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Paper birch trunks and limbs litter the forest floor along the Superior Hiking Trail near the Little Manitou River last week. Sights like this are common along the North Shore as acres of paper birch trees have succumbed to drought and disease in the past 25 years. (Bob King / rking@duluthnews.com)

Amid vast tracts of dying birch trees, residents planting the seed to restore Minnesota forests

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The forest along Lake Superior's North Shore has been drastically changed by humans over the past century. Now, people are making a growing effort to change it back.

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In a landscape that's become dominated in recent decades by aspen, alder, grass and dying birch trees, groups are working from Knife River to Grand Portage to bring back conifers -- white pine, spruce, balsam fir and cedar -- that once filled the forest.

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