Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy Project Completed (MN)

Cass County, MN, 6/30/2006: -U.S. Senator Norm Coleman and USDA Under Secretary Mark Rey joined The Trust for Public Land (TPL), Potlatch Corporation, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), representatives for U.S. Senator Mark Dayton and U.S. Congressman Jim Oberstar, and other local and state officials in Cass County today to announce and celebrate the completion of the 1635-acre second and final phase of the 4776-acre Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy conservation easement project.

This announcement culminates a four-year partnership effort to purchase a working forest conservation easement over 4,776 acres of prime forestland owned by Potlatch that ensures public access, prohibits development, protects habitat, and links 22,000 acres of public and private land otherwise vulnerable to the tremendous residential and commercial growth pressures affecting the Brainerd Lakes Area.

“Minnesota’s Timber Country continues to face challenges that threaten the many valuable resources it has to offer,” said Coleman. “Efforts like the Brainerd Forest Legacy Project represent the best way to address these challenges, keeping intact forest lands that supply timber products and helping protect soil and water quality, while still allowing for responsible public and recreational access at the same time. The partnerships we are building today are preserving the great Northwoods of Minnesota for our children and grandchildren, ensuring that we maintain both the aesthetic and the economic benefit they bring to the region.”

“The Brainerd Lakes region is home to some of the most beautiful forests and wildlife refuges in Minnesota and the entire country,” said Dayton. “This project is a win-win strategy – it will protect our forested lands from the increasing pressures of commercial development and allow residents and visitors to enjoy our forests’ many recreational benefits.”

“The completion of the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy conservation easement project represents a practical, economical solution to balancing the needs of local residents, area businesses, local government, and recreational visitors. This is a popular area for recreational activities, such as hunting, hiking and skiing, throughout the year. The project also includes more than 3.4 miles on the Pine River which will be designated as an access point for canoes and boats,” said Congressman Oberstar. “This is a win-win solution, and I congratulate everyone involved who worked to complete this wonderful project in a manner that benefits the entire community.”

“I’m pleased to see this project completed. It exemplifies USDA’s commitment to partner with public and private entities. The Brainerd Lakes project demonstrates the use of practical, innovative solutions to manage our natural resources,” said Under Secretary Rey. “Through this cooperative conservation effort, critical forest lands have been conserved.”

The Minnesota congressional delegation, led by U.S Senators Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman and U.S. Representative James Oberstar, secured $2.8 million in federal funds from the USDA Forest Legacy Program (FLP) for this protection effort. The project had been recommended for FLP funding in President Bush’s budget for 2005 and 2006.

The Minnesota Legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty made available $730,000 of critical FLP match dollars as a part of the 2005 bonding bill for the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project. State legislators from the area leading the effort were Senators Paul Koering and Carrie Ruud and Representatives Paul Gazelka and Larry Howes. Other partners associated with the project include the Initiative Foundation, the Brainerd Lakes Area Conservation Collaborative, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota Conservation Federation, The Nature Conservancy and Cass and Crow Wing Counties.

As the market for rural land increasingly shifts to development and subdivision, the Forest Legacy Program and the conservation easement concept is a marketplace alternative to land sales that may reduce public access. In 2002, TPL finalized an agreement with Potlatch involving nearly 4,800 acres of forest in the Brainerd Lakes region to protect the area’s economic heritage while leaving large, contiguous tracts of land open for public access including hunting, hiking, snowshoeing and skiing and eliminating commercial and residential development. The need is particularly urgent in this area, where second home development is rapidly changing the landscape and having a dramatic impact on every aspect of the traditional Minnesota Northwoods experience.

“This project is a winning partnership between Potlatch and the people of Minnesota,” said Potlatch’s Regional Resource Manager Tom Murn. “Potlatch will continue to manage these forest lands in a sustainable manner, growing the renewable wood products needed by Minnesota’s forest industry while simultaneously providing perpetual recreation and other natural resource benefits and jobs for the people of Minnesota.”

“The Trust for Public Land is pleased to be a part of this collaborative effort,” says TPL Minnesota Director Susan Schmidt. “Through the Forest Legacy Program, significant tracts of Brainerd’s working forestland are conserved for habitat and for recreational use, safeguarding the Northwoods way of life for the future. TPL thanks all of the partners, in particular Potlatch and the DNR, that made this project a success and commends the Minnesota congressional delegation for their leadership in securing critical federal funding for this effort.”

“The Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project is an excellent conservation effort. Potlatch deserves recognition for its good stewardship decisions on this important Forest Legacy project,” DNR Assistant Commissioner Brad Moore comments.

The conservation easement over the Potlatch lands, which are immediately adjacent to Crow Wing and Pillsbury State Forests, will prevent development, ensure public access and allow for sustainable forest management, thereby providing raw materials and jobs for the resource-based economy of northern Minnesota.

“Simply stated, The Brainerd Lakes Forestry Legacy Project is a gift to the future – the future forest industry, the future integrity of this forest ecosystem, and to the future citizens that will recreate on and receive the benefits provided by the conservation of these lands as managed productive forest lands,” said Cass County Land Commissioner Norm Moody.

The forest and riverine corridors protected through this private-public partnership provide a wide array of fish and wildlife benefits. Peterson Creek, a designated trout stream, flows through the Pillsbury State Forest area. It is inhabited by brook trout, an indication of excellent water quality. Numerous lakes, ponds, wetlands and streams are scattered across the landscape. Gull Lake, which is one of the most important walleye, northern pike, and largemouth bass fisheries in the entire State of Minnesota is located just east of the Pillsbury State Forest. Gull Lake is also well known for its trophy size northern pike.

These forested lands owned by Potlatch also provide important habitat for many common game and non-game species as well as several uncommon species. The Pillsbury State Forest area provides important habitat for the red-shouldered hawk, a DNR species of special concern.

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Forest Legacy Program, authorized by Congress in 1990 to keep intact natural and recreational resources of the nation’s dwindling forests, provides federal money to states to protect threatened working forests and woodlands through conservation easements and fee acquisition. With its minimum requirement of 25 percent non federal matching funds, the program leverages state and private dollars to complement federal money, creating partnerships that have lasting value.

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 2.2 million acres. Through its Northwoods Initiative, a regional conservation program focused on northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, TPL is assisting communities and public agencies in identifying and protecting sensitive and threatened lands. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.

Potlatch is a Real Estate Investment trust (REIT) with 1.5 million acres of forestland in Arkansas, Idaho, Minnesota and Oregon. Through a taxable REIT subsidiary, the company also operates 13 manufacturing facilities that produce lumber and panel products and bleached pulp products, including paperboard and tissue products.