A significant 67 acre property was protected in 2023 when it was purchased using Outdoor Heritage Funds and transferred to Cass County for permanent public management as forest land.
The property in Crooked Lake Township is bordered by Cass County forest land on three sides and 1,600 feet of shoreline on Leavitt Lake. The upland pine and hardwood forests are on mesic or moist soils with springs emerging and flowing into the lake. One third of the property is composed of shallow marsh, shrub and wooded marshes.
Land surveyors and a wetland delineator recognized the ecological uniqueness of the property in 2021. Several land conservation organizations were contacted and Northern Waters Land Trust (NWLT) was able to prioritize protecting the property using Outdoor Heritage Funds to protect deep, cold water lakes and their watersheds. The 122 acre Leavitt Lake is within the Roosevelt Lake watershed and includes a fishery of crappie, bluegill, brook trout, sunfish, largemouth bass, northern pike, pumpkinseed, rock bass, tullibee (cisco), walleye, yellow perch, white sucker and tadpole madtom.
Roosevelt Lake is considered a “refuge lake” for tullibee (aka cisco), a preferred forage fish of walleye, northern pike, muskellunge and lake trout. Tullibee require cold, well oxygenated waters, a condition most common in lakes with deep water and healthy watersheds. Refuge lakes have the best chance to sustain conditions for cold-water habitat and species unique in northern Minnesota. The protection of 75% of their watersheds, the land that drains rainfall and snowmelt into a lake, has been shown to protect water quality and aquatic habitat in that lake.
The Roosevelt Lake watershed is more than 35,000 acres in size (about the size of the City of St. Paul) and is currently at the 70% protection level (as of 2020). Efforts to protect this watershed will continue through future purchase of qualified land for public ownership and conservation easements by private landowners. More information on these options and what you can do to protect your land can be found at https://northernwaterslandtrust.org/landowner-options/land-owners/.
The property was sold to NWLT by Troy and Margo Wold. Margo’s family has owned property in the Roosevelt Lake area for several generations and protecting land was an important consideration for the couple. The property was previously owned by the Bauer Family for more than fifty years and who treasured the land for year-round camping, fishing, hunting, hiking and wildlife watching. Having the land protected and now in permanent public ownership is a tribute to the conservation values of the Margo and Troy.
Margo Wold recalls “With fond memories I think of Lake Roosevelt and the Outing area. My late father built a cabin on the lake with reclaimed materials. I remember, as a little girl, every weekend he would have another truck full of reclaimed items that he was putting to new use on the cabin. We all enjoyed his hard work for years to come, with rides on the pontoon, the echoing sound of loons, and the beauty of towering pine trees among us. These are memories that will last my lifetime. We are hopeful that other families will be able to experience the precious beauty of northern Minnesota. By establishing preserved land for future generations, it brings joy to my heart knowing that my Dad would be proud.”
Cass County partnered on the acquisition by contributing funds towards the purchase thereby extending the use of Outdoor Heritage Funds by NWLT for more land protection projects.
The newly publicly protected property is in an area considered by The Nature Conservancy to be important for connecting aquatic and terrestrial habitat for fish and wildlife and allowing plants and animals to adapt and adjust to a changing climate. Cass County manages approximately 258,000 acres of forest land and meets the Forest Stewardship Council Forest certification standards that address environmental, economic and social considerations. The property is open for public hunting and fishing while also providing clean water, wildlife habitat and other recreational opportunities.
The NWLT Clean Water Critical Habitat Program was established 2011 to protect high priority lakes and their watersheds in the north central “lakes country” (i.e., Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Hubbard) using grants from the State of Minnesota for conservation easements and fee title acquisition. NWLT partners with public agencies, such as Counties and the State of Minnesota, and private organizations such as lake associations to identify willing sellers and properties important to the agency land management goals, to secure funding through grants, and to acquire and convey those properties to partner agencies.
Annie Knight, NWLT Executive Director observes “Working with the Wold family and Cass County to protect this unique piece of land has been an honor. This conservation project reflects the commitment of our northern Minnesota community to environmental stewardship. This preserved land with protected shoreline will contribute to the long-term health and sustainability of Leavitt Lake for generations to come.”
The Outdoor Heritage Fund was created in 2008 when Minnesota voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment (Legacy Amendment) to the Minnesota Constitution. These funds “may be spent only to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife.” State of Minnesota Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Funds.