$4,600,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with The Conservation Fund in cooperation with the United States Forest Service to acquire lands in fee adjacent to Bushman Lake in St. Louis County to be managed for wildlife habitat purposes. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Landlocked public properties are accessible with have increased access for land managers - The Bushmen Lake tract is surrounded on three sides by the BWCAW and contains over 4-miles of access to the pristine wilderness. The permanent protection of this property would allow for simpler management and access for land managers, and failure to protect this property could increase trespass and reduce access for management activities to occur..
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has ranked this acquisition as Number 6 nationally, and has included $3.5 million in the President's FY 2017 Budget to acquire 2,250 acres of inholdings along Bushmen Lake, bordering the Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) on three sides. The Conservation Fund has been asked by the U.S. Forest Service to assist with the acquisition and requests funds from the LSOHC to permanently protect this habitat to secure over 4 miles of legal access to Superior National Forest and provide critical habitat for moose and Canada Lynx.
This 2,250-acre inholding owned by the Potlatch Corporation, known as the Bushmen Lake parcel, is surrounded on three sides by the BWCAW and lies within the Superior National Forest. It has been a critical acquisition for the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) for years, and has recently become extremely vulnerable due to changing land uses in northern MN. The property contains over 4-miles of vital road access to the BWCAW and a private sale would cut off USFS authority to control access points and enforce recreation permits, which limit access to the BWCAW.Potlatch is a real estate investment trust (REIT) with a fiduciary mandate to liquidate their holdings for the maximum value attainable and pass those dividends on to their shareholders. If not purchased by a mining company, the land would be suitable for carving up into residential lots. In an area with a strong and healthy real estate market, Potlatch has already invested a considerable amount of money and is marketing this pristine lakeshore as a resort destination “on the edge of the wilderness” directly adjacent to Minnesota's most remote and treasured wilderness escapes. We cannot think of a more threatened and valuable property in Minnesota. The USFS agrees with us, and in an unprecedented move, this project rocketed to the top of the acquisition list (a list that normally follows a prescribed chronology of waiting years for a project to march its way to the top) and received the highest-possible grant recommendation amount ever given to a site in the Superior National Forest: $3.5M. The Conservation Fund has been asked to assist the USFS to acquire and protect this property from Potlatch, with whom a relationship has been established on previous large-scale projects.The biggest threats to the Bushmen Lake property are private development or mining interests. Although this property is in an area of low economic mineral potential, it is unique in that the mineral rights are still united with the surface rights and would be included in the purchase. We know of no other property adjacent to the BWCAW, of this size, that still has the mineral rights and is not owned by a mining company or the state for potential mineral exploration.