Private forest near Two Harbors protectedNearly 1,000 acres of private land along the hills overlooking Lake Superior near Two Harbors will remain undeveloped thanks to a land conservation deal announced last week.
By: John Myers for the Lake County News-Chronicle, Lake County News Chronicle
Nearly 1,000 acres of private land along the hills overlooking Lake Superior near Two Harbors will remain undeveloped thanks to a land conservation deal announced last week.
A conservation easement has been brokered for the land in Lake County that includes old growth pine and cedar forests and more than 12,000 feet of shoreline along the Encampment and Crow Rivers.
The deal also preserves access for hikers on the Lake Superior Hiking Trail that runs through the property, including segments that overlook Lake Superior.
The land will remain owned by Two Harbors businessmen Butch and Milt Wittlief, and they will continue to pay taxes on the land, but they permanently have sold the rights to develop the property.
The deal was considered even more environmentally valuable because the Wittlief land is just north of another 500-acre conservation easement held by the Nature Conservancy. Meanwhile, a 90-acre conservation easement to the southwest is held by the Minnesota Land Trust. And the State of Minnesota manages forest land to the east.
Combined, the protected property now is larger than Gooseberry Falls State Park, said officials for the Minnesota Land Trust, which brokered the conservation easement deal.
The Minnesota County Biological Survey rated the land as having “outstanding biodiversity significance” in part because much of it was never logged and significant old-growth timber remains. It’s considered an important area for migrating songbirds and hawks.
“That watershed has really escaped a lot of the historic forest activity of a century ago. It’s a super-high-quality piece of land with some very unique habitat,” Walter Abramson, director of development and communications for the Minnesota Land Trust, told the News Tribune. “It’s rare to find that much land in that area, with so much development going on, with one ownership. We got to this before it got fragmented up into small development parcels.”
The land is in three parcels totaling 997 acres, Abramson said. By comparison, the average land conservation deal his group works on is about 90 acres.
The Wittliefs began purchasing land in the Two Harbors area several years ago for hunting and for investment purposes. A neighbor approached them with the idea of putting the property into a conservation easement.
Money for the easement came from private donations and money from the portion of the state sales tax dedicated to the outdoors. The Minnesota Land Trust will own and hold the easement.