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Cass County landowner protects sensitive shoreline & wildlife habitat

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Thanks to the Outdoor Heritage Fund and in partnership with the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation (LLAWF), the Minnesota Land Trust has protected more than a mile and a half of pristine sensitive shoreline on the Pine River in Cass County, about six miles east of Backus.

The property, owned by David Heegaard, is located in an area experiencing rapid development of both year-round and vacation homes. The number of year-round residents in the area is increasing as small lake cabins are converted into larger, winterized dwellings.

“We’re pleased to see the Heegaard’s land, with its abundant shoreline and wetlands, protected with a conservation easement,” stated LLAWF Executive Director Paula West. “This will prevent near-shore habitat being lost to development, which is devastating to fish and wildlife that depend on these fragile spaces for breeding, feeding and resting.”

The conservation easement protects more than 80 acres of hardwoods, red and white pine forest and more than 8,300 linear feet of high-quality, natural, undeveloped shoreline along the Pine River, Ding Pot Lake and other small streams.

These natural terrestrial and aquatic communities provide significant habitat for a large variety of plant and wildlife species, including black bear, bobcat, common tern, yellow rail, red-necked grebe, trumpeter swan, common loon, least darter and lady’s slipper.

The Heegaards have observed many of these creatures on the Pine River property over the years, including an eagle’s nest, sandhill cranes and moose.

Landowner David Heegaard recalls his father-in-law, Franklin Parsons, planting dozens of trees on the property in the 1950’s. Franklin rose early and headed out with his tools for “trimming and thinning,” under the guidance of local DNR forest management experts, with results that can be seen in the large, mature trees which dominate the forest today.

Franklin and his wife, Fern, along with David’s wife, Joanne, had a vision for maintaining the natural characteristics of the property and hoped that others would benefit from their thoughtful stewardship of their land. David Heegaard has donated this conservation easement, with the blessing of his children, with their goals in mind.

The project was completed through the Legacy Grant “Protecting Sensitive Shorelands in North Central Minnesota” provides financial assistance to shoreland owners in Cass, Crow Wing, and Aitkin counties who are interested in protecting the conservation assets of their property.

The grant provided funds from the Outdoor Heritage Fund, as recommended by the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council. The objective of the Grant is to protect the region’s critical shoreland habitat, which sustains fishing, hunting, and other recreational opportunities as well as the economic sustainability for a region of Minnesota dependent on tourism income. It will leverage $6 to $8 million in donated property value from the participating landowners. The program is a partnership between the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation and the Minnesota Land Trust.

“Our partnership with the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation has now resulted in the protection of 271 acres of land, and 17,394 feet of high quality lake, river, stream, and pond shoreline that might otherwise be lost to development,” observed Minnesota Land Trust Executive Director Kris Larson. “Best of all, the program is still open to interested landowners who would like to participate in this unprecedented conservation effort in north-central Minnesota.”

Contact either the Minnesota Land Trust or the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation for more information.

The Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation is a non-profit organization based in Hackensack, and committed to preserving and protecting the crystal clear lakes, streams and rivers; healthy forests; fish spawning areas; and vital wildlife habitats of the 750,000 acre Leech Lake watershed. More information can be found online at

The Minnesota Land Trust is a membership-based non-profit organization. Its mission is to permanently protect Minnesota’s natural and scenic heritage through public and private partnerships. The organization has completed 462 conservation projects permanently protecting more than 43,000 acres of natural and scenic land and over 932,000 feet of fragile shoreline statewide.

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with various duties since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently Director of Audience Development. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work. I'm fortunate to have made many friends, both co-workers and customers.
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