Agreement Would Protect 50K Acres of MN’s Working Forest
ST. PAUL, MN, 6/14/2006: In the largest conservation project of its kind in Minnesota, the Trust for Public Land (TPL), and Forest Capital Partners, with support from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and The Nature Conservancy, have signed an agreement to protect up to 50,000 acres of working forestland in parts of Itasca and Koochiching Counties, the Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership announced today. When completed, the agreement – called a conservation easement – will prevent development, provide public access and ensure continued sustainable forest management to provide raw materials, natural resource protection, and jobs for the area’s resource-based economy. Commissioner Gene Merriam said the DNR will hold and monitor the conservation easement.
“A key aspect of this landmark agreement is that the land will continue to be managed for timber production, continue to provide jobs and revenue for local economies, and continue to generate property taxes as private land,” said Governor Tim Pawlenty. “It will be open to the public for a wide variety of uses, including hunting, hiking and fishing.”
The proposed conservation lands are located in and adjacent to the George Washington State Forest in northern Itasca County and the Koochiching State Forest in southern Koochiching County.
“Minnesota’s forests are being developed rapidly,” says TPL Minnesota State Director Susan Schmidt, “putting jobs, recreational opportunities, and critical habitats at risk. The Forest Legacy Program is designed to prevent these problems – but, it safeguards much more than the land and trees, it protects our way of life in Minnesota.”
Minnesota is facing serious threats from forest fragmentation as many large-scale private industrial forestland owners have put their land on the open market, putting timber-related jobs, public access and wildlife habitat at risk. Protecting large blocks of forestland, conserves the vital connection between Minnesota’s healthy forest-based industries and healthy forest ecosystems. The Forest Legacy program is particularly beneficial because it will ensure a large contiguous forested area, thereby retaining the acreage of protected and publicly-accessible forested land for future generations.
“Commercial forests have been key to northern Minnesota’s economic vitality,” said DNR Assistant Commissioner Brad Moore. “As importantly, for generations, people throughout the state have come to rely on these lands for access to outstanding hunting, fishing and other outdoor recreation. This deal is huge for the people of Minnesota who want to make sure that their children and their grandchildren will be able to enjoy these same forest lands in the same way as those who have gone before us.”
This conservation initiative is the latest project for the Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership, a coalition of 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, Minnesota Forest Industries, the Minnesota Deer Hunter’s Association, and the Trust for Public Land. The Forest Legacy Partnership plans to raise $26 million in private and public funds to secure these critical working forest easements. Late last week, the state Legislature invested some $7 million in bonding money and $500,000 in Environmental Trust Fund dollars, which will be awarded over the next two years, to the forest conservation effort. The effort leverages private and federal funds available through the Forest Legacy Program.
“We are very pleased to see this agreement move forward,” said Ron Nargang, State Director of The Nature Conservancy. “For generations, these lands have provided fantastic public access opportunities and a steady stream of wood for our local mills. This agreement ensures that will continue.”
The Forest Legacy Program was created in the 1990 Farm Bill to keep intact important natural and recreational resources of the nation’s dwindling forests and to protect threatened working forests and woodlands with working forest easements. The easements are voluntary agreements in which landowners are compensated for restricting future development and agreeing to sustainable forestry practices on their property while providing that public access for recreational purposes will be insured.
“This landmark agreement demonstrates the compatibility of environmental, recreational and economic interests,” said Craig Halla, Forest Capital Partners Regional Manager for Minnesota. “We are pleased to participate in this historic conservation initiative with the Department of Natural Resources, the Trust for Public Land and the entire Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership, ensuring Minnesota’s forests remain productive for timber, wildlife and to provide public access opportunities for generations to come.”
About The Trust for Public Land
The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national, nonprofit land-conservation organization that conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Established in 1972, TPL is the only national nonprofit working exclusively to protect land for public enjoyment and use. In Minnesota, TPL has protected more than 27,500 acres valued at more than $50 million including the recent protection of Long Island near Ely, an addition to the future Neenah Creek Regional Park in St. Cloud and the creation of the Bruce Vento Nature Sanctuary in downtown St. Paul. TPL depends on contributions from supporters to continue protecting land throughout the state.
About Forest Capital Partners
Forest Capital Partners is an independent investment firm founded in 2000 that manages over 2 million acres of timberland across North America. Owned and managed by principals who are both professional foresters and seasoned investment managers, Forest Capital Partners is a pure timber operator – a forest-only investment firm without mills or other manufacturing facilities. Our forests are certified under guidelines set forth by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative. For more information please visit our website at www.forestcap.com
About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a leading international, nonprofit organization that preserves plants, animals and natural communities representing the diversity of life on Earth by protecting the lands and waters they need to survive. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 100 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit us on the Web at nature.org.