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May 28, 2014

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- A key tract of Iron County forest will remain in timber production and will continue to offer public access under a conservation easement approved Wednesday by the Wisconsin Natural Resources Board.

The board, meeting in Green Bay, approved purchase of the easement that will expand hunting and other recreation on 10.5 miles of private roads in the working forest. In addition, the easement includes provisions and funding that will ensure continued road access into the interior of the property. The $4.5 million easement, for 13,692 acres, covers the Twin Lakes area in the towns of Knight and Mercer.

"By protecting this land through the Forest Legacy program, we are assuring its preservation for continued sustainable forest management while increasing public access and recreational opportunities on existing roads," said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. "The easement supports the local tax base by retaining private ownership and provides significant public benefits for much less than an outright purchase agreement."

The property is 89 percent forested and in addition to serving as home to the endangered American marten - a sleek and naturally curious member of the weasel family - it provides habitat for a diverse array of wildlife including deer, wolves, bobcat, bear and occasional moose. While the marten has been reintroduced in other parts of the state and western Upper Michigan, individual animals from other release areas found and naturally populated the actively managed Twin Lakes forest.

The forest serves as an important location for bear hunting and also draws anglers to its waters. Its six lakes total more than 70 acres and it boasts 3 miles of frontage on LeClair and Apple creeks, both Class I trout streams.

At the same time, the forest has been continuously managed for timber production. Paul DeLong, chief state forester, said the agreement will secure the property's value to the local and state economy, as Wisconsin continues to lead the nation in the value of forest product shipments.

"The easement helps protect and preserve the integrity of a very large tract that contains a mix of upland and lowland forests and pine plantations," DeLong said. "We're connecting existing public lands and reducing forest fragmentation in a way that also provides outstanding opportunities for recreation such as hunting, trapping, hiking and cross country skiing."

Acquisition of the easement is being made possible through an agreement with The Conservation Fund, which is buying the property from its current owner, RMK Select Timberland Investment Fund II. The Conservation Fund purchase is expected to close on July 24 and the DNR easement agreement is subject to final review from the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee.

Previously, DNR's Forest Legacy program has gained permanent protection of 204,175 acres.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Wisconsin Chief Forester Paul DeLong, 608-575-3770; Jennifer Sereno, communications, 608-770-8084.

Last Revised: Wednesday, May 28, 2014

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