Federal Funds for Brainerd Lakes Protection (MN)

?WASHINGTON, 2/20/04 – The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national conservation organization, and the Potlatch Corporation today announced their support for a White House proposal to provide $2.8 million for the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project in North Central Minnesota as part of the U.S. Forest Service Forest Legacy Program in the fiscal year which begins Oct. 1. The program provides grant assistance to states to help keep working forestlands from being developed in fast growing areas. The Bush Administration has requested a total of $100 million for the program for fiscal year 2005, an increase of $30 million from last year. Funding is dependent on Congressional approval.

The grant from the Forest Legacy Program will protect 4,790 acres of critical forestland in the Brainerd Lakes area, adjacent to the Crow Wing and Pillsbury State Forests, and will connect more than 22,000 acres of protected forestlands vulnerable to the tremendous residential and commercial growth pressures affecting the Brainerd Lakes region.

“The greatest single threat to private forestlands – and their wildlife, water quality, and recreational value – is conversion to development or other non-forest uses,” explained Susan Schmidt, Minnesota State Director. “The Forest Legacy Program has been an effective land-saving response to that threat, and we look forward to continued on-the-ground success in Minnesota.”

The Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project is a collaborative effort among the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Potlatch Corporation, and local community supporters to ensure conservation of these strategically located productive forestlands for multiple benefits. A working forestland easement over these lands will prevent development, ensure public access and allow for sustainable forest management, thereby providing raw materials and jobs for the resource based economy of North Central Minnesota.

“Making the President’s budget is a big step towards accomplishing this win-win solution. Its a win for forest management and win for forest conservation. Rather than being added to thousands of acres of developed forest land this property will be managed by professionals using state of the art forest management systems to ensure a sustainable flow of forest products” stated Tom Murn, Regional Resource Manager for Potlatch’s Resource Management Division.

This land protection effort enjoys broad support. The Brainerd Lakes area had 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 for habitat purposes. 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 ties to property owners in a one half million acre area in north Crow Wing County; Cass and Crow Wing County, whose local comprehensive plans identify water protection through protection of large tracts of forest; the Minnesota Lakes Association; and the Nature Conservancy.

“The Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy program represents the kind of creative, collaborative, forward-looking conservation thinking that will address forestland fragmentation in the Brainerd area,” according to Keith Simar, DNR Area Forest Supervisor. “We are pleased to work with Potlatch and TPL toward the goal of maintaining the natural resources of our area that are being threatened by urban sprawl.”

“We look forward to working with the Bush Administration and the Congress in the coming months to sustain this proposed funding for Brainerd Lakes,” added Susan Schmidt.

When completed, the conservation easements will be held by the Minnesota DNR under the provisions of the USDA Forest Legacy Program. The Forest Legacy Program’s primary focus is to prevent the conversion of forestlands to non-forest uses. In addition to keeping private forestlands in timber production, the program provides for substantial fish and wildlife habitat conservation. In Minnesota, it is administered by the US Forest Service and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and has objectives consistent with those of the Potlatch conservation easement. The Forest Legacy program will provide 75% of the funding, worth approximately $3 million. An additional 25% non-federal funding match is required to complete this protection effort. The matching dollars will come from state, local or privately raised funds.

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. With funding from the Forest Legacy Program, the federal Land & Water Conservation Fund, state and local open-space funds, and other public and private investments, 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, visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org.