Jack Rajala (pronounced rye-a-la) is the man whose name the initiative and foundation bear. Rajala was a conservationist and forest products businessman who served as chief executive of the Rajala Companies of Deer River, Minnesota, family businesses that produce lumber for furniture, homes, cabinetry veneers and other wood products. A lifelong resident of Itasca County, he developed a deep understanding and love for native northern Minnesota forests, especially white pine and birch.
Rajala’s love for the forest knew no bounds. He planted more than 3.5 million white pines and 1.5 million red pines and wrote “Bringing Back the White Pine,” which was published in 1998.
Rajala also served on the board of directors of ALLETE, Minnesota Power’s parent company, from 1985 to 2010. He passed away in August 2016 at the age of 77.
- Photo courtesy of St. Olaf magazine.
- Deb Amberg, Sr VP ALLETE-Chief Strategy Officer Regulatory Operations & President SWL&P
Minnesota Power launched its Rajala Woods initiative in 2015. Since then, hundreds of thousands of seedlings have been planted on Minnesota Power-owned land. The long-term goal of the forest management initiative is to restore the number of white pine and other long-lived conifer species to more historical levels in northern forests.
Under Rajala Woods, Minnesota Power is planting 3 million white pine and other long-lived conifer species in central and northeastern Minnesota over 10 years. Through 2017, the company has planted about 700,000 seedlings on sites near Taconite Harbor, Hoyt Lakes, Sylvan Hydro, Pillager Hydro, Fish Lake Reservoir, Rice Lake Reservoir, Whiteface Reservoir, Boulder Lake Reservoir and Island Lake Reservoir in Minnesota.
In the fall of 2017, a new seed was planted with formal establishment of the Rajala Woods Foundation. This tax-exempt nonprofit organization will acquire and manage ecologically significant forest acreage on selected lands in the Upper Midwest. The foundation is committed to restoring and enhancing the forests and waterways in the region through professional forest management, including harvesting, tree plantings and maintenance.
The projects the foundation undertakes will deliver numerous environmental benefits, provide access for public recreation, and help support forest resiliency and productivity. The Rajala Woods Foundation is committed to partnering with like-minded agencies, organizations, groups and individuals to advance and sustain forest management goals.