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Environmental Assessment Proposes New Purpose, Rehabilitation for Halfway Ranger Station

Kawishiwi Field Lab. Photo by Rolf Hagberg. Ely, MN, April 22, 2015 - The  Halfway Ranger Station will take on  a new phase of its 105-year existence later this year under a revised Environmental Assessment released by the U.S. Forest Service – Northern Research Station this week. The new proposed action calls for executing a participating agreement with Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps(Northern Bedrock), a private nongovernmental organization based in Duluth that would manage, rehabilitate and use the site and the structures.

The EA is available online at: http://www.nrs.fs.fed.us/projects/kawishiwi/. Paper copies of the EA are available at the Ely Library, the Duluth Library, and the Babbitt Library. Limited numbers of paper or digital copies are also available upon request, contact John Slown, Project Planner at 406-329-3749 or email at jslown@fs.fed.us.

Two open house events are scheduled on Tuesday, May 12, to give citizens an opportunity to discuss the EA with Forest Service planning staff and Northern Research Station staff. The first meeting is scheduled from 2-4 p.m., a second meeting is planned for 6-8 p.m. Both meetings will be held at the Grand Ely Lodge, located at 400 N Pioneer Road Ely.

“This process demonstrates the value of the National Environmental Policy Act and the value of public involvement in decisions about federal actions,” said Michael T. Rains, Director of the Northern Research Station and the Forest Products Laboratory. “The new proposed action will meet our objective of using taxpayers’ dollars effectively, and it also respects Ely residents and others who support preserving the iconic architecture of one of our oldest research facilities.”

Work on the new proposed action, Alternative 4: Transfer of Site Management, began in 2010 in response to comments received on the Northern Research Station’s Draft EA. Originally, the proposed action called for documenting the site’s structures and demolishing them; public comments asked that the Northern Research Station find a way to repurpose the structures. Following public review of the original EA, only one person came forward with a proposed use for the site that fit with constraints inherent to a site located on a national forest. Rolf Hagberg, Director of the Northern Bedrock Historic Preservation Corps, met with Northern Research Station staff over the course of 5 years and developed a proposal in which the Halfway Ranger Station will be used to train young adults in rehabilitation and maintenance of historic structures.

Located 13 miles southeast 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. The Halfway Ranger Station was designated as an historic district by the National Register of Historic Places in early 2012.

Although the Northern Research Station has retained ownership and responsibility for the Halfway Ranger Station, Forest Service research at the site ended in 1987. U.S. Geological Survey scientists continued to use the facility for wolf research until 2011, when the condition of the buildings made it necessary for scientists to relocate to the Superior National Forest’s District Office in Ely.

The EA and draft Decision Notice are subject to the objection process pursuant to 36 CFR 218, subparts A and B. Objections must be filed by June 5, 2015. Contact John Slown at 406-329-3749 or email: jslown@fs.fed.us to verify this deadline or for more information on filing an objection.

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 www.fs.usda.gov/.

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Last modified: April 22, 2015