Anderson: Access to northeast land OK'd, for now

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 19, 2012 - 6:47 AM

Hunters and others can continue to access 286,000 acres, but a long-term agreement is needed.

hide

In this file photo, dwarfed by tall pines and winding his way among aspen and jackpine, Brian Anderson of Champlin walked from his deer stand.

Photo: Dennis Anderson, Star Tribune file

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

Virtually on the eve of firearms deer hunting, a complex land access problem across much of northeast Minnesota has been solved. For now.

Minnesota Rep. Dave Dill, DFL-Crane Lake, and Sen. Tom Bakk, DFL-Cook, said Thursday they've reached agreement with Molpus Woodlands Group, the state's largest private landowner, to allow traditional access to its properties until at least the end of the 2013 legislative session.

Molpus, of Jackson, Miss., purchased 286,000 acres of northern Minnesota forest land last summer from Forest Capital Partners, an East Coast investment group.

At the heart of the access conflict is a dispute between Molpus and the state over taxes and other fees. For Molpus, the declining market for stumpage also plays a role, as do costs of maintaining tote roads and other accesses to its property -- much of which has been treated like public land for generations, not only by hunters, but by hikers, snowmobilers, backwoods cabin owners and ATV riders.

Already, Molpus has erected -- but hasn't yet closed -- about 16 gates across a huge checkerboard of its lands, mostly in Koochiching and St. Louis counties.

Much of the property is in a contiguous block. But much also is intermixed with federal, state and other land. So blocking access to property owned by one in many cases means blocking access to lands held by others, including owners of hunting camps and seasonal homes.

"Resort businesses are at stake, too,'' Dill said, because snowmobile trails connecting much of the northeast exist in part due to easements granted by Molpus.

If the problem can't be fixed, "it will be the end of northern Minnesota snowmobiling as we know it,'' Bill Congdon, of Orr, has said.

The conflict's origins can be traced to a decision by the Legislature in 2010 to cap payments made under the state's Sustainable Forestry Incentives Act (SFIA), at $100,000.

Under the measure, landowners are paid between $7 and $13 an acre to keep their properties open to logging, manage them sustainability and allow public access.

The program reflects the state's vested interest in retaining large tracts of forest land. Recrea-tion benefits by the continued existence of these properties. Loggers also benefit, as do various trees and plants. And many wildlife species thrive in relatively undivided land blocks.

But the state's need for cash was paramount when it capped the SFIA payments, breaking a deal, as it did, with large landowners and costing Forest Capital more than $2 million a year.

Subsequently, Forest Capital sued, winning in a lower court but losing on appeal.

All along, the company reminded lawmakers that its properties were kept open to the public because of their enrollment in the SFIA. Absent such an agreement, the company said, access might be denied.

Molpus followed through on that threat a few weeks ago when it set up gates on some key woodland pathways in the northeast, including popular Sheep Ranch Road near Orr.

"We'll still allow foot travel and ATV travel,'' Craig Halla said at the time. "But vehicle traffic won't be allowed.'' Halla, of International Falls, manages the Molpus properties.

In reaching their agreement with Molpus, Dill and Bakk hope the Legislature can appease the big land company.

One way would be to lift the cap on SFIA payments, a move that could cost the state $5 million or more by the time other large landowners also are paid their higher fees.

Another possibility is to change the property tax rate for large property owners. The problem there is that any reduction for one taxpayer could mean greater amounts paid by others.

Purchase of a conservation easement on the lands also is possible, similar to the $44 million working forest conservation easement agreed to a few years back between the state and Blandin Paper Co (UPM).

Legacy Act funds, recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and approved by the Legislature, covered $34.25 million of that purchase.

Fundamentally, however, before any deals with Molpus are considered by the Legislature, Bakk, Dill and other supporters of maintaining access to the lands must develop, in detail, a cost-benefit analysis.

Additionally, any attempt by legislators to push aside conservation, habitat and other project recommendations already made by the Lessard-Sams Council for its next funding cycle will provoke a fight that won't benefit anyone.

But all that for another day.

For now, the lands are open, as they always have been.

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

  • related content

  • Rep. David Dill

  • Senate DFL Caucus Leader Tom Bakk

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.

ADVERTISEMENT

NY Yankees - LP: M. Pineda 0 FINAL
Toronto - WP: D. Hutchison 2
Detroit - LP: M. Scherzer 3 FINAL
Chicago WSox - WP: C. Sale 6
Chicago Cubs - WP: F. Doubront 5 FINAL
St. Louis - LP: J. Masterson 1
Cincinnati - LP: A. Simon 2 FINAL
Pittsburgh - WP: V. Worley 3
Minnesota 0 Top 5th Inning
Baltimore 1
Philadelphia 6 Top 7th Inning
NY Mets 0
Miami 4 Bottom 6th Inning
Atlanta 0
Boston 0 Bottom 5th Inning
Tampa Bay 4
Cleveland 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Kansas City 0
Detroit 5 Top 6th Inning
Chicago WSox 0
Texas 0 Top 7th Inning
Houston 0
Colorado 1 Bottom 3rd Inning
Arizona 0
Chicago Cubs 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
St. Louis 1
Los Angeles 0 Bottom 1st Inning
San Diego 0
Milwaukee - M. Fiers 8:05 PM
San Francisco - J. Peavy
Oakland - J. Samardzija 8:05 PM
LA Angels - C. Rasmus
Washington - S. Strasburg 8:10 PM
Seattle - R. Elias
Green Bay 9/4/14 7:30 PM
Seattle
BYU 35 FINAL
Connecticut 10
(6) Jacksonville St 7 FINAL
(8) Michigan State 45
Bowling Green 31 FINAL
Western Ky 59
TX-San Antonio 27 FINAL
Houston 7
Colorado State 31 FINAL
Colorado 17
UNLV 13 FINAL
Arizona 58
Penn State 26 FINAL
UCF 24
Troy 10 FINAL
UAB 48
(7) UCLA 28 FINAL
Virginia 20
Western Mich 34 FINAL
Purdue 43
(5) Ohio State 34 FINAL
Navy 17
Appalachian St 14 FINAL
Michigan 52
Ga Southern 23 FINAL
NC State 24
Boston College 30 FINAL
Massachusetts 7
West Virginia 23 FINAL
(2) Alabama 33
Rice 17 FINAL
(17) Notre Dame 48
(10) South Dakota St 18 FINAL
(24) Missouri 38
Fla Atlantic 7 FINAL
(22) Nebraska 55
California 31 FINAL
Northwestern 24
Marshall 42 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 27
UC Davis 0 FINAL
(11) Stanford 45
Arkansas 21 FINAL
(6) Auburn 45
(16) Clemson 21 4th Qtr 8:53
(12) Georgia 38
Liberty 22 3rd Qtr 0:56
(23) North Carolina 49
Ohio U 14 4th Qtr 4:23
Kent State 7
Louisiana Tech 3 3rd Qtr
(4) Oklahoma 31
Stephen F Austin 10 3rd Qtr
(20) Kansas State 28
Fresno State 7 2nd Qtr 5:25
(15) USC 24
Southern Miss 0 2nd Qtr 5:24
Miss State 14
Texas-El Paso 14 2nd Qtr
New Mexico 7
North Texas 0 2nd Qtr 13:50
Texas 7
(1) Florida State 10 2nd Qtr 15:00
Oklahoma State 0
(14) Wisconsin 8:00 PM
(13) LSU
Idaho 0 Delayed
Florida 0
South Dakota 9:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(25) Washington 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Utah State 8/31/14 6:00 PM
Tennessee
SMU 8/31/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
Miami-Florida 9/1/14 7:00 PM
Louisville
Arizona 9/4/14 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Pittsburgh 9/5/14 6:00 PM
Boston College
Washington St 9/5/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
SMU 9/6/14 11:00 AM
North Texas
Fla Atlantic 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(2) Alabama
Buffalo 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Army
(24) Missouri 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Toledo
Arkansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
(8) McNeese State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(22) Nebraska
Central Mich 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Purdue
Akron 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Penn State
Western Ill 9/6/14 11:00 AM
(14) Wisconsin
(20) Kansas State 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Iowa State
(4) Oklahoma 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Tulsa
Western Ky 9/6/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
SC State 9/6/14 11:30 AM
(16) Clemson
Navy 9/6/14 12:00 PM
Temple
UAB 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Miss State
South Alabama 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Kent State
New Mexico St 9/6/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Colorado 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Massachusetts
Fresno State 9/6/14 2:00 PM
Utah
(1) Eastern Wash 9/6/14 2:00 PM
(25) Washington
(15) USC 9/6/14 2:30 PM
(11) Stanford
Ohio U 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Middle Tennessee 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Minnesota
Northern Ill 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Missouri State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Ball State 9/6/14 2:30 PM
Iowa
Maryland 9/6/14 2:30 PM
So Florida
Eastern Mich 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Florida
Georgia Tech 9/6/14 3:00 PM
Tulane
(18) Ole Miss 9/6/14 3:30 PM
Vanderbilt
Old Dominion 9/6/14 5:00 PM
NC State
(8) Michigan State 9/6/14 5:30 PM
(3) Oregon
(19) Arizona State 9/6/14 6:00 PM
New Mexico
Louisiana Tech 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
San Jose St 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(6) Auburn
East Carolina 9/6/14 6:00 PM
(9) So Carolina
Duke 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Troy
Idaho 9/6/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(17) Sam Houston St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(13) LSU
Michigan 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(17) Notre Dame
Lamar 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(21) Texas A&M
Northwestern St 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(10) Baylor
BYU 9/6/14 6:30 PM
Texas
Citadel 9/6/14 6:30 PM
(1) Florida State
San Diego St 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(23) North Carolina
Virginia Tech 9/6/14 7:00 PM
(5) Ohio State
Memphis 9/6/14 9:00 PM
(7) UCLA
Colorado State 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Boise State
Air Force 9/6/14 9:15 PM
Wyoming
Oregon State 9/6/14 9:30 PM
Hawaii
Texas Tech 9/6/14 10:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Colorado 0 FINAL
Seattle 1
New England 3 FINAL
Toronto FC 0
Columbus 0 2nd Half 44:55
Montreal 1
FC Dallas 0 1st Half 35:00
Chicago 0
Real Salt Lake 9:30 PM
San Jose
Portland 9:30 PM
Vancouver FC
Ottawa 10 FINAL
Montreal 20
Winnipeg 8/31/14 3:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Toronto 9/1/14 12:00 PM
Hamilton
Edmonton 9/1/14 3:30 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 9/5/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 9/6/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Hamilton 9/7/14 12:00 PM
Montreal
Saskatchewan 9/7/14 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Chicago 62 4th Qtr 2:32
Indiana 66
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close