The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota announced today that it has purchased 3,185 acres of forestland in Itasca and Koochiching counties from Forest Capital Partners. The acquisition will help protect timber-related jobs, conserve wildlife habitat and preserve traditional public use of the land.
The property is comprised of 24 separate tracts; however, all are adjacent to private forestland that has been conserved or publicly-owned forests.
The Conservancy will work with Itasca County and Koochiching County officials as well as with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on ownership and management of the property.
“We are committed to working with state and local officials to ensure that these parcels remain working forests,” said Art Norton, Itasca field representative for the Conservancy.
The Conservancy will pay property taxes on the property. Traditional public use of the land including hiking, hunting and birding will also be preserved.
State Sen. Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids said the land acquired by the Conservancy shows the kind of patchwork ownership that presents a risk to Minnesota’s forests continued ability to provide timber, wildlife habitat and public access for outdoor recreation.
"The biggest threat to Minnesota's Northwoods and the quality of life we all enjoy in this region is forest fragmentation," Saxhaug said. "Look at any map of our forests and it resembles a crazy checkerboard. We believe one solution is for stakeholders to work together to consolidate large blocks of forestland."
State Rep. Tom Anzelc of Balsam Township in Itasca County said the people of Northern Minnesota support forest conservation projects that help both keep the land in production and open to the public for traditional use.
“Working forests have been great for sportsmen and women and all of the others who enjoy the outdoors,” Anzelc said. “If we lose them then the public loses access. It’s great that the Conservancy will keep this land open for traditional use."
Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota, said that ensuring that the property is not subdivided or developed is crucial because most of the tracts border forestland already conserved by the state or local government.
Adjacent lands include George Washington State Forest and Koochiching State Forest as well as forestland owned and managed by Itasca and Koochiching counties.
Other tracts are located near privately-owned forestland conserved last year as a result of the Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership, a public-private coalition created by The Nature Conservancy and the Blandin Foundation to help conserve Minnesota’s Northwoods. Additional partnership members are the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, the Trust for Public Land, The Conservation Fund and the Minnesota Forest Resources Council.
“Ensuring that large blocks of forest are not developed or subdivided is a great investment in Minnesota’s economy and our environment. Minnesota’s working forests provide jobs and public access for outdoor recreation. They also provide crucial wildlife habitat and help keep our air and water clean,” Ladner said.
Contributions from 3M, dozens of individuals and several foundations made it possible for the Conservancy to purchase the land.
The tracts include almost six miles of river and stream frontage including tributaries of the Little Fork and Big Fork rivers as well as 920 acres of wetlands and 60 acres covered by lakes.
The property and the surrounding area provides habitat for black bear, wolf, fisher northern goshawk, boreal owl and dozens of songbird species.
“We want to thank 3M and all of our wonderful donors and philanthropic institutions for their generous support and their interest in helping conserve Minnesota’s forests and the abundant and diverse populations of wildlife they support,” Ladner said.
Forest Capital Partners is a private forest landowner that acquires and manages working forests across North America, including more than 290,000 acres in northern Minnesota.
“Forest Capital Partners was dedicated to working cooperatively with The Nature Conservancy to complete this project. This sale demonstrates the compatibility of environmental, recreational and economic interests,” said Bev Rinke, Land Sales Manager for Forest Capital Partners in Minnesota.
This is the third project to be completed by the Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership. The partnership’s first project, known as Sugar Hills, was completed in May 2007 and ensured that 1,600 acres in Itasca County would remain a publicly-accessible working forest.
Last year, the partnership conserved more than 51,000 acres of working forest in Itasca and Koochiching counties after completing the Koochiching-Washington Forest Legacy Project. The agreement also ensured public access for outdoor recreation and constituted the largest conservation project in Minnesota in at least a decade.
In Minnesota, the Conservancy has helped conserve more than 350,000 acres since 1958. The Conservancy has 23,000 members in Minnesota and offices in Minneapolis, Cushing, Paynesville, Grand Rapids, Glyndon, Duluth, Karlstad, Mentor and Preston. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org/minnesota.
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.