The Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest is a working landscape of the American heartland, 67,205 acres of forest and water with a long history of logging, snowmobiling, hunting and fishing, far from even the nearest cities of Eau Claire or Minneapolis and Duluth. This is rural northern Wisconsin, south of Lake Superior, and writ large, ecologically rich (moose, wolves, black bear, globally unique pine barrens, 80 small lakes and wetlands, 14 miles of trout streams, sharptail grouse dancing on leks in the springtime) and economically crucial – the timber here, harvested sustainably for local mills and accounting for hundreds of local jobs, is a strong part of Wisconsin’s $12 billion wood products industry.
This landscape also comprises the headwaters of the St. Croix and Brule Rivers. It is estimated that these working forests and wetlands filter and contribute 74 billion gallons of clean water to the region’s rivers and streams. Recreation here is an economic powerhouse with hunting, fishing, trapping, snowmobiling, cross country skiing and biking leading the list of activities. The public lands of the legacy forest also guarantee continued public access to more than 900,000 acres of adjoining public lands.
The Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest is private land owned by the Hancock Timber Resource Group with a permanent conservation easement guaranteeing sustainable forestry that enhances and restores the ecological values of the land and ensures public access. The purchase of the easement was made possible with a contribution of $3.75 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Over the past two decades, changes in the American timber industry have led many timber companies to sell off huge tracts of lands that have been both working forests and accessible for public recreation for, in some cases, over a century. The rapid sell-off in many cases has brought an end to public access to these lands, blocked access to public lands, and placed ecologically important landscapes and watersheds at risk of development or unsustainable use. The easement that created the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest was specifically designed to address all of these challenges, which are expected to increase across America’s heartland in the future. The Land and Water Conservation Fund will be a critical tool for addressing them and to producing more across-the-board successes like Wisconsin’s legacy forest.
Brule-St. Croix, Wisconsin, credit Coldsnap Photography