Minnesota: State may buy a conservation easement for 292 square miles of timber land

It’s an impressive amount of land: 292 square miles of forests in
north-central Minnesota, including 280 miles of lake and river shore,
and 93 square miles of wetlands. The property, all of the land that
UPM Blandin Paper Co. owns in Minnesota, would be protected from
development by a proposed $51 million easement.

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It’s the largest project yet to come before the Lessard Outdoor
Heritage Council, and it poses a big challenge to the group charged
with recommending how to spend some of the money raised by the new
sales tax amendment that voters approved last November.

It would absorb most of the $65 million that can be awarded this year for the outdoors. “This is a huge, all-encompassing project that really is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” said Dick Peterson, forest legacy program coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. It’s about 75 percent as large as all of Minnesota’s state parks combined, he said, or half the size of Hennepin County.

Under the terms of the proposal, to be presented to the council on Monday, UPM Blandin would agree to permanently conserve its land in exchange for receiving about $42 million in outdoors-dedicated sales tax money and $9 million from private contributions.


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