Agreement to Protect Brainerd Lakes Forests (MN)
Crow Wing County, MN, 12/18/2003:?The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and Potlatch Corporation have agreed to pursue a conservation easement that will permanently protect 4,790 acres of Potlatch’s working forest in the Brainerd Lakes area from residential and commercial development and help assure water quality and wildlife preservation. The overall value of the easements is approximately $4 million.
The working-forest agreement, which is contingent upon federal Forest Legacy program funding, will protect land adjacent to the Crow Wing and Pillsbury State Forests from development, thus connecting more than 22,000 acres of already-protected forestlands vulnerable to the residential and commercial growth pressures in the area. Under terms of the easement, Potlatch Corporation retains ownership and agrees to manage the forestland for timber and other resources in a sustainable manner. In addition, the agreement assures water quality and habitat protection for the area’s outstanding fisheries and wildlife and assures public access for recreation uses such as hunting, fishing, and hiking.
A key objective of this agreement is protection of water quality in important recreational waterways in the Brainerd Lakes area. The Pine River, a Mississippi tributary designated as a Minnesota canoe and boating route, meanders through the Crow Wing State Forest. Peterson Creek, a designated trout stream, flows through the Pillsbury State Forest area. In addition, numerous lakes, ponds, wetlands and streams are scattered across the landscape. Gull Lake, one of Minnesota’s most important walleye, northern pike, and largemouth bass fisheries, is located just east of the Pillsbury State Forest. Species that are threatened or of special concern such as the Blandings Turtle, the red-shouldered hawk, pugnose shriners, and least darters will be better protected as a result of this agreement. Approximately half of the land protected under this agreement is naturally regenerating aspen/birch, jack or red pine, oak, lowland hardwoods, wetlands or open water. The other half is reforested red or jack pine.
“The entire North Central Brainerd Lakes region of Minnesota is being loved to death,” said Susan Schmidt, Minnesota Director of the Trust for Public Land. “With funding from the Forest Legacy program, we can address the tremendous impact that second home and commercial development is having on the traditional forest uses such as logging, hunting and recreation.”
“The Brainerd Lakes project fits hand-in-glove with our long term forest management objectives. We are pleased to work with TPL and DNR to provide this opportunity for Minnesotans while simultaneously adding stability to our forestry program,” said Tom Murn, Potlatch Corporation’s Regional Resource Manager.
This land protection effort enjoys broad support. The Brainerd Lakes area has been identified as a priority in the State’s Forest Legacy Program. The Minnesota Habitat Corridors Partnership, a statewide collaborative project of outdoor conservation and hunting groups, has prioritized the area. Governor Pawlenty’s administration has targeted the area for water quality improvement. Other support for this protection effort includes: the Brainerd Area Conservation Collaborative, a local coalition of conservation, business and government interests; the Whitefish Area Property Owners Association, a lake association with influence over property owners in one half million acres in north Crow Wing County; Cass and Crow Wing Counties, whose local comprehensive plans identify water protection through protection of large tracts of forest; the Minnesota Lakes Association; the Nature Conservancy; and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
When completed, the conservation easements will be held by the State of Minnesota under the provisions of the USFS Forest Legacy Program, whose primary focus is to prevent the conversion of forests to non-forest uses. Potlatch Corporation retains fee title ownership over the land and will continue to manage its core forestland for the output of timber products, employing sustainable forestry practices on all lands placed in conservation easements. In addition to allowing private forestlands to remain in timber production, the program provides significant opportunities for enhancing fish and wildlife habitat conservation and ensuring public access to recreational lands. In Minnesota, the program is administered by the Department of Natural Resources and has objectives consistent with those of the proposed Potlatch conservation easement.
The Minnesota DNR has submitted a Forest Legacy Program funding request of $2.8 million to the U.S. Forest Service, which will consider the state’s request and submit recommendations to Congress as part of the Fiscal Year 2005 Budget. Congress is expected to act on the budget request before October 1, 2004. Additional funds of approximately $1 million in non-federal funding will be required to complete this protection effort.
Potlatch Corporation, headquartered in Spokane, Washington, is a diversified forest products company with 1.5 million acres of timberlands in Arkansas, Idaho and Minnesota. In addition to being Minnesota’s largest private landowner, the company operates three oriented strand board mills and a sawmill and employs approximately 700 people in the state. Additional information about the company can be found on the Potlatch Corporation website at www.potlatchcorp.com.
The Trust for Public Land (TPL), established in 1972, is a national nonprofit land conservation organization specializing in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Across the nation, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres. In Minnesota, TPL has protected more than 25,000 acres. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission. For more information about TPL visit http://www.tpl.org/.
This news release contains, in addition to historical information, certain forward-looking statements. These forward-looking statements are based on management’s best estimates and assumptions regarding future events, and are therefore subject to known and unknown risks and uncertainties and are not guarantees of future performance. The company’s actual results could differ materially from those expressed or implied by forward-looking statements. The company disclaims any intent or obligation to update these forward-looking statements.