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Largest land acquisition in Wisconsin history approved

March 11, 2015

The second phase of an easement that permanently secures public recreation on 65,867 forest acres in the Wisconsin counties of Douglas, Bayfield, Burnett and Washburn has been approved by the State Natural Resources Board at its February meeting in Madison.

In the second phase, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) will acquire an easement from the Lyme St. Croix Forest Company on 21,189 acres at the price of $5.6 million. The board approved the first phase of the transaction, consisting of 44,678 acres at a cost of $11.3 million, in June of 2012. The DNR applied for and received $3.8 million in federal Forest Legacy Program funding for the second phase of the purchase. The remainder of the funding will come from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Together the properties will be known as the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest, because the property is located at the headwaters of the St. Croix and Bois-Brule rivers in the state’s northwest sands area. The entire project contains 80 small lakes and ponds, 14 miles of streams, and a globally significant Pine Barrens habitat.

“This purchase assures that all future generations can enjoy hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, skiing, bird-watching, snowmobile trails, portions of the North Country Trail,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “At the same time, the land remains in private ownership, on the tax rolls and will be managed sustainably for forestry purposes. It’s a win-win for everybody that will help maintain the celebrated forested character of the north.”

The second phase of the purchase contains seven named lakes and 32 unnamed lakes and ponds and 4.3 miles of Mud Creek, a class two trout stream. The North Country National Scenic Trails bisects this section of the property. It also includes eight miles of public snowmobile trails. The purchase protects extensive habitat for deer, bear, wolves, woodcock, migratory songbirds and grouse.

More than 17,000 acres of the second purchase are located within the Brule River State Forest acquisition boundary.

The Lyme Timber Company has a long history of owning and managing large forestland properties under conservation easements that provide a steady flow of wood to local mills, regular employment for forest managers and logging contractors, while allowing public recreational access.

This acquisition provides wood products to 12 pulp, saw timber and telephone pole processing mills and other supporting industries in the region. The forest products industry employs nearly 60,000 workers and provides $22 billion in economic value in wood and paper products. Wisconsin leads the nation in employment and the value of shipments in the forest products industry.

Working forest easements ensure permanent public access for recreational enjoyment while the property itself remains in private ownership. With the completion of the Lyme St. Croix easement, almost 200,000 acres of working forest lands have been protected through conservation easements.