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DNR unveils LaSalle SRA in Hubbard County

This large area of habitat, which is of regional and statewide significance, includes one of Minnesota's deepest lakes, a coldwater stream, high-quality forest and wetlands, and more than one-half mile of Mississippi River Headwaters shoreline. (Jean Ruzicka / Enterprise)

A 1,000-acre parcel of land in Hubbard County, which will now be known as the La Salle Lake State Recreation Area (SRA), was acquired Oct. 27 by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). This large area of habitat, which is of regional and statewide significance, includes one of Minnesota's deepest lakes, a coldwater stream, high-quality forest and wetlands, and more than one-half mile of Mississippi River Headwaters shoreline.

The new SRA will be managed as a satellite unit of Itasca State Park, which is eight miles to the southwest.

"This is a very inspiring property," said DNR Commissioner Tom Landwehr, who toured the area on Oct. 25. "In addition to the unspoiled and amazingly deep La Salle Lake, it provides great forests for hunting and a pristine stretch of the Mississippi River." Landwehr noted that existing buildings will allow for some unique recreational experiences. He credited many partners in making the acquisition possible.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), a national, nonprofit, land conservation organization partnered with the DNR to transfer the property to public ownership. The land had been listed for sale until TPL obtained an option to purchase the property.

The parcel includes La Salle Lake, the second deepest lake in the state at 213 feet. This 221-acre lake supports walleye, bluegill, northern pike and crappie populations. The state recreation area includes the La Salle Scientific and Natural Area (SNA) purchased in 2010. The forested landscape features red and jack pine forests and woodlands, large white pine, balsam fir and white spruce forests, and a high quality old-growth northern white cedar forest.

The land will provide excellent recreational opportunities for hunting, fishing and wildlife observation. It connects a number of parcels already in public ownership. A small area of the property contains improvements that will offer additional recreational opportunities. They include 40 full hook-up campsites, several year-round cabins, and an indoor recreation facility with a pool and kitchen. The developed facilities will not be opened immediately, but a water access, which has limited parking, is open.

La Salle Lake SRA is open to fishing, hiking, snowshoeing and wildlife viewing. Visitors will find limited parking and foot traffic only will be allowed in the interior of the property. No hunting is permitted on the SRA property until Nov. 5. However, La Salle Lake SNA is open to hunting. Hunters must follow SNA regulations. Hunters should refer to the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Handbook, the DNR website, or call Itasca State Park at 218-266-2100.

All La Salle SRA visitors are asked to follow current recreation area regulations, which will be posted on the property. These regulations and more information about the La Salle State Recreation Area are online.

The property was purchased with funds dedicated to environmental projects. The majority of the $8.49 million in funding came from the 2008 Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment Act - specifically the Outdoor Heritage Fund through a grant from the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. Additional funding was provided by the Parks and Trails Fund and the Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR).

"The Trust for Public Land is very pleased to have been able to help protect this unique resource for permanent public enjoyment," said Bob McGillivray, TPL senior project manager. "This project is a wonderful example of multiple private and public stakeholders working together to achieve a result that none could achieve by themselves.

"We are very grateful to our partners at the DNR, local citizens, local units of government and the other nonprofits that supported this effort," McGillivray added. "And of course, none of this could have happened without the Lessard Council, LCCMR and the legislators who recognized the significance of this resource and provided the necessary funding."

Lori Dowling, DNR northwest region director, said that the acquisition is a positive development for the area. "This property has abundant recreational opportunities for Minnesota's citizens and visitors to the northwest region of the state."

The land was identified by local citizens and stakeholders as something worth preserving, noted Blane Klemek, Detroit Lakes area wildlife manager, who has been directly involved in the acquisition partnership. "It also was described by the Minnesota County Biological Survey as an area of high and outstanding biodiversity significance."

The DNR is developing a management plan for the state recreation area. The plan will address natural and cultural resource management goals and activities, interpretive programming and improvements to existing recreational facilities such as the campground, boat access and cabins. It also will consider the potential to expand recreational facilities at the site and opportunities to connect with other recreational trail systems in the area. Interested citizens will have opportunities to participate in the development of the management plan in the coming months.