The Big Bog IBA, generally known as the Red Lake Peatlands, contains some of the most unique terrain and habitat in the United States. It is a vast, forested, boreal landscape at a latitude where elsewhere in the eastern forest in the US, boreal forest is uncommon. Although the boreal forest reaches the southern edge of its distribution across the Upper Great Lakes Region, tamarack and black spruce are not extensive in either northern Wisconsin or northern Michigan. In the Ecological Land Classification System for Minnesota it is subsection C Agassiz Lowlands. This is the remnant lake bed of the prehistoric Glacial Lake Agassiz.

The area is located in north central Minnesota north and east of the Red Lake Reservoir. The site is bisected by Minnesota State Highway 72 from Waskish in Beltrami County to Baudette in Lake of the Woods County. It is bounded on the west by Minnesota State Highway 89 near Fourtown and on the east by U.S. Highway 71 near Gemmell in Koochiching County and Koochiching County Road 13 between Big Falls and Littlefork. The northern boundary parallels Minnesota State Highway 11 from Indus to Roosevelt and includes Franz Jevne State Park.

This IBA includes land within the Red Lake Indian Reservation. The following state lands are within this IBA: Franz Jevne State Park, Big Bog State Recreation Area, Beltrami Island State Forest, Pine Island State Forest, Lake of the Woods State Forest, and Red Lake State Forest, Winter Road Peatland SNA, Norris Camp Peatland SNA, Mulligan Lake Peatland SNA, Gustafson?s Camp SNA, North Black River Peatland SNA, South Black River Peatland SNA, Red Lake Peatland SNA, Lost River Peatland SNA, Carp Swamp WMA, Evergreen WMA, Rako WMA, and Red Lake WMA.

Ornithological Summary

The Big Bog is one of the most unique ecological sites in Minnesota, providing habitat for a diversity of birds not commonly found in other parts of the state. At least 289 species are found in this area, including at least 12 species of breeding warblers. Niemi and Hanowski (ref. 6) list 110 species that are major users of this habitat. Numbers alone do not convey the unique diversity of species found in this transitional zone between prairie, deciduous forest, and northern boreal forest. Boreal forest species such as Spruce Grouse, Boreal Chickadee, Black-backed and Three-toed Woodpeckers and many species of neo-tropical warblers occur and breed in this area. The site is a major concentration point for Northern Hawk Owls and Great Gray Owls during the period November to March. The fact that some mammals and many bird species are at the southern edge of their distributional range in this IBA confers even more ecological significance to this area.

MN-1e: Species Diversity
A total of 289 species has been recorded in Beltrami County, the Lake of the Woods County total is 278 and the Koochiching County total is 254.

Breeding - In 2005 and 2006, the Minnesota DNR Nongame Program did breeding bird surveys in Pine Island State Forest (PISF). A total of 78 species were detected (Appendix 1). The most common species in the survey plots were Nashville Warblers and Golden-crowned Kinglets (both of which were found in all 14 plots) followed by Hermit Thrushes, Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and Gray Jays. Other species that were common in the plots were Yellow-bellied Flycatchers, Yellow-rumped Warblers, and White-throated Sparrows followed by Winter Wrens, Boreal Chickadees, Brown Creepers, Connecticut Warblers, and Dark-eyed Juncos. There were also observations of the following unique boreal species in or near the plots: Olive-sided Flycatchers, Palm Warblers, Great Gray Owls, Spruce Grouse, Lincoln?s Sparrows, White-winged Crossbills, and one Red Crossbill. In the summer of 2006, a breeding Hawk Owl was documented in this IBA.

Migration - In addition to the 78 species detected during the breeding season in PISF, three additional species were detected in May 2005 while survey points were being established, including a positive identification of a Tennessee Warbler (Appendix 2). This observation occurred in May before the breeding season began, and it was likely that migrants were still in the area.

Winter ? Surveys coordinated by NRRI in the winters of 2004-05 and 2005-06 found Great Grey Owls, Northern Hawk Owls, Bald Eagles, Rough-legged Hawks and Northern Shrikes.

MN-2a: Endangered, Threatened or species of Special Concern
These species have been found within this IBA during breeding, migration, or winter. Detailed information, if available, is given in the Species of Importance table below.

Bald Eagle
Wilson?s Phalarope
Yellow Rail
Short-eared Owl

MN-2b: Conservation Concern
This unique area contains numerous species that are considered to be species of Conservation Concern in Minnesota. The species listed below are species which are known to breed within the IBA area.

American Bittern
Northern Goshawk
Sharp-tailed Grouse
Spruce Grouse
American Woodcock
Great Gray Owl
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Bay-breasted Warbler (sporadic)
Cape May Warbler (sporadic)
Connecticut Warbler
Canada Warbler
Le Conte?s Sparrow

This area also provides winter habitat for Great Gray Owls.

MN-3a: Rare, threatened or unique habitat
Patterned Peatlands

American Bittern
Spruce Grouse
Northern Harrier
Yellow Rail
Sandhill Crane
Great Gray Owl
Short-eared Owl
Olive-sided Flycatcher
Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
Alder Flycatcher
Sedge Wren
Cape May Warbler (sporadic)
Palm Warbler
Bay-breasted Warbler (sporadic)
Connecticut Warbler
Le Conte?s Sparrow
Lincoln?s Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco

Conservation Issues

Human disturbance in boreal forests in Minnesota is increasing. It is likely that logging will be more intensive in this next decade than it has been in the last two decades. Peat mining has recently been introduced although at this time it is not known if peat mining operations will be economically profitable and expand. One prediction of global warming in boreal forest is that forest pests will increase. Forest pests are likely to be more intensively managed across the forests of northern Minnesota. Some insect outbreaks (i.e., spruce budworm) are, however, a natural occurrence in boreal forest; insects and their larvae provide important food sources for some boreal bird specialists such as Cape May Warblers, Tennessee Warblers, and Bay-breasted Warblers. The effect of more intensive management of forest pests on spruce budworm specialist bird species is not known; this might be an issue that needs to be addressed at broader scales. In general however, it is likely that increased human activity will aggravate the demise of the boreal forest at the latitude of MN as retreat of the boreal forest is one of the predicted effects of global warming.

Habitat

The Big Bog IBA is a vast, largely forested swamp in the Agassiz Lowland Subsection. The area consists of lowland boreal conifer forests (mostly black spruce and tamarack forest) interspersed with lowland shrub swamps and sedge wetlands. Upland areas, covered with mostly aspen but also with some red and white pine, form small islands in this extensive swamp. The area has escaped irreversible changes from past intensive human activities that have changed the forest elsewhere in the Great Lakes Region. Even with extensive ditching this vast swamp is unsuitable to agriculture as settlers found out early in the twentieth century. Historically, the remoteness of the area and vast swamp presented challenges to logging in lowland areas. In Pine Island State Forest, lowland conifer stands older than 100 years are not uncommon