Land Conservation Starts with Conservation-Minded and Willing Landowners
Meet some of the landowners that have participated with the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation and Minnesota Land Trust to protect the natural and unique features of their shoreland properties in perpetuity for the benefit of fish and wildlife habiat and waer quality. These landowners donated the conservation easement (aka their future development rights) to the MInnesota Land Trust, giving up considerable land value to protect the "land they love. " Financial assistance for the easement was provided by a grant from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, a constitutionally established Legacy fund by a majority of voters in 2008.
In the Works - One Landowner at a Time
Three miles northwest of Outing in Cass County, the 1,554 acre Washburn Lake is a moderately developed lake with a diverse plant community critical to maintaining healthy fish populations. Washburn Lake is classified as a tullibee refuge lake by the Department of Natural Resources. Protecting these refuge lakes is important for the future of Minnesota's cold-water lakes; research has shown that if 75% of their watershed is permanently protected through conservation easements or public ownership, the water quality of these cold water lakes is better secured for the future.
Attracted to the natural beauty of the area, Candy and Steve Gouze purchased a cabin on Longwood Point on Washburn Lake in 1991. The Gouzes recognized that the western bay was undeveloped and hoped it would remain that way. After acquiring 160 acres and 13,570 feet of shoreline, Candy and Steve explored how a conservation easement on the property would allow the land to remain in private ownership with restricted development and realized that this approach was consistent with their long-term vision for their property. The Gouzes have been working with the Foundation and the Minnesota Land Trust to place a conservation easement on their land and expect to close in mid-2017.
Today the Gouze property includes rolling hills covered by mixed hardwood - conifer forests and diverse wetlands along Dagget Brook. The natural shoreline on their sheltered bay is full of aquatic vegetation that provides habitat for fish, loons, and ducks.
As an avid gardener utilizing native plants, Candy understands that vital relationship between healthy forests and uplands and clean water in north central Minnesota lakes. Candy and Steve are planning to donate their conservation easement to Minnesota Land Trust.
"With ever-increasing threats to Minnesota shoreline, it is even more important now to protect these lakes," reflects Candy. "We are fortunate to be able to protect our property with a conservation easement and we hope that more people consider this option."
Turtle Lake is For the Birds
Leonard and Bethel Anderson had dreamed of protecting their
Aitkin County property on Turtle Lake for a number of years.
The support available to them through the Legacy Grant to the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation for out-of-pocket costs of putting a conservation easement on their property suddenly made their dreams come true. Over the years the Andersons had noticed small resorts being converted to large year-round homes with loss of natural shorelines. They observed that sandhill cranes visited Turtle Lake, but not those lakes with year-round homes. They noticed the same thing with ring-necked ducks and other wildlife. Leonard noted: "This place is is not just special to us, it's also special to the birds and the monarchs and all the other animals that we see. If we don't do something to protect this place, it might not be so special in the future." The conservation easement placed on their property, now held by the Minnesota Land Trust as a grant partner, permanetly protected 1,200 feet of sensitive shoreland on Turtle Lake along with 40 acres of upland, including a naturalized meadow that will continue to sustain monarch butterflies long into the future.
Pine River Easement Protects Nearly 4,000 Feet of Natural Shoreline
habitat for a wide variety of wildlife such as black bear, bobcat, bald eagle, beaver, wild turkey, sand hill crane, great horned owl, grouse, white tail deer, common tern, yellow rail, red-necked grebe and trumpeter swan. This property is a component of a larger complex of protected land within an important natural resource corridor, located less than one half mile east of an approximately 230-acre conservation easement held by Cass County.
Easement Fills Crucial Piece of Habitat Puzzle
Inspired by a recent conservation easement donated by neighbors Martha and Geoff Davidge, Whitefish Chain of Lakes landowners Pete Flaherty and Katy Uppgaard-Flaherty, and their sons Sean and Ryan have donated a conservation easement protecting their land in perpetuity. The 25-acre property includes over 500 feet of shoreline on Whitefish Lake and another 3,500 on neighboring ponds that connect White Fish Lake to Star Lake, site of a wilderness youth camp to the south.
The newly protected property creates a more effective complex for wildlife habitat in an increasingly developed and popular resort area by connecting the Davidge property on the north (read their story) to the Minnesota DNR’s 110-acre Uppgaard Wildlife Management Area (WMA)on the south. Katy Uppgaard’s parents, Bob and Barb, donated the land for the WMA and would have been pleased to see this project complete their family legacy. Katy recalls, “They taught us to respect the natural ecosystems, maintain habitat for wildlife, and protect our water resources.”