Sustain Our Nation's Forests and Grasslands

MIST team gathers data to help improve forest conditions

Close-up of goblin fern.
Rare goblin fern Botrychium mormo.

MINNESOTA—Since 2002, the Chippewa National Forest Monitoring, Inventory and Survey Team has been gathering data pertaining to threatened, endangered and sensitive species on the forest. 

One of the team’s many duties is to gather information about TES species that can be used to make assessments regarding forest management activities. MIST gathers information on soils along with more than 68 species of plants, lichens, birds, bees, bats and insects. In many cases, the surveys require long days of crawling through brush, blowdown and swamps searching for something that is no bigger than a thimble. The crews have to know the very specific types of habitat to search, and often have a window of only a week or two of the right conditions to find them.

The MIST team has remarkable results in finding rare species across the forest, including the rare goblin fern Botrychium mormo.

“We find more goblin fern here on the Chippewa National Forest than any other place on earth,” stated Mary LaPlant, MIST team member. “Recent monitoring efforts suggest we lose more populations each year than we find.”

Since the 1980s, biologists on the Chippewa National Forest have been concerned about the loss of understory plant cover and diversity in areas with high earthworm populations. Earthworms, especially those used for fishing bait, are the major cause in the decline of this species and other forest-dwelling Botrychium within the state. Goblin fern is state listed as threatened or endangered throughout its North American range. Finding goblin fern is never easy. In many cases, the surveys require long days of intensive searches within appropriate habitat for a species that can be as small as four fingerprint lines tall. 

Besides surveying and monitoring known populations of rare species, the MIST team supports forest management efforts. Members of the team participate in ecological inventory and heritage resource assessments. They also complete soil disturbance monitoring, record noxious weed populations, partner with other agencies including the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy on various projects, produce habitat relationship predictive models for a wide range of species, and maintain forest corporate databases for rare species. The MIST team includes Jeremy Cable, team lead, Devona Berndt, data manager, and Bobby Henderson, Allison Kupar and Mary LaPlant, biological technicians.

Group photo of MIST team.
MIST team members, left to right: Allison Kupar, Bobby Henderson, Hayley Sutton, Devona Berndt and Mary LaPlant.