Beginning in 2010, a group of Minnesota botanical artists applied their skills and knowledge to create a visual archival record of Minnesota's threatened boreal forest. This collection is important because the ecology of the boreal forest is undergoing slow and silent but significant change due to disturbances caused by fire, invasive insects and stressful climate conditions. Lee Frelich, Ph.D., director of the Center for Forest Ecology consulted with the artists to identify the trees and understory plants at risk in Minnesota's boreal forest. Frelich identified 10 trees most at risk in northeastern Minnesota are the iconic Balsam Fir, White Spruce, and Balsam Poplar followed by Red Pine, Black Spruce, Jack Pine, then Quaking Aspen, Tamarack, Paper Birch and possibly Black Ash.
In 2011 two more distinguished consultants joined the project: Gerald J. Niemi, Ph.D. and Professor Emeritus in the Department of Biology, University of Minnesota-Duluth, and Jana Albers, DNR Forest Health Specialist. Niemi prepared a list of boreal forest birds and birds that will migrate north, and Albers a list of native and exotic insects associated with the boreal forest, and the collection expanded to include them.
The project started with artists researching their subjects in books, online and in the forests of Minnesota. The forests included the Northshore of Lake Superior, Itasca and William O'Brian State parks, the University of Minnesota's Landscape Arboretum and Sigurd Olson's "Listening Point" near Ely to study and sketch the trees and understory plants. This book catalogs 83 of the original renderings of trees, birds and insects.