After reading Meeker County commissioners repent freak out about family's plan to donate 153 acres to DNR, a source directed our attention to somewhat similar behavior on the part of the Fillmore County Board of Commissioners.
Unlike the Meeker County Board, however, those in the Southeastern Minnesota county refused to change direction with regard to the property owners' wishes.
In the December 4 Fillmore County Journal, Karen Reisner reports in Motion for land acquisition fails:
An effort to get county support for the purchase of the Ione Larson farm to add to the Choice Wildlife Management Area again failed at the November 28 county board meeting. Mike Tenny, Department of Natural Resources, and Robert McGillivray, Trust for Public Land (non-profit conservation organization) had requested the resolution of support at an October 3 meeting.
At that time commissioner Gary Peterson had requested input from Norway and Preble Townships. The 379 acres straddles both townships. The land now has five owners, members of the Ione Larson Family Trust. Tenny met with both township boards. He said there was no opposition from the township boards. Tenny said road maintenance was also discussed.
The plan was to use Outdoor Heritage Funds with the DNR also contributing Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) funds. McGillivray explained due to the use of RIM funding, county board approval was needed. He noted that this RIM funding, used for DNR purchases, is not the same as the RIM program used by private landowners. Commissioner Duane Bakke suggested that the use of RIM funds allows a higher price to be paid for the land.
Payment in lieu of taxes (PILT) would be made to the county on the property if this sale went through, which would be comparable to property tax revenue.
Brett Larson, representing the trust, insisted the price wasn’t higher, but that the price was set by an appraisal.
Bakke said he still objected to the sale because of loss of tillable ground. He recognizes the right of landowners to sell to who they want, but he wasn’t interested in giving more tillable land to the DNR.
Larson said the five owners were happy with this buyer and they were concerned about the preservation of the land. The offer was fair market value. It is important for the new owner to be a good steward of the land.
Peterson signaled his concern had been satisfied when the township boards were allowed to give their input. Commissioner Marc Prestby noted he had voted yes last time, but recognizes now the concern for the tillable land. Tenny commented that all but about 30 acres of the tillable land is highly erodible. Some of the owners do not want to subdivide the land, separate the tillable land.
Commissioner Mitch Lentz acknowledged it is difficult to stand in the way of individuals doing what is wanted with their property. Larson maintained this is a buyer that we are confident will manage the land the way we want.
Peterson made a motion to support the purchase. The motion died for lack of a second. . . .
Got a piece of marginal land and want to do right by conservation and outdoor recreation? Forget about it. Someone might want to farm your land. Reisner reported in October's County asked to approve land acquisitions:
Mike Tenney, area DNR Wildlife Supervisor, and Robert McGillivray, Trust for Public Land (a non-profit conservation organization), answered questions concerning two separate requests for board approval of land acquisitions for wildlife management areas at the October 3 meeting of the county board.
The first request was for the acquisition of 379 acres that straddle Preble and Norway Townships now owned by the Larson Family. The intention is for the land to be purchased primarily using Outdoor Heritage Funds with some funding being contributed by the DNR using Reinvest in Minnesota (RIM) funds. The Trust for Public Land would transfer the land to the DNR for the Choice Wildlife Management Area.
This property has been owned by the Larson family for generations. Brent Larson, trustee for the five family owners, said the family wants the natural beauty of the land preserved. The family was not interested in subdividing the land.
Chairman Randy Dahl asked about the crop land. Tenney said the portion being cropped is highly erodible. Thirty-four acres are in CRP. Ten acres are being used as a stream buffer. The property includes a portion of Maple Creek, a designated trout stream. Tenney said the plan is for the cropped portion to eventually be seeded with natural prairie plantings.
Commissioner Duane Bakke questioned the need for county board approval. McGillivray suggested that due to the use of some RIM funds county board approval is needed. Tenney commented that the county could stop the sale of land in some instances; for example, for public safety. Bakke was concerned that land currently being cropped will be taken out of production, converting it to something other than crop land. Bakke didn’t believe the board should have the right to affect the sale.
Dahl noted that some of his family’s land is similar (highly erodible); it is being put into the pollinator program. . . .
Anti-public land talking points? Much more important than being able to sell your property to whom you wish. In this case, the land would be part of the DNR's Choice Wildlife Management Area, described in a page on the Nature Conservancy's website:
The Nature Conservancy protected 1,054 acres in the Root River watershed in Fillmore County.
The property is now owned and managed by Minnesota DNR as Choice Wildlife Management Area. The property spans the bluffs along Vesta Creek, which flows into the Root River, a Mississippi River tributary. Vesta Creek is one of only a few streams in the state that is home to native brook trout and contains relatively few introduced brown trout, a good indicator of exceptional water quality and aquatic habitat. In all, more than five miles of cold-water trout stream meander through the property.
In addition to the stream and 210 acres of floodplain, the property also includes hardwood forest, oak savanna, oak-hickory woodland and bluff prairie. Its long, southwest-facing bluff prairie is ideal habitat for the state-threatened timber rattlesnake.
Choice WMA is the largest acquisition completed under the Conservancy’s Southeast Minnesota Protection and Restoration Program.
Funding for the property was provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, which was created under the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, through an appropriation by the Minnesota Legislature as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.
Choice WMA is open to the public for hiking, photography and bird-watching. The Minnesota State Constitution requires property purchased with Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars to be open to the public taking of fish and game during the open season. Hunting, trapping and fishing is allowed on this property in accordance with DNR Wildlife Management Areas rules published in the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook.
Surely, the delicate flower that is Minnesota agriculture would collapse were 379 acres be added to that tract, which the Post Bulletin's John Weiss wrote up in 2016's
Photo: Vesta Creek in the Choice WMA. TNC website. Apparently, the Larson's family choice of their land for the Choice isn't their choice.
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