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Outdoor council recommends Brainerd project

ST. PAUL — An advisory group asked to suggest how to invest state funds for outdoors projects has recommended 30 proposals — including the Mississippi River Northwoods Habitat Complex Project near Brainerd — that would cost more than $97 million and help restore prairie land, wetlands and forests statewide.

The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council was asked to recommend how to use money from an outdoor heritage fund, which gets its money from a sales tax increase approved by voters in 2008. The council on Tuesday finalized 30 projects, all of which received preliminary approval in September.

The Legislature is expected to consider the proposals in the spring.

In late September, the council voted to recommend more than $14 million for the purchase of 1,988 acres just north of the Brainerd airport from the Potlatch Corporation. The land features more than two miles of pristine, undeveloped shoreline along the Mississippi River and a bevy of natural resources and related opportunities.

The proposal to buy the land and turn it over to Crow Wing County to add to its forest system got a mixed reaction from lawmakers Wednesday.

State Sen. Bill Ingebrigtsen, R-Alexandria, said that even at $7,000 an acre, the land purchase is a good deal.

“That land gets set aside, the state, the (DNR) doesn’t have to manage it ... and we’ll have hunting and fishing opportunities on a very beautiful, pristine 2.5 miles on the Mississippi River,” Ingebrigtsen said. “I think it’s a win-win for everybody.”

But state Rep. Denny McNamara, R-Hastings, a member of the advisory panel, wasn’t so sure. He was concerned about the price and whether the county could do as good a job of managing the forest as the DNR.

Other recommended projects include:

• $4.6 million for The Nature Conservancy to acquire native prairie and savanna and restore grasslands.

• $4.3 million for the DNR to speed up restoration of wildlife-management sites and scientific and natural areas.

• $3.7 million for several groups to buy land or conservation easements on three rivers.

• $3 million to help the DNR control Asian carp.

• $960,000 for the Minnesota Deer Hunters Association to restore and improve public forest lands for moose habitat.