A forest legacy proposal to keep 4,790 acres of working forest land from development received support from the Crow Wing County Board.
Tuesday commissioners approved a letter of support for the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy proposal, which would put a working forest land conservation easement in place on land around Crow Wing State Forest and the Pillsbury State Forest.
Under the working forest proposal, the land -- owned by Potlatch -- would be managed for timber, but also would be available to the public for recreation, with the exception of motorized vehicles, and hunting. The land would be protected from development in perpetuity. Potlatch could sell the land, but the easement remains attached to the property.
Susan Schmidt, Minnesota office director for the national nonprofit Trust for Public Land, said Potlatch is the biggest single private landowner in the state. She said the Brainerd Lakes Forest Legacy proposal was ranked first by the state and highly by the northeast region of the United States Forest Service. The project is included as part of the $2.8 million in President Bush's federal 2005 budget to Congress as part of the federal forest legacy program. The Legislature is considering providing matching dollars in its 2004 bonding bill.
Schmidt said Potlatch wants to keep the land as working forest but is facing development pressure.
County Assessor Marty Schmidt questioned whether Potlatch was going to pay the same market value in taxes with the easement in place.
"So it may not be as rosy as the picture is being painted," he said. "... The public will have use of that property, that is true, but there is going to be a cost for that."
Land Commissioner Tom Cowell spoke in favor of the easement.
Commissioner John Ferrari questioned who would police the non-motorized area. Expectations are for the brunt of enforcement efforts to fall on the DNR with help from the forest service and Potlatch.
Commissioner Ed Larsen said the simple way to look at the project was as a long-term lease for the public that lasts forever.
More information on the project is expected in five to six months.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.