About Us

Board Member Derek Jensen accepting a grant from Muskies, Inc. in front of our office in Walker.


Our region will have clean lakes, rivers, wetlands and forests that support a diversity of fish and wildlife. We will leave this legacy for future generations by working with an educated, mobilized community and trusted conservation partners.


Preserve land to protect water.


Integrity and Excellence: We will meet the highest ethical and professional standards. We will be honest, accountable and earn trust by building collaborative relationships, being competent, and following through on all commitments.

Stewardship: Develop, analyze and use the best available conservation science to set priorities, make decisions, take action and measure results. We will conduct our business in an environmentally sensitive manner and use our local knowledge and creative approach to result in maximum positive conservation outcomes.

Inclusiveness, Collaboration, Teamwork and Diversity: We believe that enduring conservation success depends on the active involvement of people and partners whose lives and cultures are linked to natural systems we seek to conserve. We believe conservation is best advanced by the leadership and contributions of diverse back-grounds, beliefs, and cultures. We work collaboratively with all sectors of society. We respect a variety of viewpoints and diversity of thought. We work in an environment that encourages each of us to achieve our potential and values the contribution of all.

The Northern Waters Land Trust [formerly the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation] is a non-profit charitable 501(c)(3) organization working in north central Minnesota in the Counties of Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, and Hubbard. We work to preserve land in order to protect water quality and preserve environmentally sensitive shoreland, streams, fish and wildlife habitats, wetlands, key forest tracts, and scenic vistas.

Our conservation efforts focus on an area that encompasses 6 major watersheds. Our service area is over 4 Million acres and includes 2,235 lakes and 3,400 miles of streams and rivers. It is an incalculable beauty, rich in natural resources with a high degree of biodiversity. This region is home to the headwaters of the Mississippi River and is the source water for communities downstream including St. Cloud and the Twin Cities.

Since 1995, the Northern Waters Land Trust has protected more than 6,934 acres of critical fish and wildlife habitat. We have protected 268,698 feet of sensitive shoreline. We have 92 completed land projects to date. We work with landowners, lake associations, local, state, federal and tribal agencies, and other conservation organizations. These accomplishments have been achieved by: 1) donations or acquisitions of private land and conveyance to public entities for management of the conservation values and public enjoyment into perpetuity; 2) facilitating conservation easements on private lands; or 3) partnerships with government agencies, and other conservation organizations.

Our Service Area is in the heart of Minnesota’s prime recreational region where the economic sustainability of local communities is driven by tourism, hunting, fishing, and other recreational opportunities that are predicated on high quality natural resources. Recently, the DNR designated our northern region of MN the only portion of the State that still has “good quality lakes that can be protected”. It is also one of the fastest growing areas of Minnesota where state demographers predict a population growth of up to 50% by 2030. The challenge for the future of this region is to balance growth with the protection of natural resources. While our region is home to the Chippewa National forest and State Forests, a significant number of privately-owned parcels in both the riparian and shorelands around high quality recreational lakes are still undeveloped or minimally developed and large tracts are still intact. However, the threat from development is real. The urgency for land conservation is immediate to ensure that the natural heritage of this region is preserved.

Protection … instead of remediation … is our goal.

About Us

Why Conservation Matters

Northern Waters Land Trust Is An Accredited Land Trust!

Northern Waters Land Trust became accredited by the Land Trust Alliance the summer of 2019. The process of becoming accredited was a focused exercise in planning for the future.

Northern Waters Land Trust is only the second organization in Minnesota to earn this valued accreditation. 

What is a land trust?

Land trusts are closely tied to the communities they protect and are involved in conserving land for its natural features and resources, as well as historical, cultural, scenic, and recreational values. Land trusts are organized at the local, regional, and state level and receive their funding primarily from charitable contributions and sometimes from state and federal initiatives.

They preserve land by purchasing it, transferring it, accepting donations of land or funds to purchase the land, or accepting the donation of a conservation easement. In instances, they may purchase the easement. Often, land trusts work collaboratively with other local conservation organizations to preserve properties that have significant conservation value.

Watch these episodes of Lakeland Currents on Lakeland PBS to learn more about our history and conservation work.