MADISON – The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources announced plans to purchase an easement on 67,347 forest acres from the Lyme St. Croix Forest Company for $17,267,000.

When the second phase of the proposed deal is completed in 2014, the deal will represent the largest recreational and forest land acquisition in state history, the DNR said. The forests, which will become known as the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest, are located in he headwaters of the St. Croix and Bois-Brule rivers in Wisconsin's northwest sands areas. The forests contain some 80 small lakes and ponds, 14 miles of streams and what DNR describes as "a globally significant pine barrens habitat.

As a forest legacy easement, the property will remain in private ownership while providing permanent public access for recreational use. The property will remain of the tax rolls and will still be available for timber harvesting. The Lyme property provides wood products to 12 pulp, saw timber and telephone pole processing mills and other supporting industries in the region.

“This purchase forever opens access to hunting, fishing, trapping, hiking, skiing, bird-watching, ATV and snowmobile trails, portions of the North Country Trail, and extensive habitat for deer, bear, wolves, woodcock, migratory songbirds and grouse,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “At the same time, the land remains in private ownership, on the tax rolls and will be managed sustainably for forestry purposes."

The Wisconsin Natural Resources Board will review the proposed purchase at its May 23 meeting. If approved, the department will forward the proposal to lawmakers and to the Governor for final approval.

Tom Morrow, managing director of The Lyme Timber Company, said, “Lyme has a long history of owning and managing large forestland properties under conservation easements that provide a steady flow of wood to local mills, regular employment for forest managers and logging contractors, while allowing public recreational access.”

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