Momentous Land Protection Effort Secures Working Forest, Water Quality And Public Access In Northwest Wisconsin

August 31, 2012

St. Croix-Brule Forest

Brule River. Photo by Coldsnap Photography

Public-Private Partnership Completes First Phase of the Largest Recreational and Timberland Conservation Project in State History

Madison, Wisc. — Wisconsin residents secured an extraordinary conservation jewel thanks to a unique partnership between the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), The Lyme Timber Company and The Conservation Fund, with financial assistance from Enbridge and the McKnight Foundation. The broad-based group closed on a deal today to protect 44,618 acres of the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest under a working forest conservation easement. A second phase of more than 22,000 acres is slated to close in 2014 to create the largest conservation project in Wisconsin history.

Owned and managed by Lyme St. Croix Forest Company, the land is now covered by a working forest easement that will ensure public recreational access to 39 miles of hiking, biking, skiing, snowmobile and ATV trails, including a section of the North Country National Scenic Trail. The conserved acreage features wildlife habitat for many game and non-game species including sharp-tailed grouse, white-tailed deer, black bear, woodcock and numerous migratory songbirds.

In addition, nearly 13.2 miles of streams and approximately 75 small lakes and ponds will be preserved. These bodies of water are located within the headwaters of the St. Croix and Bois Brule Rivers, which serve as sources of drinking water to many nearby towns. Under the easement, vast stretches of sustainably managed forestland will help to filter and clean the waterways while providing a steady flow of wood products to local mills.

“This purchase provides much needed recreational access for the public to hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, skiing, bird-watching, and ATV and snowmobile trails,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “It keeps the land in private ownership, generating property taxes and helping keep Wisconsin’s forestry industry strong. It’s a win-win for everybody and helps preserve the celebrated forested character of the north.”

The collaboration between the public and private sector to secure a working forest easement guarantees the sustainable stewardship of the forestland, keeps the property in private ownership and on the tax rolls, supports local jobs and provides outdoor enjoyment. As a lead private partner of The Conservation Fund and one of the largest employers in northwest Wisconsin, Enbridge provided financial support to help the Fund secure the opportunity for the state to purchase the easement. This effort by Enbridge is part of an ongoing commitment through the Enbridge Neutral Footprint Fund to conserve significant forest, wetland and native prairie habitats.

“Thanks to the leadership of the Wisconsin DNR and the support and commitment of The Lyme Timber Company, Enbridge through its Neutral Footprint Fund, the McKnight Foundation and other foundation partners we are permanently protecting the natural resources of the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest and ensuring the land’s ability to contribute to the regional and state economy,” said The Conservation Fund’s Vice President, Midwest Region Tom Duffus.

“Establishing the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest is a momentous occasion for Enbridge,” said Enbridge Senior Vice President Mark Maki. “As the first Neutral Footprint project in the U.S., it moves Enbridge closer to our goal of conserving an acre of natural habitat for every acre we permanently impact. We are also pleased to establish this multi-use recreational space so close to where our liquids pipelines operations were founded in Superior, Wis., more than 60 years ago.”

The McKnight Foundation, Richard King Mellon Foundation and Charles Stewart Mott Foundation provided additional private support to The Conservation Fund for this project.

Deb Ryun, Executive Director of the St. Croix River Association stated: “The Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest easement project is crucial to protecting the headwaters of the St. Croix River, one of the original eight wild and scenic rivers in the nation and a premiere national park in the Midwest. And to have reached an agreement as a working forest is brilliant; good for the environment and cost efficient.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.