The R.K. Mellon Foundation of Pittsburg, working through the Conservation Fund and the Blandin Foundation of Grand Rapids, Minnesota approved grants totaling $9 million for the purchase of conservation easements for the Upper Mississippi Forest project in north-central Minnesota, the region through which the headwaters of the Mississippi River flows.
The UPM/Blandin Paper Company owns much of the land, which comes to 188,000 acres. The purchase of the easements would keep the forest intact. UPM/Blandin would continue to own the land and harvest it for timber, thus preserving jobs in the region. But the land would be open to the public for hunting, fishing, hiking, and other uses. And it would be open to wildlife for habitat.
The UPm/Blandin land includes 60,000 acres if wetlands and over 280 miles of lake and stream frontage.
There is no relation between the paper company and the foundation.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is negotiating the easements with the paper company. The total cost would come to $50 million. The Minnesota legislature is considering the project, which would involve appropriating $20 this year and $20 million next year. The funds would come from a voter-approved sales-tax increase, which goes into effect in July.
By combining UPM/Blandin’s acres with county, state, and federal lands, Minnesota would be able to create 4,000 square miles of uninterrupted forest habitat.