MINNESOTA – Two new parcels, totaling 47.2 acres, acquired by the Chippewa National Forest will provide additional recreation opportunities and high value habitat for a variety of aquatic and terrestrial species.
The 40-acre Somrak/Hinkley parcel in Cass County affords protection in one of the top priority areas identified in the Leech Lake Watershed Restoration and Protection strategy (identified by government and non-government organizations). The parcel is within a large block of undeveloped public forested lands and contains rich natural resource values. Sucker Creek runs through the west side of the parcel for approximately 1,300 feet. Protection of this creek will protect water navigating south through the popular Leech Lake. This undeveloped parcel will provide for a variety of recreational opportunities within a remote setting.
The 7.2-acre Bello Lake parcel includes 750 feet of lake frontage in Itasca county. The parcel is in a forested bay area with ideal loon habitat with protection for nesting pairs. Over 75 percent of the shoreline is National Forest System lands. The riparian zone is pristine and undeveloped and comprises approximately 3.5 acres of the 7.2. It is structurally diverse and properly functioning, providing shade, nutrient inputs, filtering and soil stability and natural amounts of woody debris. The adjacent stands have documented occurrences of goblin fern, which is on the Regional Forester Sensitive Species list. Securing this parcel for public ownership helps prevent any future private development of this natural habitat for wildlife and shoreline vegetation.
The parcels were acquired through the Land and Water Conservation Fund “Critical Inholding/Recreation Access.” The Forest Service is expected to use the Cash Equalization, Critical Inholdings, and Priority Recreational Access line items to acquire high priority lands that maximize benefits to the public through consolidated Federal ownership that creates management efficiencies, or protects critical resources, including wilderness. The Forest Service is directed to prioritize recreational access projects that significantly enhance access to existing public lands that have inadequate access for hunting, fishing, and other recreational activities.