160 Acres Added to Wildlife Area in Columbus, MN

SAINT PAUL, MN 8/19/2009: Today The Trust for Public Land announced a compromise has been reached to bisect a tract adjacent to Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area in the City of Columbus to meet both conservation and development purposes.

Sale of the entire 160-acre property for conservation purposes had been subject to a series of Anoka County and Columbus City Council votes and lawsuits. But the solution facilitated by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization with offices in St. Paul, will conserve the 80 most environmentally sensitive acres that protrude into the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area (WMA) yet maintain development potential for the remaining 80 acres, preserving tax-base for Columbus.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resource (MDNR) takes ownership of the 80-acre parcel today and secured funding from state bonding, a private donation and the Reinvest in Minnesota Critical Habitat fund (from conservation license plate sales). This addition-a long-time priority for MNDR-will expand a significant wetland and wildlife habitat area that is publicly accessible from within the WMA. The Minnesota County Biological Survey also has designated the site as having outstanding biological diversity.

The 23,000-acre Carlos Avery WMA is the largest of its kind in the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan region and is treasured as public hunting grounds. Encroaching development has threatened to disrupt ecologically important wildlife and habitat corridors. The property conserved today includes wetlands, oak islands, and habitat for deer, wild turkey, waterfowl, and summering birds such as bald eagles, sand hill cranes, sedge wrens, and golden-winged warblers.

“With only 31 percent of developable natural areas protected in the Twin Cities region, every acre counts,” said Susan Schmidt, Minnesota state director for The Trust for Public Land. “We are proud to have played a role in adding critically significant wetlands and habitat to the magnificent Carlos Avery, and more conservation work is needed to meet the demand of future generations.”

Carlos Avery WMA, thirty miles north of the Twin Cities, was originally purchased by the Minnesota Conservation Commission in 1933 and was established as a WMA to support wildlife and public hunting. The WMA is named for Carlos Avery, Minnesota’s first game and fish commissioner (1917-1923), and a staunch advocate for enlarging refuge areas. His efforts led to President Franklin Roosevelt’s designation for the Superior Forest reserve as a national game refuge in the 1930s.

Carlos Avery has two separate management units-the Sunrise Unit east of I-35 and the Carlos Avery Unit to the west of I-35. The Columbus addition will be added to the Carlos Avery Unit at the western end of 167th Avenue.

The Trust for Public Land, established in 1972, specializes in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law to protect land for people to enjoy as parks, greenways, community gardens, urban playgrounds, and wilderness. Since 1986, TPL has helped protect more than 87,000 acres of some of Minnesota’s most special land and water resources, valued at more than $88 million. TPL acts quickly and independently to acquire high priority land a community wants to conserve. TPL buys the public time by securing the land until the public is ready to purchase. By picking up the tab for transaction costs and selling land to public agencies at a discount, TPL has saved Minnesota taxpayers almost $5.5 million dollars in just the last six years. TPL depends on the support of individuals, corporations, and foundations.