Agreement Would Conserve Mississippi Northwoods Natural Area
Minnesota conservation advocates and Potlatch Corporation announced today that they have reached final agreement on an $11 million deal to conserve a nearly 2,000-acre natural area along the Mississippi River northeast of Brainerd, Minnesota. The area is known by conservation leaders as “Mississippi River Northwoods.”
“This conservation effort took a great deal of leadership, commitment and patience from many—including Crow Wing County, the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, legislators, the Department of Natural Resources, citizens, and—critically—Potlatch Corporation,” said Susan Schmidt of the Minnesota Office of The Trust for Public Land. “This is a great day for Minnesota, because we will be able to enjoy this spectacular natural area for generations to come.”
The land is a few miles northeast of Brainerd. It has 2.7 miles of riverfront, and will link with adjacent properties to create a 9-mile stretch of protected natural shoreline. By providing an alternative to fragmentation of forestlands, and ensuring the public use the land in the future, the project will protect the kind of natural asset that draws tourists and residents to the Brainerd area, one of the most rapidly growing and developing areas of Minnesota. It is a prime spot for visitors to enjoy hunting, fishing, cross-country skiing, wildlife viewing, hiking, snowmobiling, and canoeing.
From an environmental standpoint, conservation experts consider the land a rare gem. It is home to Blanding’s turtles, bald eagles, red-shouldered hawks, and other species of special concern. The property provides critical habitat along the Mississippi River Flyway, which is used by 60% of North America’s migratory birds. A lake-like basin on the property and a designated trout stream are critical fisheries for bass, walleye, muskellunge, panfish, brook trout, brown trout, and other species.
"This project is a great example of public- private partnership and bipartisan collaboration at all levels of government," said Senator Bill Ingebrigtsen, Chair of the Minnesota Senate's Environment and Natural Resources Committee and an early champion of the project. "The Trust for Public Land worked very hard to secure this pristine property. Their work with LSOHC is just one more of the many successful Legacy projects that all Minnesotans will enjoy."
Potlatch Corporation has long owned the land, but has been exploring options for selling it for development, including for a master planned community. The Trust for Public Land and Potlatch have been involved in long and complex discussions about the possible conservation future of the property. Land deals of this size are closely scrutinized by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Two land appraisals are required to be completed by DNR-approved appraisers, and the DNR subsequently reviews both appraisals for quality control. The purchase price was limited to the DNR’s approved appraised value. Following lengthy negotiations, the agreement was finalized late last week. The land purchase is scheduled to close by November 30, 2012.
“Potlatch owns lands with exceptional resource values in each of the four states in which we have timberlands. Transactions like this benefit our shareholders and the public. We appreciate the hard work and vision from The Trust for Public Land, the Lessard-Sams Council and the local stakeholders and users that was required to put this complex transaction together. We are pleased to place this special property where it belongs, in the hands of the citizens of Minnesota,” said Bill DeReu, Vice President of Real Estate and Lakes States Resources of Potlatch Corporation.
The land purchase is being funded by proceeds from the Clean Water, Land, and Legacy Constitutional Amendment that Minnesota voters passed in 2008. One-third of the funds set aside by this Amendment are dedicated to restoring, protecting, and enhancing wetlands, prairies, forests, and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife. A 12-member body called the Lessard- Sams Outdoor Heritage Council reviews habitat protection proposals and makes recommendations to the legislature on how these funds are to be spent.
"This spectacular 3 mile stretch of the Mississippi River northeast of Brainerd is exactly the kind of special place that Minnesotans wanted to protect when they passed the Legacy Amendment in 2008," said David Hartwell, Chair of the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
"A cooperative venture like this joins the economic and recreational interests of our local citizens with the world-class Mississippi River resource that we all want to protect and enhance for future generations. Crow Wing County is excited to help move this forward," Said Paul Thiede, Crow Wing County and Mississippi Headwaters Board member.
Senator Paul Gazelka, Representative Larry Howes, Representative Mike LeMieur, and Representative John Ward were among many legislators from both political parties who joined the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council, several environmental, hunting and angling groups, dedicated citizen advocates, and the Dayton Administration in championing the project.
Lead partners on the project include Crow Wing County, which will own and steward the land, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy, Anglers for Habitat, Cuyuna Lakes Trail Association, Delta Waterfowl (Brainerd Chapter) and The Trust for Public Land.
Potlatch is a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) with approximately 1.43 million acres of timberland in Arkansas, Idaho and Minnesota. Potlatch, a verified forest practices leader, is committed to providing superior returns to stockholders through long-term stewardship of its forest resources. The company also conducts a land sales and development business and operates wood products manufacturing facilities through its taxable REIT subsidiary.
Note: This press release contains certain forward-looking statements within the meaning of the Private Litigation Reform Act of 1995 as amended, including without limitation, statements about our expectations regarding scheduled closing of the Mississippi Northwoods transaction. These forward-looking statements are based on current expectations, estimates, assumptions and projections that are subject to change, and actual results may differ materially from the forward-looking statements. Factors that could cause actual results to differ materially include, but are not limited to, delay or failure of the parties to satisfy conditions precedent to closing, fire or other natural disaster, and other risks and uncertainties associated with the closing of transactions of this nature. The forward-looking statements are made as of the date of this press release and the company does not undertake to update any forward-looking statements.
The Trust for Public Land is a national nonprofit land conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, The Trust for Public Land has helped protect 3 million acres nationwide and such places as LaSalle Lake State Recreational Area, Cedar Creek Conservation Area, and the Credit River Addition to Savage Fen Scientific and Natural Area in Minnesota. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.