DNR makes largest conservation purchase to date (UPDATE)
MADISON, Wis. (AP) – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources has agreed to spend $17.3 million to protect more than 100 square miles of forest land in the northwest corner of the state, marking what will be the largest land-conservation deal in state history.
The agency will receive a conservation easement on 67,347 acres owned by Lyme Timber Co. of Hanover, N.H., protecting the land from future development.
Lyme Timber will still own the land and manage timber production, but the easement means the land can’t be subdivided for recreational or commercial purposes. It also allows for public and logging access in perpetuity.
The property is mainly located in Douglas and Washburn counties, with smaller parcels in Bayfield and Burnett counties, according to a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel report.
The land transaction would be conducted in two phases. First, the Natural Resources Board will review the purchase next week of nearly 45,000 easement acres for $11.3 million. The second phase, which is planned for 2014, involves spending $6 million for the remainder of the land.
The protected acres, which straddle the Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, will be known as the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest.
A nonprofit group called The Conservation Fund bought an option for an easement until Wisconsin officials were able to negotiate the deal with Lyme Timber.
“It’s really spectacular,” fund director Thomas Duffus said of the land. “It’s a vast landscape of nearly unbroken forest for as far as the eye can see.”
The area features sandy soils and an abundance of open spaces that alternate with forest land dominated by oak and red and jack pine. It also includes 80 small lakes and ponds and 14 miles of streams.
Other features include access to 47 miles of snowmobile trails and walk-in access to 12 lakes. The property provides habitat for three endangered or threatened species – the Karner Blue butterfly, Kirtland’s warbler and Canada lynx.
“This is a unique opportunity for the state,” said Matt Dallman, a director with conservation group The Nature Conservancy. “It protects important headwaters. It keeps land in timber production. It’s open for ATV use and grouse hunting – and it will be like this forever.”
The transaction with Lyme Timber marks the latest in a series of changes in forest ownership in the state. Paper companies have been selling much of their land to investment companies.
Between 1997 and 2002, more than 1 million acres of industrial forest in Wisconsin have been sold, the DNR said.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.