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Hubbard County Board OKs DNR land acquisition

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is interested in purchasing 5,950 acres of former Potlatch land from The Conservation Fund (TCF).

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Minnesota Department of Natural Resources
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The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is interested in purchasing 5,950 acres of former Potlatch land from The Conservation Fund (TCF).

In November 2020, PotlatchDeltic Corporation sold approximately 72,400 acres in Minnesota – 10,310 of them in Hubbard County – to TCF.

Mike Lichter, Park Rapids area forestry supervisor for the DNR, met with the Hubbard County Board on Dec. 13 to discuss the DNR’s potential acquisitions.

He was joined by Joe Rucinski, the Bemidji area forestry supervisor who oversees the top three tiers of townships in northern Hubbard County.

“We’ve evaluated all of the lands in Hubbard County owned by TCF after meeting with you about a year-and-a-half ago,” Lichter said, adding those were also reviewed in consultation with Hubbard County Land Commissioner Mark “Chip” Lohmeier.

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“Some of them are very obvious, interlocked with county lands. Others are the same with state forest lands, so we came up with a loose agreement to pursue certain parcels or not, depending on where they fell on the map.”

In October, the DNR gathered feedback from the 10 affected townships: Badoura, White Oak, Hubbard, Lake Emma, Clay, Mantrap, Lakeport, Lake George and Hart Lake.

Lichter said they made it clear that if the townships didn’t want these sales to proceed, “that would carry the day.”

After discussing Payment In Lieu of Taxes (PILT), Lichter said the six townships he visited unanimously agreed to the acquisitions.

Rucinski said, “It was very similar for the townships I visited.”

Lichter noted that 3,560 of the 5,950 acres have been previously discussed. “So two-thirds of this are projects we’ve talked about before and were just put on hold.”

Of the 2,390 acres remaining, Lichter described them as “new, scattered parcels,” the majority of which are in Hubbard, Badoura and White Oak townships.

Based on 2022 tax statements, the total taxes on the land was $63,566. With current taxable market values, PILT will be $67,725.

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PILT distributions are set by Minnesota Statute, Lichter continued. By law, 40 percent of a PILT payment goes to the county’s general revenue fund, specifically for property tax levy reduction. Townships receive 10 percent.. The remaining 50 percent of PILT goes to the county’s general revenue fund, but is not allocated.

As for timber management, Lichter said the DNR’s approach is similar to Potlatch’s.

The newly acquired parcels will become state forest land. “Depending on the productivity of the site, we run either a 60- or 70-year rotation on pine. We’ll thin those four times over their life cycle, then final harvest and replant,” he said.

TCF’s stated goals are that the land remains as working forest, conservation land or public recreational land.

“Working forest,” Lichter explained, means producing fiber, conserving natural resources and managing for multiple-use recreation, like hunting.

Looking through history, he continued, “If forests are not profitable, they go away. So we need to make them profitable and benefit in many ways.”

The county board approved a letter of support at their Dec. 20 meeting.

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Shannon Geisen is editor of the Park Rapids Enterprise.
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