Minnesota’s largest land conservation deal complete

The Conservation Fund, The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Blandin Paper Company (UPM) announced today the completion of a working forest conservation easement that forever protects 187,876 acres of Northwoods forests, wetlands and shoreline currently owned by UPM.

“This is a historic opportunity to protect and sustain our natural resources on a vast scale for generations to come,” said DNR Commissioner Mark Holsten. “Easements such as this have always been an ideal approach to conservation work in Minnesota. Citizens can hike, bike, camp and snowmobile on some of the most beautiful acreage in the state, timber harvests can continue to bolster the economy, and yet the ownership and management of the land remains in private hands.”

A conservation easement is a voluntary, legal agreement a landowner makes that permanently restricts the type and amount of development that occurs on the property, regardless of who may own the land in the future.

The easement on the UPM lands will provide public access for hunting, fishing, birdwatching and other recreational activities, and will preserve existing hiking, snowmobile and other trails. It also prevents development and subdivision of the lands and prohibits alteration of water channels, wetlands, streams and rivers. UPM will be required to follow internationally accepted sustainable forest management practices by being certified through the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative, with auditing by the DNR for compliance.

“UPM is a global leader in the management and protection of forest resources for multiple uses,” said Joe Maher, general manager of UPM’s Blandin paper mill in Grand Rapids, MN. “This landmark agreement fits the company’s vision for vibrant forests that not only contribute to the economic well being of the region, but also are a source of pleasure and recreation for all.”

Tom Duffus, upper Midwest director of The Conservation Fund, which helped negotiate the easement and secure private funding for the project, added: “This project has been over 10 years in the making. Thanks to private donors, who contributed the largest private gift to conservation in state history, and to Minnesota voters who approved the Legacy Amendment, the dream of many to permanently conserve this amazing landscape has been realized.”

Of the $44 million purchase price, $34.25 million came from state appropriations to DNR’s Minnesota Forests for the Future program, generated from the additional sales tax authorized by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy constitutional amendment approved by Minnesota voters in 2008. The Conservation Fund provided $9.75 million of private funding through a $7 million grant from the Blandin Foundation, a $2 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and a $750,000 grant from Walmart’s Acres for America program with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

The project complements the goals of DNR’s Minnesota Forests for the Future program and is supported by more than 60 local, statewide and national conservation, local government and economic development organizations, including The Nature Conservancy, The Trust for Public Land, Minnesota Deer Hunters Association, Minnesota Land Trust, Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, Minnesota Forest Industries and Minnesota Forest Resources Council.

The Upper Mississippi Forest project conserves over 60,000 acres of wetlands, 280 miles of stream, lake and river frontage and stitches together over 4,000 square miles of public and private forests. The land will provide jobs as a working forest and recreation destination. In addition to the easement, the purchase includes 1,300 acres acquired by the DNR to help consolidate existing state forests.

More information on the Upper Mississippi Forest project is available online.

About The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund is dedicated to advancing America’s land and water legacy. With our partners, we conserve land, train leaders and invest in conservation at home. Since 1985, we have helped protect more than 6 million acres, sustaining wild havens, working lands and vibrant communities. We’re a top-ranked conservation organization, effective and efficient. More information about Conservation Fund available online.

About Minnesota DNR
The mission of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is to work with citizens to conserve and manage the state’s natural resources, to provide recreational opportunities, and to provide for commercial uses of natural resources in a way that creates a sustainable quality of life.

About UPM, The Biofore Company
UPM leads the integration of bio and forest industries into a new, sustainable and innovation-driven future. Our products are made of renewable raw materials and are recyclable. UPM consists of three business groups: energy and pulp, paper, and engineered materials. UPM employs around 23,000 people and it has production plants in 15 countries. In 2009, UPM’s sales amounted to EUR 7.7 billion. UPM’s shares are listed on the Helsinki stock exchange.

http://news.dnr.state.mn.us/index.php/2010/07/08/minnesota%e2%80%99s-largest-land-conservation-deal-complete/

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