The Nature Conservancy and the Department of Natural Resources announced today that they have completed an agreement that conserves the Clair A. Nelson Memorial Forest located north of Silver Bay in Lake County. The agreement assures that the 6,252-acre forest, named after Clair A. Nelson, the late Lake County Board chair, will remain a working forest that is open to the public for outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing, hiking, dog sledding and snowmobiling. The forest provides important habitat for a variety of wildlife species and includes the headwaters of the Manitou River, a prime trout stream in the region. To ensure that the forest is managed sustainably, wildlife habitat is conserved and public access is guaranteed, the Conservancy transferred conservation easements that restrict development of the entire forest to DNR.
An agreement to conserve the forest was announced in October 2006 by a partnership comprised of Lake County, DNR, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund and Minnesota Power. Under the agreement, Lake County purchased most of what is now known as the Clair A. Nelson Memorial Forest from The Conservation Fund. The Nature Conservancy purchased a conservation easement precluding development of the county-owned land, ensuring sustainable forest management, wildlife habitat and opportunities for public access. The agreement called for DNR to acquire the easement to ensure long-term management of the forest. DNR acquired the conservation easement from The Nature Conservancy at half the appraised value, with the Conservancy making a partial donation to the state.
“We were excited to be a part of the creation of the Clair A. Nelson Memorial Forest at the Legislature,” said State Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook and Rep. David Dill of Crane Lake. “Keeping Minnesota forests open to the public and working for the sake of jobs and economic development was a key objective of Clair. This collaboration between The Nature Conservancy, Lake County, DNR and the Legislature is a tribute to Clair's work for Lake County and Minnesota."
DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten said Minnesota’s working forests are at risk of being developed but conservation easements can help preserve jobs, wildlife habitat and public access.
“Forest fragmentation threatens habitat, public recreation and the timber industry,” Holsten said. “Easement agreements such as this are an affordable way to address habitat issues and guarantee public recreational access, while continuing to provide timber that is critical to Minnesota’s forest products industry.”
Scott Larson, Lake County’s Board Chairman, said he’s pleased that the conservation of this forest will be one of Nelson’s legacies.
“Clair Nelson was the driving force behind Lake County’s purchase of the forest. Clair saw that working forests and people in Northern Minnesota were entwined,” Larson said. “Whether it was logging, hunting, fishing or other recreational activities, Clair believed that people benefit from managed forests that are open to the public for both their economic and spiritual survival.
“His tragic death only months after the forest was purchased led to the forest being named the Clair A. Nelson Memorial Forest by the Lake County Board of Commissioners on January 25, 2007. Dedicating the forest to Clair’s memory is a fitting tribute to a man who was important for many different reasons to so many people.”
The Conservancy is also in the process of donating a 246-acre tract within the forest to Lake County. The property is subject to a conservation easement held by DNR and is valued at $49,000.
Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, praised state lawmakers, DNR, Lake County and The Conservation Fund for collaborating to conserve the Clair A. Nelson Memorial Forest.
“More than 1 million acres of industrial forest land is at risk in Minnesota,” she said. “By working together, we can keep large blocks of forest intact and open to the public. In addition to providing jobs and outdoor recreation, forests also provide crucial wildlife habitat. More than 120 species of birds including migratory songbirds and ruffed grouse as well as wide-ranging species such as moose and Canada lynx can be found in Minnesota’s Northwoods.”
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. Since 1958, the Conservancy has helped conserve more than 350,000 acres in Minnesota. The Conservancy has 23,000 members in the state and offices in Minneapolis, Cushing, Paynesville, Grand Rapids, Glyndon, Duluth, Karlstad, Mentor and Preston. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
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