Our Role

In 2013, we began working with the company to identify land with the most valuable conservation and economic benefits, such as exceptional water quality, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities like fishing, hunting and wildlife watching. Most of these lands are within the headwaters area of the Mississippi River, which provides crucial habitat for more than 350 wildlife species—including many of the endangered, threatened and rare species listed in Minnesota.

In 2020, we acquired 72,440 acres and named it Minnesota’s Heritage Forest. The purchase, one of the largest private land conservation acquisitions in state history, buys time to develop permanent conservation strategies that will preserve the working forestland and safeguard jobs while benefiting our environment and mitigating climate change.

why this project matters

Approximately 32,000 acres of the forest are within the reservation boundaries of two bands of the Minnesota Ojibwe (Chippewa) Tribe. As part of this work, we are dedicated to a future where the Bois Forte Band and the Leech Lake Band own critical sections of the land to sustainably manage for economic, cultural and environmental purposes. We are actively working with county, state, tribal and local governments to determine the best conservation and sustainable management outcomes for the forestland, with the goal of transferring ownership to public and tribal entities over the next decade.

Heritage Forest in Minnesota quote

"This acquisition, specifically with The Conservation Fund, means so much to our community as it continues to build up our limited land base. Securing these parcels of land within the reservation boundaries increases our usufructuary rights on all public lands and builds confidence and pride amongst our community members. We are actively looking to increase our regulatory authority, and land acquisition is our main opportunity to control our nation’s future. We want to leave the next generation better off than when we found it, or how we started, and in being strategic with our land purchases, we are building a sustainable land base for those future generations.

Currently we are in a shortage of land to lease to band members, and establishing homesites for our members is a top priority. Unlike other tribal nations, the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe can obtain true food sovereignty thanks to our abundance of forests, wetlands and, most importantly, our wild rice producing waters. Land acquisitions allow us to control our renewable resources such as fresh water, timber, wind, sun and any other resource that one will find within the exterior boundaries of our beautiful reservation.”

― Joseph Fowler, Land Director, Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe



back to our 2020 annual report