Large Wisconsin forest purchased for conservation

The 70,000 acres will be resold with conservation easements

Image: The Conservation Fund

MADISON, Wis. – The largest remaining block of forest land in Wisconsin without a conservation easement—the 70,000 acre Pelican River Forest in Oneida County—was purchased via the working forest fund of The Conservation Fund in October.

The fund is intended to acquire and conserve large blocks of forest land to prevent them from being converted to other uses.

Clint Miller, the project manager for this project and others in the Lake States, said the plan is for The Conservation Fund to own the property for 3-4 years while it works on applying easements on the land. It will then sell it as working forest land protected from development.

The first easement is in the works with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for 12,500 acres of the property costing $4,675,000. After that process is completed the fund will begin to work on the remaining 58,000 acres.

Maintaining Pelican River Forest as forest land is particularly important for water quality, Miller said, since it contains 68 miles of streams and 27,000 acres of wetlands. The Conservation Fund also estimates the forest contains 19 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents. It will investigate potential for carbon contracts for the forest, Miller said.

Funds for the working forest fund acquisitions and other Conservation Fund acquisitions are financed from the sale of $144 million in Green Bonds plus a low interest loan from the Richard King Mellon Foundation.

The property will be overseen by a forest manager employed by the fund and assisted by local forest management contractors.

A year ago The Conservation Fund bought 72,440 acres in Northern and Central Minnesota from Potlatch-Deltic Corporation for $48 million. The land includes 14 counties—Aitkin, Becker, Beltrami, Carlton, Cass, Clearwater, Crow Wing, Hubbard, Itasca, Kanabec, Koochiching, Morrison, St. Louis, and Wadena. Approximately 31,600 acres are located within the reservation boundaries of two bands of the Minnesota Ojibwe Tribe—the Bois Forte Band and the Leech Lake Band.

It also oversaw the acquisition of the 65,800 acre Brule-St. Crois Legacy Forest in Wisconsin in 2015.

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