The Minnesota Land Trust recently opened a northeast office to better serve local communities in conservation initiatives.

Kris Larson was hired as conservation director for the northeast region with an office in Canal Park in Duluth. Larson was the Land Trust's conservation planning director, where he assisted local governments and developers to design more environmentally sensitive developments throughout the state. Prior to that, Larson was with the Brandywine Conservancy in Pennsylvania -- one of the country's oldest land trusts -- where he worked on community planning, greenway design and watershed protection efforts throughout several states.

"Both long-term residents and short-time visitors are drawn to this region's wonderful natural beauty," said Larson. "We at the Minnesota Land Trust are very excited to be increasing our conservation efforts in this part of the state. We're also quite encouraged by the growing number of landowners that desire to leave a legacy for future generations by protecting their properties through the Minnesota Land Trust. Whether their land contributes to the wild character of the scenic North Shore or BWCA, or whether their property is simply an important oasis in a rapidly developing area, all of us living in the region will benefit from their preservation efforts."

In addition to Larson, the Land Trust has longtime staff member Jeanne Wright working in the northeast region as well. Wright, who worked on land projects for the Land Trust in southern Minnesota for five years before moving to Grand Marais last year, is now working with several landowners in northeastern Minnesota.

The Minnesota Land Trust works statewide on protecting Minnesota's lakes, rivers and streams, scenic areas and natural habitat. In the northeast, the Land Trust has worked on more than a dozen projects protecting Lake Superior shoreline and scenic views along the federally designated scenic byway Highway 61, including 60 acres of city-owned parkland along Lake Superior in Grand Marais. Near Duluth, the Land Trust has protected property along Amity Creek and on Minnesota Point, which is an old-growth pine forest that serves as an important flyway for migratory birds.

Near Ely, the Land Trust has also protected several properties on gateway lakes to the Boundary Waters, including conservationist and author Sigurd Olson's Listening Point property on Burntside Lake.

The Minnesota Land Trust got its start in 1991 in Washington County and expanded its mission and focus statewide in 1993. Since then, the Land Trust has protected 188 properties around the state covering almost 17,800 acres. To keep up with the demand for private land protection, the Land Trust created a regional structure in 2001 to better serve local communities and has opened offices in Duluth and southeastern Minnesota, in addition to the St. Paul office. The Land Trust plans to open a northwest regional office in summer 2002.

The Minnesota Land Trust's primary conservation tool is a conservation easement, which is a legal, recorded agreement by which landowners voluntarily agree to limit the development and use of their land to preserve conservation values. These agreements are legally binding, protecting the land through all changes in ownership.

Recently, the Land Trust, along with 13 partner organizations, was awarded a grant through the Legislative Commission on Natural Resources for fish and wildlife habitat restoration.