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According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, Wisconsin officials announced plans this past spring to acquire the largest land conservation tract in Wisconsin history – a transaction that protects more than 100 square miles of forest land in four northern counties.
The Department of Natural Resources has an agreement to spend $17.3 million on a conservation easement for 67,347 acres on former paper company land now owned by Lyme Timber Co. of Hanover, N.H.
The deal protects it from future development.
Lyme Timber will continue to own the property and manage timber production, but the easement prohibits any subdividing for recreational or commercial purposes, and it ensures both logging and public access for everyone from hunters to bird watchers in perpetuity.
The transaction comes in two phases.
In the first phase, the Natural Resources Board will purchase an easement of 44,679 acres for $11.3 million. The funds would come from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund for public land acquisitions.
The second phase, 22,668 acres for $6 million, is proposed for 2014. The DNR says it will use state stewardship funds, which come from bonding authority. It will also apply for federal funds.
In a statement, DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp described the deal as a “win-win for everybody.”
The conservation acquisition includes 80 small lakes and ponds and 14 miles of streams.
Abuts 950,000 acres of existing public land, including the Brule River State Forest, and includes a segment of the North Country National Scenic Trail.
Provides access to 47 miles of snowmobile trails and walk-in access to 12 lakes.
Offers habitat for three endangered or threatened species – the Karner Blue butterfly, Kirtland’s warbler and Canada lynx.
The transaction with Lyme Timber comes in the wake of a huge change in forest ownership in the state. From 1997 to 2002, more than 1 million acres of industrial forest were sold in Wisconsin, according to the DNR.
In a statement, Peter Stein, managing director of the Lyme Timber, said that about 1,000 jobs in northern Wisconsin – both directly and indirectly – will be created and sustained by keeping the land for forest use.
Lyme Timber’s property provides wood for 12 pulp, saw timber, utility pole and supporting companies in the region.