DNR makes history land acquisition

Ensures continued commitment to recreation and preservation



Story by Glen Olson, Chief Copy Editor

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board approved phase two of a plan to buy the largest tract of land in state history, Feb. 25.

The Department of Natural Resources will largely open more than 65,000 acres of forest for public recreation under the plan.

The second portion of the easement approved an additional 21,189 acres to add to the first part of the deal, which purchased 44,678 acres in June 2012 from the Lyme St. Croix Forest Company.

The $16.8 million deal allows outside parties some right to the property. The federal Forest Legacy Program kicked in about $3.7 million toward the purchase.

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program committed an additional $5.6 million. The DNR created that program in 1989 to preserve natural areas and habitat, maintain water quality and fisheries, and sponsor recreation.

The DNR will dub the estate the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest, because the area is located at the top of the St. Croix and Bois-Brule rivers. The forest contains 80 small lakes and ponds, 14 miles of streams and a large area of Pine Barrens habitat.

Doug Haag, DNR real estate specialist, said the DNR and the company both view this as a great deal, because they retain the land for public use and preservation while the company continues forest maintenance and logging.

“That’s how the forest industry seems to look at it,” Haag said. “It takes some of the risk of owning them away, and allows them to manage (the land) for their primary purpose, which is timber production.”

Haag said the arrangement transfers some usage rights to the DNR and public, which constitutes the easement. This prevents the land from being subdivided, and restricts its purpose to sustainable management and public outdoor recreation, he said.

The remaining land management rights may be transferred to a different company, Haag said, but only in phase two’s 21,189 acre parcel, which restricts land use and prevents it from being fragmented or developed by other industries.

“These … have been big blocks of land open for outdoor recreation for decades,” Haag said. “And this locks that outdoor recreation component in.”

The newly acquired land contains seven named lakes and 32 unnamed lakes and ponds. North Country National Scenic Trails cut through the property, and it includes 8 miles of public snowmobile trails and deer, bear, wolves and bird habitat.

Altogether, the easement locks down public recreation in Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett and Washburn counties.

In a press release announcing the second part of the land acquisition, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp said the easement is a win-win for public interest and private business.

“This purchase assures that all future generations can enjoy hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, skiing, bird-watching, snowmobile trails (and) portions of the North Country Trail,” Stepp said.

“At the same time, the land remains in private ownership, on the tax rolls and will be managed sustainably for forestry purposes.”

The Lyme St. Croix Forest Company, part of the Lyme Timber Company, is a private timberland investment management organization that “focuses on the acquisition and sustainable management of lands with unique conservation values,” according to their website.

Based out of Hanover, New Hampshire, the company has 525,000 acres of land in New York, Wisconsin, Florida, Maine, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Virginia, Delaware, South Carolina, Alabama and Louisiana.

With the completion of the recent easement, almost 200,000 acres of land have been protected through conservation easements, according to the DNR press release.