Protect Key Forest Habitat Lands in Cass County , Phase 3
This project has protected forest wildlife habitat in central Minnesota through fee title acquisition of key forest tracts. Title of lands acquired is held by Cass County in Fee.
Accomplishment Plan: http://www.lsohc.leg.mn/FY2013/accomp_plan/3d.pdf
Central MN, especially areas in Cass County from Brainerd/Baxter to 'walker, has and will continue to see some of the fastest human population growth in MN. This growth has lead to increased demands from use of this area, its natural resources and related public land base that need to support this growth. Development of these private industrial parcels has resulted in the loss of Jack Pine barrens in the landscape of southern Cass County. Industrial forest tracts held by Potlatch are currently being sold to private developers. These lands often provide access to existing public lands for resource management, are inholdings in otherwise unfragmented landscapes, create contiguous wildlife corridors, and protect larger blocks of land especially useful for stand level management of habitat.
Key industrial forest tracts (ie inholdings in large public land tracts, management access issues) are being considered or currently being offered for sale by a large industrial forest owner (Potlatch Corp) in this area. Depressed market conditions and a willingness by this industrial forest owner to sell at this time is an opportunity that should be addressed now since it is narrow and may close at any time. The strategy was to acquire land that completes existing habitat corridors. The land acquired has existing forest access roads that have been used for management access for years. The sale of these lands to private individuals has already resulted in the loss of access for resource management on public lands and conversion from forest to agricultural use. The acquired lands were not being pursued for convenience of management.
The acquired parcels play a key role in future management plans of the Jack Pine Barrens including the role of fire as a management tool. The loss of these parcels to private ownership would have resulted in lost access and possibly loss of forest land. Management of adjacent public lands would have been limited to frozen ground conditions. This would have eliminated management tools such as site preparation of Jack Pine plantings and aerial seeding as well as prescribed burns for Jack Pine regeneration. This type of management requires year round access. The acquired lands provide year round management access to existing public lands in the Jack Pine barrens landscape. The acquisition of these lands provided permanent year round access for forest management as well as protecting habitat in and around the surrounding areas.
The Cass County Forest Resource Management Plan directs the County to acquire land of this nature whenever possible to protect our management access. The Cass County Comprehensive plan requires no new loss of acres of public land and local unit of government input on all purchases and land sales. This project met the requirements of both plans and required stakeholders input as part of the project. The local units of government with private industrial lands to be purchased have provided written consent for the purchase of each parcel. All purchases in this project are supported by both the County and local units of government.
$480,000 in the second year is to the commissioner of natural resources for an agreement with Cass County to acquire land in fee in Cass County for forest wildlife habitat. A list of proposed land acquisitions must be provided as part of the required accomplishment plan.