The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently accepted a donation of 2,751 acres of land in Cass County in north-central Minnesota from The Nature Conservancy.
The property is adjacent to more than 200,000 acres of land owned by the county, the DNR and the U.S. Forest Service. Consolidating publicly owned forest land helps conserve wildlife habitat and access for outdoor recreation.
The donated property is in eastern part of the county, about 25 miles southeast of Walker, close to the town of Longville. The acquisition will help maintain a large block of habitat for white-tailed deer, black bear, timber wolf and ruffed grouse.
The property contains mixed forests of pine, hardwoods, small ponds and wetlands and more than 3,000 feet of shoreline on Camp Lake. More than half of the property is within the Leech Lake watershed. The land includes more than 5 miles of grant-in-aid snowmobile trails. The donation will bring about more opportunities for hunting, fishing and paddling along undeveloped shoreline, hiking, bird watching and other activities.
“This land donation will be managed as working forest that provides for timber production, wildlife habitat and recreational activities,” said Forrest Boe, DNR Forestry Division director.
The Potlatch Corp. previously owned and managed the property and The Nature Conservancy acquired it in May.
The nonprofit acquired the property with $3.1 million in private money raised as part of the Minnesota Forest Legacy Partnership, a coalition that includes business and conservation groups, along with the DNR. The groups have worked together to conserve more than 338,000 acres of industrial forest land to provide wildlife habitat, protect jobs and ensure public access for outdoor recreation.
The Conservancy, which has helped protect more than 672,000 acres in Minnesota since 1958, is one of the world’s leading conservation organizations and helps protect lands and waters throughout the United States and in more than 30 countries.
“Protecting the Camp Lake property was a priority of ours because of its connection to Leech Lake and the Brainerd lakes area,” said Peggy Ladner, director of The Nature Conservancy in Minnesota. “What we do on the land has an impact on the health of our waters.”
The DNR and Cass County are exploring the possibility of a land exchange involving this property in the future. Selected Cass County-administered forest lands would be exchanged for these new parcels, a strategic move that would improve forest management for both agencies.
“Moving this land into public ownership is the first win for the public,” said Joshua Stevenson, Cass County land commissioner. “A land exchange to consolidate ownership and increase efficiencies for the state of Minnesota and Cass County is the second win for the public.”
Lori Dowling-Hanson, DNR Northwest regional director, agreed, “This is a good example of DNR’s commitment to work with counties on more progressive and efficient management of public lands.”
The Camp Lake project came together through the efforts and support of Cass County, The Nature Conservancy and DNR to work together to ensure permanent public access and sustainable forest management on these lands, Boe said.