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Chippewa National Forest-Walker Ranger District staff honored

At its annual conference Aug. 5-8 in Ashland, Wis., the North Country Trail Association presented its 2010 Vanguard award to the Chippewa National Forest-Walker Ranger District staff. Presented annually by the NCTA, this award goes to legislators or other public officials whose leadership, actions and advocacy have substantially benefited the North Country Trail.

Tom Schackman, Mitch Bouchonville and the rest of the U.S. Forest Service staff of the Chippewa National Forest's Walker Ranger District have gone to great lengths to support the maintenance and protection of 71 miles of the NCT within the Chippewa National Forest, according to NCTA Star of the North Chapter president Brian Pavek.

"When the NCT was being incurred by off-highway vehicles, Mitch and Tom took action to help the STN chapter and NCTA," Pavek said. "This action has reduced the incursion by motorized vehicles on the NCT while improving the non-motorized experience the NCT offers to hikers, hunters, and wildlife watchers. While the Chippewa National Forest staff had historically maintained the NCT themselves, they have recently supported the NCTA's volunteer trail adoption program in which individual or group volunteers help maintain 1- to 3-mile segments of the nation's longest hiking trail. The Walker District has helped these volunteers out by providing training, tools and equipment, and logistical support."

Walker Ranger District staff have also supported a variety of annual NCTA events on the NCT including Winter Trails Day, National Trails Day, National Public Lands Day and the inaugural 24 Hours of the Chip trail "mowathon" event earlier this year.

Matthew Davis, the NCTA's regional trail coordinator, said, "We couldn't ask for a better partner than the Walker Ranger District staff -- from the district ranger down to the seasonal recreation staff. They continually go out of their way to support the NCTA volunteers and to look out for the NCT, a true national treasure, within the Forest. We are grateful for all that they do to benefit the NCT."

The 71-mile stretch of North Country Trail within the Chippewa National Forest was the original section built in Minnesota and certified by the National Park Service. The NCT passes through a diverse array of forest types and near several lakes, wetlands, streams, and historic sites.

Extending more than 4,600 miles from eastern New York to central North Dakota, the NCT is the nation's longest hiking trail and is one of only 11 National Scenic Trails and the only one in Minnesota. It is administered by the National Park Service but primarily built, maintained, and promoted by the nonprofit North Country Trail Association.

Based in the Twin Cities, the Star of the North Chapter is responsible for maintaining about half of the NCT within the Chippewa National Forest. Other portions are maintained by the Itasca Moraine Chapter, based in Park Rapids and the Arrowhead Chapter, based in Grand Rapids. More information is online at