Deal protects nearly 300 square miles of Minn. forest

A logger operates a feller buncher on lands owned by the UPM Blandin paper company in Sept. 2007.
MPR Photo/Than Tibbetts

The Minnesota DNR and UPM Blandin Paper Company signed papers on Thursday to create a conservation easement on a large tract of forest land near Grand Rapids.

The Upper Mississippi Forest conservation easement will keep 187,000 acres of forest land providing good-quality habitat, timber, and recreational opportunities.

The $44 million deal is the largest single project paid for with revenue raised from the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment approved by voters two years ago. Foundations contributed nearly $10 million.

Tom Duffus, Upper Midwest director of The Conservation Fund, said a lot of forest land is being broken up and sold off for development.

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"This was the time and the place to protect this property before it could be divided and perhaps its forestry changed, which is really the trend that's out there," Duffus said.

The Conservation Fund helped broker the deal.

Dick Peterson from the DNR said deforestation leads to unfortunate results.

"The habitat becomes fragmented, less valuable for a number of species," Peterson said. "Often our recreational trails, snowmobile, ATV, and other trails become disrupted as a new landowner occupies a portion of trail that had been open to public."