Landowner’s generous gift opens more land to the publicPublished 2:41pm Saturday, February 9, 2013
Our family has always been appreciative of the natural beauty of the area in Northern Itasca County. A couple of years ago, while my oldest son Brian and I were at the cabin for what has become our annual October trip, he showed me a little road that he and the family had discovered that summer. It wound through the Chippewa National Forest. Along the way was a lake with a foot trail that the public can use to access the lake. It is a beautiful drive through an area that any true lover of the outdoors can really appreciate. If you take that drive in the fall, when the leaves are changing colors, it is an even more rewarding experience.
Whenever I am up at the cabin, I always manage to take a little time to check out a few public accesses of lakes that I have not fished before. This past fall, Brian and I discovered one such lake, where I found myself not only marveling at the beauty of the lake, but also wondering why I had not fished this lake before. I had heard about this lake before, but now that I have seen it for myself, it will definitely be added to my list of lakes that I have fished. From time to time, I will be asked by someone if I have ever fished in Canada, and my answer is always the same – I still haven’t fished all of the 10,000 lakes that we have in Minnesota.
As I was browsing, the Department of Natural Resources website, I came across an article of interest to myself, and one that should be of interest to anyone who truly appreciates the outdoors. It was especially appealing to me, because about a year ago, I had received a letter from the DNR concerning some land in the area where we have our cabin.
The DNR was surveying landowners in our area about our thoughts on opening a couple of parcels of land on nearby lakes to the public. I replied to them that I was all for it, because I feel that any time you can give the public access to the natural habitat of the area, it is a good thing. One of the lakes in the following news release is located about a mile from our cabin, and it is one of two that I was asked about.
Gifts from landowners resulted in two new scientific and natural areas in Itasca County.
A landowner’s gift of two parcels of property will result in two new scientific and natural areas (SNA) in northern Itasca County, the DNR said.
The Little Too Much Lake SNA is about 58 acres, and it contains two types of mesic hardwood forests: aspen-birch-red maple and sugar maple-basswood. A few patches of red and white pine on this new SNA includes trees more than 250 years old. The site also protects about 2,600 feet of natural lake shore on the north side of Little Too Much Lake.
The 84-acre Potato Lake SNA contains old red pine and white pine woodland, along with other high-quality forest and wetland types. Old mixed pine-hardwood forests are relatively rare and are not commonly available for protection.
“Creating these two SNAs will protect ecologically sensitive parcels, while also making them accessible to the public,” said Peggy Booth, a SNA program supervisor. “What was formerly a private piece of property will now be managed in a way that allows more people to enjoy it, while protecting native habitat.”
SNAs are a state land unit, like state parks or wildlife management areas, but with a different emphasis. The purpose is to protect the best of Minnesota’s remaining natural heritage, such as rare species, native prairies, old-growth forests and geologic features.
Landowners can play a significant role in the creation of future SNAs through conservation easements or donations. Both Itasca County parcels were donated by an Illinois resident.
“The landowner’s commitment to land protection goes above and beyond anything I saw in my career,” said Steve Wilson, a retired DNR SNA specialist. “Because of his discerning eye in purchasing undisturbed riparian plant communities, and decades-long protection of them, each tract is an ecological gem in its own right. Combined with his future plans for five more parcels in the area, and two previously protected natural areas in Wisconsin, they speak to a conservation legacy that few can match.”
Visitors are welcome to hike the area or visit by other means of foot travel, like skis and snowshoes. Both new SNAs are open to fishing, hunting and dogs under control. Nature observation, education, scientific research, and other nonmotorized recreation are allowed on most SNAs. Consistent with the above intended uses, and protection of the site’s natural features including camping, campfires, trapping, damaging vegetation and motorized recreation are not allowed.
Learn more about the state’s 158 SNAs, their conservation and scientific value, or how to submit a parcel to be considered for donation by visiting the DNR website at www.mndnr.gov/snas.
Until next time, get out and enjoy the many things that make winter a special time to be outdoors.
Please remember to keep our troops in your thoughts and prayers because they are the reason that we are able to enjoy all the freedoms that we have today.
Dick Herfindal’s column appears in the Tribune each Sunday.