Conserving Sensitive and Priority Shorelands in Cass County
Cass County's 500+ high quality lakes provide habitat for fish and wildlife, recreation opportunities for Minnesotans, and they are the cornerstones for the region's local economy. However, the future of these water resources is threatened by increasing population growth and shoreland development. Cass County is using this appropriation to provide assistance to riparian landowners interested in permanently protecting critical shoreline areas through donation of perpetual conservation easements on their lands. County officials expect they will be able to help protect 1,200 to 1,500 acres of riparian land, including 3-5 miles of shoreland.
OVERALL PROJECT OUTCOME AND RESULTS
Cass County's 500+ high quality lakes provide critical fish and wildlife habitat and opportunities for public recreational enjoyment. These natural resources are also the economic engines that sustain local communities. Yet, the future quality of these water resources is threatened by increasing population growth primarily along priority lakeshores.
This project focused on permanently protecting some of the most critical shorelands in Cass County using donated conservation easements. Target shorelands were strategically identified by Cass County, the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation, and the Minnesota DNR through its Sensitive Shoreland Study (2008-21010) on 17 lakes in Cass County. Nine (9) landowners donated a conservation easement on their sensitive shoreland to permanently limit future development. As an incentive, the project funds assisted landowners with the closing costs associated with the conservation easement, including an IRS appraisal to enable them to take a charitable deduction for the public conservation benefit donated to the people of Minnesota. In total, 305 acres and 12,039 feet (2.5 miles) of sensitive shoreland was permanently protected.
Cass County holds 8 easements and the Minnesota Land Trust holds one easement. They will annually monitor the properties to ensure compliance with the easement terms. The 9 participating landowners on six lakes (Ten Mile, Washburn, Wabedo, Little Boy, Deep/Rice Portage, and Pine Mountain lakes) donated almost a million dollars of land value to permanently protect critical shorelands by voluntarily restricting future development. The public benefit is the protection of critical fish and wildlife habitat, reduced runoff to further protect water quality, and ultimately the assurance of continued high quality recreational opportunities on some of Minnesota's best recreational lakes. With permanent conservation accomplished at approximately $13/shoreland foot, this project is a model for cost-effective, long-term protection of recreational opportunity, water quality, and critical land and aquatic habitats on highly developed and sensitive lakeshores in North Central Minnesota.
PROJECT RESULTS USE AND DISSEMINATION
The science-based identification of sensitive shorelands and methodology for this project was the premise for Legacy Amendment funding for donated conservation easements on critical shorelands in Cass County and expanded into Crow Wing and Aitkin Counties as recommended by the Lessard Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and approved by the Minnesota Legislature in 2011. The Legacy Funding resulted in an additional 320 acres and 3.5 miles of critical shorelands permanently conserved in North Central Minnesota. To date, the two projects have permanently protected over 6 miles of high priority shorelands in North Central Minnesota. Subsequently, due to the success of both of these projects, Phase II Legacy Funding for additional shoreland conservation in the North Central region was approved by the 2014 Minnesota Legislature.
In addition, it is anticipated that several conservation easements initiated but not completed for various reasons within the ENRTF project time frame will still come to fruition within the next several years to potentially conserve another 100 acres and 1.5 miles of critical shorelands.
The location of the 9 conservation easements in Cass County is included as a data layer in the interactive mapping on the Cass County website at www.co.cass.mn.us.
Throughout the project, hundreds of targeted landowners of sensitive shoreland received information on the benefits of conservation easements. Many presentations were made to lake associations, local governments, and community groups about the benefits of shoreland conservation. Landowner stories can be read on the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation website at www.leechlakewatershed.org. Seeds of interest have been sown that could result in future conservation of priority shorelands and continued assurance of public enjoyment of Minnesota's high quality lake resources in Cass County.
$300,000 is from the trust fund to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Cass County to provide assistance for the donation of perpetual conservation easements to protect sensitive shoreland parcels for long-term protection of recreation, water quality, and critical habitat in north central Minnesota. This appropriation is available until June 30, 2013, by which time the project must be completed and final products delivered.
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".
Click on "Final Report" under "Project Details".