DNR announces large land conservation deal in Northwestern WisconsinThe Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced today that it will purchase conservation easements on 67,346 acres of forest in Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett and Washburn counties. DNR officials said it is the largest such conservation deal in state history.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced today that it will purchase conservation easements on 67,346 acres of forest in Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett and Washburn counties from the Lyme St. Croix Forest Company.
DNR officials said it is the largest such conservation deal in state history.
The purchase — to be known as the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest — is located at the headwaters of the St. Croix and Bois-Brule rivers and contains 80 small lakes and ponds, 14 miles of streams and globally unique pine barrens habitat. About 20,000 acres of the purchase are located within the Brule River State Forest.
The total deal will cost about $17.6 million.
The land will remain privately owned and on the tax rolls but will be forever undeveloped and open to public access, including hunting, fishing and hiking. The forest also will be open for sustainable forestry, including logging to provide wood for loggers and local mills.
Keeping large tracts of undeveloped land also is considered critical for maintain habitat for many bird and wildlife species. The move is an effort to stop the land from being divided and sold for recreational property such as cabins and second homes.
“This purchase forever opens access to hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, skiing, bird-watching, ATV and snowmobile trails, portions of the North Country Trail, and extensive habitat for deer, bear, wolves, woodcock, migratory songbirds and grouse,” DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said in a news release. “At the same time, the land remains in private ownership, on the tax rolls and will be managed sustainably for forestry purposes. It’s a win-win for everybody that will help maintain the celebrated forested character of the north.”
The state Natural Resources Board will review the proposed purchase at its May 23 meeting. If approved, the department will forward the proposal to lawmakers and to the governor for final approval.
The first effort will be 44,679.09 acres for $11.3 million from the state’s Stewardship Fund. The second phase, expected to be completed in 2014, covers 22,667.71 acres for $6 million. The DNR will apply for federal forest legacy funds as well as state Stewardship funds earmarked for land conservation.
Minnesota has been buying similar forest easements on land in several northern counties.
Northwestern Wisconsin logging interests said keeping the land open to logging is critical for the regional economy.
“Maintaining large blocks of working forests is critical to the health of our industry,” Butch Johnson, owner of Johnson Timber in Hayward and Flambeau River Papers in Park Falls, said in a news release. “We’ve seen the break-up of many of our former industrial forests in Wisconsin, and these conservation easements are invaluable public-private partnerships to meet the needs of the public and protect jobs.”