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Crow Wing County Board: Supports creation of wildlife management area

Will Cooksey of the The Trust for Public Land makes his case at Tuesday's county board meeting to buy about 260 acres surrounding Indian Jack Lake to donate to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources to create a wildlife management area. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

Future generations will be able to enjoy and appreciate the land surrounding Indian Jack Lake if plans to create a wildlife management area come to fruition.

The Crow Wing County Board Tuesday unanimously approved the purchase of the property by The Trust for Public Land as part of the Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Corridor Partnership. The property will be donated to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"We believe that people have an innate need for regular and frequent connection to nature and the outdoors," said Will Cooksey of the The Trust for Public Land of St. Paul, a member of Mississippi Headwaters Habitat Corridor Program.

The trust's mission is "to create parks and protect land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come." The proposed wildlife management area is located 5 miles north of Crosby just east of Highway 6 and north of County Road 11.

"We seek to obtain the county's support to permanently protect Indian Jack Lake ... forever open to the public for hunting, fishing and other outdoor pursuits," Cooksey told the board.

The property's more than 260 acres includes Mississippi River frontage in addition to frontage along the northern, eastern and a portion of the southern shore of Indian Jack Lake, located a quarter mile from the Mississippi River.

"The Mississippi Headwaters Board and its partners seek to preserve the purity, the pristine quality of the Mississippi headwaters corridor," Cooksey said.

Formed in 1980 as an alternative to designation of the river into the National Wild and Scenic River System, the Mississippi Headwaters Board works to protect and preserve the first 400 miles of the Mississippi River in the state, according to officials.

"The Mississippi River is the longest river in North America and the longest flyway migration route in the Western Hemisphere, and its headwaters are here," Cooksey said.

Wildlife management areas are part of the state outdoor recreation system created by the Minnesota Legislature and are established to protect those lands and waters that have a high potential for wildlife production, public hunting, trapping, fishing and other recreational uses.

"The river provides drinking water and recreational opportunities for millions of people, and it is the embodiment of Minnesota's outdoor traditions," Cooksey said as part of his pitch to the board.

According to the proposal, the property abuts and would provide access to two tax forfeited parcels. One of these parcels has over a half mile of river frontage, but is inaccessible by foot.

"Permanently protecting the property will make accessible over a half mile of river frontage as well as connectivity to other public lands," Cooksey said. "It would permanently protect over 2 miles or approximately 75 percent of Indian Jack Lake."

Protecting more than 2 miles of undeveloped lakeshore is a rare opportunity, according to proponents of the proposal. Classified as a "natural environment lake," Indian Jack Lake has a maximum depth of 25 feet and a size of 130 acres.

"It's a great fishery and attracts anglers throughout the year," Cooksey said of the lake.

An appraisal of the land's worth was performed and reviewed by the DNR, and Cooksey said the fair market value was more than $900,000.

"This is all great that we are setting aside land, but the more land that you set aside the more pressure is put on everybody else who owns land in the county," Commissioner Paul Koering said at the board meeting.

Cooksey told Koering the property tax revenue for the property is about $3,000 and the payment in lieu of taxes would be more than double that at close to $7,000.

"This would be a revenue generator, in addition to the many other attributes for the county," Cooksey asserted based on the appraisal.

Payment in lieu of taxes for the proposed wildlife management area would be initially calculated from the sale price of the property and then re-calculated every six years thereafter.

In 2017, the count annual tax revenue is about $3,040; using the property's appraisal, the estimated payment in lieu of taxes on the acres would be about $6,843 per year, according to Cooksey.

Commissioner Paul Thiede made the motion to support the efforts of The Trust for Public Land, which was seconded by Commissioner Rosemary Franzen, and approved by the entire board.

In other business, the county board:

Approved the promotion of Jessica Shea, land services business manager, and Paul Peterson, part-time sheriff's deputy.

Accepted the departure of Nick Lossow, correctional officer at sheriff's office.

Approved the transfer of the on-sale and Sunday liquor license from Half Moon Saloon to Andy's in Merrifield.

Approved supporting gambling applications for exempt permits for Ducks Unlimited Garrison Wildlife Chapter on the Mille Lacs Lake and Minnesota Elks Youth Camp in Lake Edward.

Approved supporting the premises permit application of the Baxter Snowmobile Club at The Woods, Unorganized Territory.

Approved a motorized multi-use trail permit to the Cuyuna Iron Range Riders ATV Club to establish and maintain an all-terrain vehicle trail system.

Approved the final plat of The Sanctuary subdivision consisting of 14 residential lots and three outlots, and the first supplemental plats for Brainerd International Raceway luxury garage condominiums and Brainerd International Raceway distinctive garage condominiums.

Authorized entering into an agreement with the Minnesota Department of Human Services for the Minnesota Family Investment Plan Biennial Service Agreement.

Authorized entering into a grant agreement with the state of Minnesota acting through its Commissioner of Natural Resources for snowmobile safety enforcement.

Approved final payment for spot patching for county roads 144 and 130, county highways 2 and 22 to Anderson Brothers Construction for $123,614.60.

Approved authorizing entering into contract renewal amendments between county and Heartland Animal Rescue Team for impound service for dangerous dogs in the county and for a holding facility for impounded Dogs in Unorganized Territories.

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