Critical Shoreland Protection Program - Phase III
Through this grant, the Minnesota Land Trust protected 641 acres and 39,415 feet (7.46 miles) of critical shoreland and high-quality wildlife habitats in Minnesota’s Northeast region through permanent conservation easements. Landowners donated $2,100,500 in easement value through this grant, greatly leveraging by 131% the $1,609,000 in grant funding provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund. The amount of shoreland protected exceeded that proposed for the grant by 299%.
The natural shoreline around Minnesota’s celebrated lakes and rivers comprises one of the most biologically important systems in the state for fish, game and wildlife. It is also one of its most threatened. In order to preserve this important component of Minnesota’s natural heritage, the Minnesota Land Trust proposed to implement Phase 3 of its Critical Shoreland Habitat Protection Program to protect important lakeshore and stream-side habitat in northeast Minnesota. Building on the success of Phases 1 and 2 of this program, this grant helped fulfill the goals of the DNR’s Aquatic Management Area program, the State Conservation and Preservation Plan, and many other state priorities.
In this third phase of the program, the Minnesota Land Trust strategically concentrated its activity on important aquatic resources and associated forest habitat within northeast Minnesota, including DNR-designated high priority trout streams along the North Shore, sensitive shoreline along the deep-water border lakes and other high-quality aquatic habitats in the region. The Land Trust proposed to protect 2.5 miles of threatened shoreline habitat by acquiring conservation easements from willing landowners to permanently protect a rich mosaic of naturally vegetated shoreline, forest habitat and wetlands on approximately 1,000 acres. The program targeted projects that would help complete gaps in existing public ownership, contain the highest-quality habitat, and provide the greatest leverage to the state. The Land Trust sought donated easements in these areas whenever possible but also purchased easements to complete key complexes. Key outcomes from this project included: 1) healthy populations of trout and other fish species, waterfowl, and other species in greatest conservation need; 2) maintaining water quality of aquatic resources; 3) increased participation of private landowners in habitat projects; and 4) enhancement of prior state and local investments made in shoreland and forest conservation in the region.
Through this grant, the Land Trust protected 39,415 feet (7.46 miles) of critical shoreland habitat, exceeding the primary protection deliverable by 299%. We fell short on our target acres, achieving 64% of our secondary protection goal. In addition, the Land Trust exceeded its leverage goals by 131%, realizing $2,100,500 in landowner donations of easement value. Seven conservation easements were procured through this grant, as described in brief below and in larger context as uploaded project sheets:
1. Ann Lake (Killeen) - The 132-acre project protects nearly 1 mile of shoreland on Ann and Link lakes, and wetlands and mesic hardwood forests on rolling terrain between them. The property extends to the floodplain of the West Fork of the Prairie River, and borders George Washington State Forest on two sides.
2. Burntside Lake (YMCA 1) - This scenic property is located on the North Arm of Burntside Lake. Burntside Lake is a gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and the area contains much of the same rugged character and scenery of that iconic wilderness. This densely-forested property rises over 100-feet from the shoreline of Burntside Lake to a high ridgeline overlooking the lake. The property forms an important linkage with Burntside State Forest to the east and an additional Minnesota Land Trust conservation easement to the north.
3. Burntstde Lake (YMCA 2) - This unique project protects three forested islands in the North Arm of Burntside Lake near Ely. Islands in Burntside Lake face significant development pressure from lakeside cabins that can impact scenery and negatively affect water quality.
4. King Lake (Guckenberg) - King Lake contains extensive stands of wild rice, one of Minnesota’s most important cultural and economic native plant species. This conservation easement protects over 1.5 miles of shoreland on Kookoosh Lake and perennial streams that are tributary to it, in addition to the adjacent rice stands. The easement protects bogs, mesic forests, and wet meadows. Several parcels of state-owned property managed by St. Louis County as well as a public stream access easement associated with Spring Creek Aquatic Management Area are adjacent to the property.
5. Lake Superior (Johannson) - Lake Superior’s North Shore is one of Minnesota’s most iconic cultural and ecological resources, but also one of its most vulnerable. This property protects over 2,300 feet of craggy Lake Superior shoreline approximately two and a half miles south of the City of Two Harbors. The property is located within a site of high biodiversity significance and the South-Central North Shore Important Bird Area.
6. Snake River (Giles) - Situated on a bend of the Snake River in northeastern Kanabec County, this 66-acre property protects scenic hardwood forests and over 2,000 feet of undeveloped shoreline along the Snake River. The river is popular with recreationists and is notable for its remote and wild character, and its diverse freshwater mussel and fish populations. This property provides outstanding habitat connectivity, bordering the Snake River State Forest to its north. These state forest lands form the core of a larger area of protected private and public lands along the Snake River that now totals close to 10,000 acres.
7. Tucker Lake (Johannson) - This spectacular property protects a scenic lake adjacent to the iconic Boundary Water Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in Cook County. Located on the south edge of Tucker Lake, the property features over 2 miles of rugged shoreline characterized by craggy cliffs and bedrock outcrops. Boreal forest and low-lying wetlands cover much of the property, which is located within a site of high biodiversity significance.
$1,690,000 in the first year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Minnesota Land Trust to acquire permanent conservation easements along rivers and lakes in the northern forest region. Up to $220,000 is for establishing a monitoring and enforcement fund, as approved in the accomplishment plan and subject to Minnesota Statutes, section 97A.056, subdivision 17. A list of proposed permanent conservation easements must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.
Forestlands are protected from development and fragmentation - This program will permanently protected 641 acres and 39,415 feet (7.46 miles) of critical shoreland and high-quality wildlife habitats in Minnesota’s Northeast region through permanent conservation easements, thereby preventing habitat fragmentation and associated degradation of near-shore aquatic and terrestrial habitats.
Landowner donation of easement value