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Agreement could be biggest-ever land-conservation buy

A tentative agreement was announced May 16 for the largest land-conservation purchase in Wisconsin history for land south of the Brule River State Forest near Superior.

The DNR would spend just over $17 million to buy an easement of 67,000 acres just south of the Brule River State Forest near Superior. It would prevent new development forever on over 100 square miles of forest lands in Douglas, Washburn, Burnett, and Bayfield counties.

The easement used to be owned by a paper company. It's now owned by Lyme Lumber of New Hampshire. It would continue to own the property and keep managing timber production like it does now.

DNR says the easement would prevent sub-dividing or development but allow logging to continue while creating new public access and recreation opportunities for hunters, bird watchers, and others. The acquisition includes 80 small lakes and ponds and 14 miles of streams.

The area is home to three endangered species including the Karner Blue butterfly. The Conservation Fund helped arrange the proposed deal. The fund's Thomas Duffus says the land is "spectacular" - "a vast landscape of nearly unbroken forest as far as the eye can see."

The site would be called the Brule-Saint Croix Legacy Forest. The headwaters of both Saint Croix and Bois Brule rivers are close by. The state Natural Resources Board will be asked May 23to buy 45,000 acres for over $11 million from the state's Stewardship Fund. The remaining 22,000 acres would be bought in 2014 for $6 million.