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
five 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
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
“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.