Water conservation

Hubbard County accepts 2 land donations

County land commissioner Mark “Chip” Lohmeier informed the board of directors of two possible acquisitions at their meeting on Tuesday (January 4th).

County commissioners reluctantly approved the two, acknowledging that they have no control over who individuals sell their property to.

First, Lohmeier explained that the Trust For Public Lands (TPL) had funding from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) to purchase 600 acres of former Potlatch land.

Located north of Emmaville, along County 4, Lohmeier said the plots “tie well into existing non-taxable land. It also provides a connection for the Snowmobile Trail, which is also the proposed route of the Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail between Emmaville and Itasca State Park.

TPL is a national non-profit land conservation organization that “conserves land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for generations to come.”

TPL would buy the acreage from the Conservation Fund (TCF) and, in turn, donate it to Hubbard County.

Lohmeier said LSOHC prohibits the use of its funding to purchase land that will be developed for recreational trails. Thus, the westernmost 40 acres, where the proposed Itasca-Heartland Connection Trail will pass, will have to be purchased by other means.

In November 2020, PotlatchDeltic Corporation sold approximately 72,400 acres in Minnesota, including 10,310 in Hubbard County, to TCF.

TCF is a nonprofit organization that has worked in all 50 states since 1985 to protect over eight million acres of land, including over 311,000 acres in Minnesota. It is certified by the Sustainable Forestry Initiative.

The stated objectives of the TCF are for the land to remain as logged forest, conservation land, or public recreational land.

TCF has offered to work with Hubbard County over the next decade if the county wishes to acquire part of the property.

Lohmeier reminded county council on Tuesday that there were 10,310 acres at issue. “You’re going to see this over and over and over again. “

The county is pursuing a special bill in the Minnesota Legislature so that it can use the proceeds from sales of confiscated land to purchase Potlatch’s former acreage.

Concerned about the loss of land tax revenue for the county, township and school district when the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or a conservation land trust purchases private property and converts it to public land, Hubbard County adopted a no net loss policy in 2020.

Lohmeier stressed that these newly acquired county lands will not qualify for Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT), but the county will derive revenue from any future timber harvest.

“These lands will also become available for public recreation,” he said.

County ownership of this complex “consolidates public ownership, preserves large blocks of logged forest, and enhances wildlife habitat by providing contiguous forests and connectivity to other public forests,” he continued. .

County commissioner Char Christenson asked what would happen if the county did not accept the TPL offer.

Lohmeier said this 600-acre block would likely be sold to the DNR, as TCF’s goal is to preserve land for public forests “rather than dividing it into private ownership.” They see the benefit of having managed forests rather than private forests, which are generally unmanaged.

If MNR gets the land, Lohmeier said the county would receive a three-quarter LTCP payment of 1% of appraised value – about $ 13.88 per acre, using county appraised value, or $ 5.133 per acre. , whichever is greater.

Christenson expressed concern that private landowners are being “turned down” by conservation groups.

Lohmeier responded that the DNR and the county rejected other TCF plots as they were isolated and did not abut existing public lands. “There are plots that are going to be sold to private owners,” he said.

Christenson asked if the county could sell some of its less coveted and less coveted land to private owners to offset this acquisition.

County commissioner Tom Krueger asked Lohmeier to start identifying plots in the county that could be sold.

“We don’t need all of this land,” added Christenson.

County Commissioner David De La Hunt said that while the trend of converting private land to public land continues, it is slowly eroding fiscal capacity. He admitted that the government, rightly so, has no control over who sells goods to whom.

De La Hunt said he was not opposed to environmental benefits. “It makes sense to protect watersheds and things like that, but you have to find a balance,” he said.

Lohmeier said the county owns 138,000 acres of tax-free land. He noted that there are plots that are landlocked or without public access. These could be put up for sale.

County administrator Jeff Cadwell said it made sense for the county to own those 600 acres for local control. This eliminates “the headache of the DNR running it,” he said. “This is probably the most compelling reason. “

With no lakes, roads, or services, Cadwell said the earliest and best use of this land is for recreation and timber management.

Public lands “serve a major economic factor in Hubbard County, which is tourism. If all of those 40 were split into 20 and sold privately, it would change the nature of Hubbard County, ”he said.

The TCF plots are not developable and marketable properties, he continued.

“I think it would be helpful to see the big picture,” Cadwell said. “Over the past five years, on average, we have had a 5% increase in our fiscal capacity. A quarter of this amount comes from new construction, that is, improvements or new buildings. Three quarters of that comes from value adjustments because the market is only growing. All of these things require tension and a balance between development and conservation. Hubbard County is relatively unique in this situation, where we have this tension. “

But, said Cadwell, it is generally accepted that the county can sell its high development and low conservation value plots.

Lohmeier expects higher income from harvesting timber on this former land in Potlatch.

Across all of the county’s confiscated land, the average income was $ 11-12 per acre in 2021 for forest management, “which was comparable to what Potlatch was paying in property taxes,” he said.

These acres are mostly covered with Norwegian pine, Lohmeier said, which allows for multiple cuts of intermediate timber over a 60-year period.

The second acquisition concerns the Crow Wing Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Northern Waters Land Trust.

The Crow Wing SWCD is requesting funding from the LSOHC to purchase two plots of land from the TCF and then donate them to Hubbard County. One is a 72-acre parcel in Hendrickson Township, adjacent to the Kabekona River, a state-designated trout stream. The other is a 238-acre parcel in Akeley Township, adjacent to the Shingobee River.

Lohmeier said protecting this land helps meet the 75% land protection goal in the Leech Lake River watershed, a plan.

Again, the county will not receive LTCP, but would get revenue from timber.