Sandhill Crane timber auction date canceled

A September timber lease auction date on 50 acres within the Sandhill Crane Natural Area in East Bethel will not happen.

About 50 acres of trees in the Sandhill Crane Natural Area in East Bethel were going to be auctioned off for a timber lease. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division canceled the auction date because it has a tentative agreement in place with Anoka County for it to lease the land on which the trees are located for three years, while long-term revenue solutions for the School Trust program are explored. The Anoka County Board has not voted on this agreement.

About 50 acres of trees in the Sandhill Crane Natural Area in East Bethel were going to be auctioned off for a timber lease. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division canceled the auction date because it has a tentative agreement in place with Anoka County for it to lease the land on which the trees are located for three years, while long-term revenue solutions for the School Trust program are explored. The Anoka County Board has not voted on this agreement. Submitted photo

Aaron Vande Linde, administrator of the state of Minnesota’s School Trust land program, confirmed that a September timber sale has been canceled and the state, county and other interested local parties including the city of East Bethel have been working together on coming up with a short-term solution for the state to meet its historical obligation.

“There was a number of reasons the timber sale was delayed,” Linde said. “The main reason was we want to maintain our relationship with the county. We don’t want to use the (school) trust (program) as a hammer to get what we wanted done.”

The Minnesota Legislature in 1858 set aside land that could be sold or used for its timber and mineral resources to provide revenue for schools. There are approximately 2.5 million acres of School Trust land in the state today, mostly in northern Minnesota, according to Linde.

To fulfill this 155-year-old pledge, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Forestry Division proposed putting 50 acres within the Sandhill Crane area up for a timber lease. The two impacted areas would have been southwest of Mud Lake and northeast of the Beaverbrook Gun Club on the west side of Deer Lake.

Anoka County, the city of East Bethel and the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency also own land in the 570-acre Sandhill Crane area and opposed clear cutting these trees. Many other neighbors and concerned citizens packed into the East Bethel City Hall council chambers May 1 to voice their opposition.

The forestry division decided to delay the September timber sale, three months after postponing the original sale date.

Linde estimated the school trust program could have received approximately $70,000 from this timber sale, so the state will not be forgetting about this property. What has been proposed is that the county would pay the state $5,000 annually over the next three years to lease the land on which the timber is located.

Linde referred to this $15,000 as “a deferral payment” and a long-term funding option must be presented to the school trust fund administrator by the time the three years is up.

Anoka County Parks Director John VonDeLinde, who has been attending the local meetings on this issue along with Jeff Perry from his office, said no decision has been made by the Anoka County Board on this issue. All he could confirm was that Linde told him the fall timber sale would not happen.

East Bethel City Administrator Jack Davis said the city, Anoka County Parks Department, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency and the Anoka Conservation District had representatives at a proposal update meeting a couple weeks ago that was also attended by Anoka County Commissioner Julie Braastad, state legislators Michelle Benson and Tom Hackbarth, former state representative and Anoka-Hennepin school board member Kathy Tingelstad, who is now a county staff member, and DNR plant ecologist Hannah Texler.

A few long-term options past the potential three-year leasing period were discussed, but Davis said, “nothing is set in stone.”

Eric Hagen is at
eric.hagen@ecm-inc.com

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