The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board unanimously approved spending $4.8 million to buy a conservation easement on more than 14,000 acres of forest land in Iron County.
The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is making the purchase from Keweenaw Land Association Ltd. with funding from the state’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.
Conservation easements help protect large blocks of traditional forestlands to protect fish and wildlife habitats. They also ensure public access for activities like hunting, skiing, trapping, fishing and hiking into the future.
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The property, which will be called the Great Northern Conservation Easement, is just north of Mercer and close to the Twin Lakes forest legacy easement.
Jim Lemke, the DNR’s real estate section chief, said it’s also nearby the Moose Lake State Natural Area.
“There are also county lands holdings adjacent to these department lands, and acceptance of this easement will connect or protect almost 32,000 acres of contiguous lands for public use,” Lemke said.
Keweenaw Land Association owns 185,000 acres of forestland in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northern Wisconsin. The company contracts with more than 20 local logging and construction companies and serves 25 saw mill and paper mill customers in Wisconsin.
Brian Glodowski, a consultant for the association, said the land within the easement will remain in the state’s managed forest program that ensures public access for hunting and fishing. The company also plans to set aside around $400,000 from the purchase in an endowment to maintain 16 miles of roads.
“In addition, long-term vehicle access is legally assured forever on these roads that people will actually be able to use because of the endowment,” Glodowski said. “The endowment is there to provide the funds to maintain these roads in perpetuity.”
George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation, called the deal among the DNR, Natural Resources Board and the company a “home run.”
“Our members obviously are very concerned about and appreciate the fact that this will provide excellent access for hunting, fishing and trapping and the roads system to allow that to take place,” Meyer said.
The conservation easement has multiple unnamed lakes, as well as Little Moose Lake and Fifteen Lake. The property contains around 16 miles of streams.
“I feel very, very comfortable that this is definitely in the best interest for the state of Wisconsin, our citizens and our taxpayers and our resources,” said board member Terry Hilgenberg.
The purchase still has to be approved by the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance.
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