Minnesota signs $45 million deal to protect Blandin forestsThe Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday signed a binding agreement with Blandin Paper Company to buy conservation easements on 187,277 acres of the company’s forestland.
By: John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday signed a binding agreement with Blandin Paper Company to buy conservation easements on 187,277 acres of the company’s forestland.
The land will continue to be owned by the paper company, a subsidiary of Finnish paper giant UPM Kymmene, but will be forever open to the public and closed to any development. Most of the land is in Itasca County.
“We now have in place an irrevocable promise that no matter who owns these lands, they will remain protected and open for public use,’’ said Tom Duffus of Duluth, Upper Midwest director of the Conservation Fund. He said the deal stops what would have been an inevitable sale and breakup of the Blandin land for development into cabins, homes and hunting shacks.
Blandin can sell the land, but the easements remain in place.
It’s the largest forest protection effort in state history, according to the DNR.Under the deal, all of the land will be managed using certified sustainable forestry techniques and will provide wood for local loggers and mills. It also will be open for deer hunters, hikers, campers and other public access.
The formal transaction, worth $45 million, will occur in 2010 when the state will pay for the easements. Money will be used from the state’s newly approved 3/8 percent sales tax increase dedicated to environmental protection.
Lawmakers and Gov. Tim Pawlenty last month approved $36 million for the purchase from the new sales tax. The Blandin easement project was the largest of any environmental projects approved this year from the state’s new sales tax fund.
Another $9 million will come from the Conservation Fund, with the nonprofit land conservation group gaining grants for the project from the Blandin Foundation and Richard King Mellon Foundation.