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Minnesota

Koochiching Washington Forest Legacy Project

The single largest Minnesota conservation project in a decade will conserve almost 80 square miles of the state's forestland — preserving public access to the lands while keeping their ecosystems healthy for birds, moose, wolf, lynx and the sustainable forest industry.

More than 51,000 acres of forest in north-central Minnesota are being conserved in the deal — thanks to the Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership, a public-private coalition created by The Nature Conservancy and the Blandin Foundation.

$12 million in state and private money was used to purchase a working forest conservation easement from a private, industrial forest landowner that precludes development of the property. Because of its proximity to two state forests, the project is being called the Koochiching-Washington Forest Legacy Project.

An Incredible and Enduring Accomplishment

In recent years, The Nature Conservancy helped conserve large privately-owned forests in Wisconsin and Michigan. Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, said that the latest project’s sheer size and its proximity to 439,652 acres of state-owned land, including the Koochiching State Forest and the George Washington State Forest, made it a priority for conservation.

“Saving 51,163 acres of forest is great work but when those lands combine with existing public natural areas to create a conservation area that approaches 500,000 acres, it’s an absolutely incredible and enduring accomplishment,” Ladner said. “To protect our natural heritage for now and for our future, we need to conserve our lands and waters at a landscape scale.

The Price of Forest Fragmentation

The rapidly changing economics of the forest products industry is forcing an unparalleled change in ownership of the forests across the United States.

Traditionally, timber companies have held large tracts of land which they manage for timber. These lands are home to many wildlife species, and many have been available for public use, providing immense opportunities for outdoor recreation.

But Minnesota is facing serious threats from forest fragmentation. As the long-term management of forests for timber becomes less profitable, many forest owners have put their land on the open market — with potentially devastating results for timber-related jobs, public access and wildlife habitat:

  • More than 120 species of birds rely on the northern forest for habitat, and wide-ranging species such as moose, wolf and lynx are dependent on large tracts of unfragmented forestland.
  • 42,000 people have jobs that depend on Minnesota forest industries, which generate $2 billion in annual wages.

With fragmentation comes the loss of public access and remaining lands that are too small to be managed effectively as working forests. Their value as wildlife habitat is also diminished.

Benefits to People and Nature

Deals such as the Koochiching-Washington Forest Legacy Project protect large blocks of forestland — thus conserving the vital connection between Minnesota’s healthy forest-based industries and healthy forest ecosystems.

This agreement will protect jobs for the area’s resource-based economy, ensure continued sustainable forest management to provide raw materials, preserve wildlife habitat and guarantee public access for outdoor recreation including hunting, fishing, hiking and cross-country skiing.

Abundant and diverse populations of wildlife can be found in the area—including Canada lynx, gray wolf, American black duck and American woodcock as well as neotropical migratory birds and other songbirds.

This project is expected to benefit as many as 81 of the 292 species classified by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as “Species of Greatest Conservation Need” in Minnesota’s State Wildlife Action Plan. These species are broadly defined as declining, rare or vulnerable in Minnesota.

The newly-conserved lands include coniferous forest and peatland along with 13 lakes, 43-½ miles of rivers and streams and more than 18,000 acres of wetlands.

Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership

This conservation initiative is the latest project for the Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership, a coalition of public and private partners working to develop innovative strategies to preserve the recreational, economic and ecological resources of the Minnesota’s Northwoods.

The Partnership includes the Blandin Foundation, The Nature Conservancy, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Minnesota Forest Resources Council, The Conservation Fund, the Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association and The Trust for Public Land.

Projects like this are a catalyst for greater forest conservation throughout Minnesota. By making a gift to the Minnesota Forest Legacy Campaign, you can help protect areas like this today—for the future. And, for every $2 contributed to the forest easement fund, Blandin Foundation will donate an additional $1. If the partnership meets its private fundraising goal of $13 million before July 1, 2008, you’ll also help the program qualify for a $1 million challenge grant from The Kresge Foundation.

Please call (612) 331-0763 to donate today!

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