Champion jack pine tree no match for mine expansion

The state’s grand champion jack pine tree is no more.

It was a good run for the tree in a Mountain Iron neighborhood — two days, according to the Duluth News Tribune.

But after receiving its crown, it was cut down.

“The state was looking for the largest jack pine because the previous one died, which was also a national champion,’’ said Jennifer Teegarden, forest outreach specialist for the DNR and coordinator of the state’s Big Tree Program. “I was able to declare the jack pine in Mountain Iron as the state champion.”

Not much stands in the way of mine expansion on the Iron Range, so the tree had to go, the newspaper says.

The Mountain Iron jack pine measured 87 inches in circumference at 4½ feet above ground. It was 57 feet tall with a crown spread of

32 feet. That’s smaller than the previous state record, which totaled 189 points but died of natural causes over the winter in Lake Bronson State Park in northwestern Minnesota.

But the Mountain Iron tree was larger than any other living jack pine in the national registry. The current national champ totals 136 points.

“That tree was big when I was little. It’s got to be pretty old, but I’m not sure how old,’’ said Dale Irish, 60, whose family lived for three generations at the home where the tree was cut. “We used to swing from the big branches.”

Teegarden said she was unaware the tree was about to be cut down when Irish told her about it on March 24. She asked a state forester to measure the tree before April 1, when the property was being transferred from Irish to U.S. Steel Corp. The company is buying up properties on the north side of the Parkville neighborhood to make way for an expansion of the open-pit taconite iron mine at its massive Minntac operation.

The Department of Natural Resources is now looking for the new champion jack pine tree.