Partnerships to take on climate change: Adaptation forestry and conifer strongholds projects in the Northwoods, Minnesota, USA

Mark A. White, Meredith W. Cornett, Katie Frerker, Julie R. Etterson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Northeastern Minnesota forests are vulnerable to declines in boreal tree species at their southern range limits. Temperate tree species may have a competitive advantage in this region as the climate warms. Enhancing the adaptive capacity of northern forests requires a multifaceted approach, one that involves cooperative relations given the region’s complex ownership patterns. In this context, a nongovernment conservation organization and public land-management agencies are partnering to test climate-informed forest management approaches, including: (1) Resilience, targeting northern conifer planting at “climate-resilient sites” with suitable microclimates to sustain boreal species over time; (2) Transition, catalyzing the shift to a temperate forest matrix using within-range plantings of native, climate-adapted tree species. Deployed together, Resilience and Transition strategies can help the Northwoods shift towards future forest conditions. Results from this work will help land managers make informed decisions about forest management and enhance landscape resilience in a changing climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-232
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Forestry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 7 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
An Interagency Project Advisory Committee (IPAC) provided guidance both in formulating the project proposal and also implementing the work, which was awarded funding from the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Climate Adaptation Fund. Key among these advisors were representatives from federal, state, and tribal agencies, as well as members from the research community (see Table 1). Over the course of the project, partnerships between the participating organizations have broadened and expanded to include an array of activities beyond the initial intent of the collaboration. For instance, federal and NGO partners are now working together to develop and pursue shared goals for climate adaptation in northern forests and a mutually held vision for accelerating the pace and scale of forest restoration. Partners have also worked together to develop a communications plan focused on climate adaptation, including conducting presentations and trainings for staff and leadership of multiple organizations. The capacity for resource sharing has also increased between partners. For example, federal partners provided funding for a second year of data collection on Conifer Stronghold sites, and NGOs provided data layers and training on resilient and connected lands to other collaborators to help incorporate climate adaptation into the restoration planning process.

Funding Information:
Plantings were funded by two grants from the Wildlife Conservation Society Climate Adaptation Fund, originating from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation. Additional

Funding Information:
financial support for this work was generously provided by The Nature Conservancy through the Cox Family Fund for Science and Research, and the Carolyn M. Crosby Foundation. S. Handler, C. Swanston, and K. Hall provided invaluable advice in conceptualizing and designing the Adaptation Forestry project. E. Sagor, M. Windmuller-Campione, S. Handler, P. Dubuque, E. Hahn, and E. Peters provided valuable guidance in developing the Conifer Strongholds project. We thank C. Dunham for planting co-ordination and field operations. J. Mead, A. Tse, D. Myhre, D. Thiel, B. Cogger, R. Sullivan, K. Campbell, G. Alexander, and M. Reitz provided field assistance. R. Sagar assisted with spatial data preparation and field measurements. We thank the Superior National Forest, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources—Division of Forestry, Saint Louis County and Lake County for the permission to locate experimental plantings on their lands. Finally, we thank the three anonymous reviewers for providing valuable comments and suggestions that have greatly improved this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright © 2020 Society of American Foresters.


  • Adaptative management
  • Climate change
  • Forest restoration
  • Minnesota


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