Over 3K Acres of MN Forestland Protected

Crow Wing County, MN, November 29, 2005: The Trust for Public Land (TPL) has reached a milestone in a three-year collaborative effort to protect nearly 4,800 acres of prime forestland for the public. Today TPL acquired a working forest easement covering more than 3,100 acres of land near the Crow Wing State Forest in Crow Wing County owned by the Potlatch Corporation.

The easement will prevent development, ensure public access and allow for continued, sustainable forest management, thereby providing raw materials, natural resource protection, and jobs for the resource-based economy of north central Minnesota. This acquisition is the first of two phases of a state and federal-funded conservation effort known as the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project. The second phase of the project, the acquisition of a working forest easement over the remaining 1,600 acres located near the Pillsbury State Forest in Cass County, is expected to be completed in early 2006.

Minnesota’s tradition of public access to private land owned by paper and timber companies is under increasing threat as more of that land is being subdivided and sold. In 2002, TPL finalized an agreement with Potlatch Corporation involving approximately 4,800 acres of forest in the Brainerd Lakes region to protect the company’s timber interests while leaving large, contiguous tracts of land open for hunting, hiking, water quality and habitat protection. 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.

“Protecting this land from development goes beyond just conserving a natural area,” said Potlatch Corporation’s Regional Resource Manager Tom Murn. “It protects our resources and allows our lands to contribute to the local wood products economy.”The Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project is a collaborative effort by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR), the Potlatch Corporation, Cass and Crow Wing Counties, local community supporters, and TPL to ensure conservation of these strategically located forestlands for multiple benefits. “The Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project is an excellent conservation effort. The Potlatch Corporation deserves recognition for its good stewardship decisions on this important Forest Legacy project,” DNR Assistant Commissioner Brad Moore comments.

Project partners have secured state funding to meet the match required in order to access these federal funds. The Minnesota Legislature and Governor Tim Pawlenty made available $730,000 of critical match dollars as a part of the 2005 bonding bill for the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project. In September, Minnesota’s Congressional delegation secured an additional $800,000, bringing the total to $2.8 million in federal Forest Legacy Program funds for this project. The funding was strongly supported by U.S. Senators Mark Dayton and Norm Coleman and U.S. Representative James Oberstar as part of the Interior Appropriations bills approved by Congress and signed into law by President Bush in 2005 and 2006.

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 working forest easements. These are voluntary agreements in which landowners are compensated for restricting future development and agreeing to sustainable forestry practices on their property. 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 Brainerd Lakes program is the most significant use of Forest Legacy Program funds in Minnesota to date,” says Schmidt. “TPL is so pleased to be a leader of the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project. This is a significant step in the effort to ensure our Minnesota Northwoods forests will be here for our children and grandchildren to enjoy.”

Once completed, the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy project will ensure the linkage of 22,000 acres of public and private land otherwise vulnerable to the tremendous residential and commercial growth pressures affecting the Brainerd Lakes region.

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. Visit TPL on the web at www.tpl.org