Cut Down: State’s Tallest Jack Pine Hacked Before Earth Day

On Earth Day, we are sad to report the tallest jack pine in Minnesota was chopped down. It happened earlier in April, with the cited reason being a clear cut to make way for a mine expansion.

Jack Pine
Record tree before the incident; photo by Dale Irish

The tree in northern Minnesota near the town of Mountain Iron is gone. In a bitter twist, the mine expansion has been put on hold due to falling taconite prices.

Dale Irish, who recently sold the land where the tree grew, said the pine did not even need to be cut to allow for the expansion.

“It’s somewhat of a tragedy,” Irish told the Minneapolis Star Tribune, adding that the tree was poised to be named the largest in the nation.

Jack Pine 2
Cut down for a mine expansion; photo by Dale Irish

It was cut down just three days after being named the largest tree of its kind in the state.

A logger cut it down as part of a $40 million expansion of U.S. Steel’s Minntac mine.

Mine Expansion

A U.S. Steel spokeswoman told the Star Tribune she didn’t know if the company was aware of the tree’s distinction or if that would have saved the tree.

The mine expansion, approved by the state Legislature last fall, will allow for growth of the state’s largest taconite mine by 483 acres.

Irish’s former one-acre parcel will be part of the blast zone and not actually mined.

Because taconite prices have been plummeting, U.S. Steel announced on March 31 that it was idling part of its Minntac plant and will lay off about 700 workers. The expansion has been postponed.

Jack Pine Record

The jack pine grows in northern forests from Canada to the Rocky Mountains. Minnesota has some of the biggest populations of the tree in the country.

While the unfortunate incident just before Earth Day is a reminder of our roles as stewards of land and forests, it should be noted that jack pines are not a highly regarded tree.

Scraggly and short-lived compared with other varieties, this “champion” tree in Minnesota measured 57 feet tall, with a circumference of 7 feet, 3 inches, and an average crown of 32 feet.

Jack pine (full grown, left) and close-up of needles; photo Wikipedia Commons
Jack pine (full grown, left) and close-up of needles; photo Wikipedia Commons

The combined height and width measurements were used by forestry officials in Minnesota to score the tree (it garnered 152 points to claim the record). It was immediately declared state champion.

For comparison, the tallest white pine in Minnesota, found in Itasca State Park, measures 110.7 feet.

Sean McCoy

Editorial Director Sean McCoy is a life-long outdoorsman who grew up hunting and fishing central Wisconsin forests and lakes. He joined GearJunkie after a 10-year stint as a newspaperman in the Caribbean, where he learned sailing and wooden-boat repair. Based in GearJunkie's Denver office, McCoy is an avid trail runner, camper, hunter, angler, mountain biker, skier, and beer tester.