Upper Mississippi Forest Project
In 2010, after a 10-year effort, we completed a working forest conservation easement with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and Blandin Paper Company (UPM) that forever protects nearly 188,000 acres of Northwoods forests, wetlands and shoreline currently owned by UPM – the largest conservation deal in state history. The DNR also acquired an additional 1,344 acres to help consolidate existing state forests.
The Upper Mississippi Forest project stitches together over 4,000 square miles of public and private forests, conserves over 60,000 acres of wetlands and over 280 miles of stream, lake and river frontage. These lands and waters provide a home for a colorful collection of wildlife, including wolves, black bear, eagles, great gray owls, osprey, ruffed grouse, woodcock and neotropical migratory songbirds, as well as rare plants such as triangle moonwort, hidden-fruit bladderwort, white adder’s mouth and dragon’s mouth.
The public also benefits, with access for hiking, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, snowmobiling and other recreational activities, and cleaner drinking water for millions of people who live in the region. By keeping the property a working forest that supplies high value forest products to 17 manufacturing facilities in Minnesota, it is supporting more than 3,200 working families and hundreds more in related businesses.
The easement on the UPM lands prevents development and subdivision of the lands and prohibits alteration of water channels, wetlands, streams and rivers. UPM will be required to follow internationally-accepted sustainable forest management practices by being certified through the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative, with auditing by the DNR for compliance.
The Fund helped negotiate the easement and secured funding for the $44 million project, which involved the largest private gift to conservation in state history as well as a voter-approved ballot initiative to fund conservation projects. The Nature Conservancy assisted with public funding efforts.