Camp Wilderness will be ‘protected forever’

The Minnesota Land Trust and the Boy Scouts of America established a conservation easement for the camp and a stretch of Bad Axe Lake shoreline on March 30.

Celebrating the conservation easement to protect Camp Wilderness on Wednesday, April 26 are Ruurd Schoolderman, Minnesota Land Trust conservation program manager; Richard McCartney, Northern Lights Council, BSA Scout executive; and Amy Schwarz, MLT staff attorney.
Contributed / Minnesota Land Trust

The Minnesota Land Trust (MLT) and the Northern Lights Council of Boy Scouts of America (BSA) have partnered to permanently protect a portion of Boy Scout Camp Wilderness.

According to a joint press release, the two organizations established a conservation easement on March 30 that protects 219 acres of land and water, including over 3,600 feet of shoreline on Bad Axe Lake, with help from the Hubbard County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD).

The nationally recognized, BSA-accredited camp on Bad Axe Lake, in Clay Township, has been providing outdoor programs for Scouts since 1946.

The release describes Bad Axe as a lake of outstanding biological significance that provides habitat to many of Minnesota’s large gamefish species as black crappie, largemouth bass, muskie, northern pike, smallmouth bass and walleye, as well as the smaller but ecologically critical tullibee (a.k.a. cisco) in Bad Axe and downstream Mantrap chain of lakes.

Tullibee numbers have declined about 60% in the last 30 years, the release states, driven by deteriorating water quality and rising water temperatures due to climate change and shoreland development.


Dock at Bad Axe Lake 1200 x 800 NLCBSA - 1
Boy Scouts from the Northern Waters Council, BSA, fish on Bad Axe Lake at Camp Wilderness.
Courtesy of Northern Lights Council

“Protecting at least 75% of the surrounding lands that direct water into Big Sand Lake ensures that the water will remain clean and cold enough for tullibee to survive even in a warming climate,” said MLT program manager Ruurd Schoolderman.

Meanwhile, the nearby landscape within the Paul Bunyan State Forest supports a diverse population of plant and animal species, the release states, while protecting this portion of Camp Wilderness ensures that immersive nature adventures remain accessible for youth for years to come.

To date, the MLT has helped legally protect 37 camps, nature centers and environmental learning centers across Minnesota, including 4,856 acres of natural land and over 37 miles of undeveloped shoreline.

“Environmental conservation has always been a part of the Scouting program,” said Richard McCartney, Scout executive with the Northern Lights Council. “We feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to demonstrate this value by protecting Camp Wilderness, an important resource the Council has used to teach outdoor ethics for over 75 years.”

Hubbard County SWCD Manager Crystal Mathisrud said forest and lake management enhances and protects the high-quality Mantrap chain, giving the BSA a “visible local legacy of conservation.”

The conservation easement was made possible with funding from Minnesota’s Outdoor Heritage Fund, as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council.

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