The Daily Globe - Serving Gogebic, Iron and Ontonagon Counties

Natural Resources Board approves Iron County easement purchase

 

March 7, 2019



By RICHARD JENKINS

rjenkins@yourdailyglobe.com

MADISON, Wis. — More than 14,000 acres of land in southern Iron County may soon become publicly accessible after the state’s Natural Resources Board approved purchasing an easement on commercial timber land.

The board approved spending approximately $4.8 million on a conservation easement for 14,352 acres of land in the towns of Carey, Knight and Mercer owned by the Keweenaw Land Association at its Feb. 27 meeting.

“We’re excited about (the agreement). We’re thrilled that we’re going to continue to have it as a working forest and that the property will continue to be opened to the public for hunting and other recreational needs,” said Keweenaw President Mark Sherman. “We’re going to continue to keep loggers employed and truckers employed and the public will continue to be able to enjoy recreating on the (land).”

The board’s approval sends the easement purchase to the state’s Joint Finance Committee before it goes to Gov. Tony Evers for final approval, according to DNR real estate section chief Jim Lemke.

“If all of that happens, then we can proceed to closing,” he said, adding he hopes the closing will be completed in late spring if everything goes well.

The purchase is funded through the state’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund.

“We have monies allocated specifically for the purchase of conservation easements, so this fell right within that statutorial right,” Lemke said.

Easements allow the public to access land that may be too expensive to purchase outright, Lemke said. Keweenaw still maintains its ownership and right to log the land, while people can use it for a variety of “nature-based outdoor activities,” including hunting, fishing, skiing and hiking.

The property is primarily forested woodlands and contains 3.25 miles of classified trout streams, according to Lemke, as well as 13.91 miles of other streams.

There are also a number of lakes on the property as well — including Fifteen Lake and Little Moose Lake.

“Those are all lakes that are now going to be more accessible to the public for their use,” Lemke said.

The agreement also creates public access to some of the roads through the property, allowing the public to drive licensed vehicles on 16 miles of roads within the property boundaries.

Lemke said the roads would be open to the public from July 1-Dec. 31 to prevent them from being damaged too much from spring use and allowing for logging operations.

Sherman said the purchase price includes $400,000 for road maintenance.

Along with giving the public access to the property, Lemke said the purchase would also connect to adjoining public lands. These include the 13,805-acre Twin Lakes forest legacy easement acquired in 2014 to the west and the Moose Lake State Natural Area to the east.

“All together, with these projects being contiguous as they are, there’s 32,000 acres of continuous land that are open to the public through state ownership,” Lemke said.

 
 

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