announced today that he is postponing a final decision on the disposition of historic and other structures at the Kawishiwi Field Laboratory, located approximately 12 miles south of Ely, Minnesota.

“Significant interest in reuse of the buildings has surfaced in the past two months,” Schmidt said.  “Although the Forest Service has no need of the buildings for research or land management purposes, we are open to having some other entity rehabilitate and maintain them.”

Today’s announcement defers action on a final environmental assessment, released for public comment on July 15, 2010, which analyzed six alternatives for disposition of the Kawishiwi buildings. The proposed action in that assessment was demolition of the buildings after architectural, landscape and engineering documentation.  Under all alternatives, the site on which the buildings sit remains public land managed by the Superior National Forest.

A final decision is expected in 2011 after options for reuse of the buildings have been fully explored.

The Kawishiwi Field Laboratory buildings are located on the Kawishiwi Experimental Forest, which was established in 1931 on the site of the former Halfway Ranger District of the Superior National Forest. The original 2,633-acre experimental forest was the site of early silvicultural studies on white and black spruce. In 1955, the size of the experimental forest was reduced to its present size of 116 acres. Although the U.S. Geological Survey currently occupies some of the field laboratory buildings, the Forest Service has not conducted research on the experimental forest since the 1980s.  Extensive Forest Service research continues in northeast Minnesota on subjects including climate change impacts and development and evaluation of silvicultural and management approaches that sustain ecological complexity in forests managed for wood production.

The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a mission of sustaining the health, diversity and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. 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.

The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world. Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live. For more information, visit


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Last modified: October 12, 2010