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Pillager couple receives conservation award

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Al and Linda Larson of Pillager were awarded the John Peck Volunteer of the Year Award by the Minnesota Land Trust at the organization’s annual Treasured Places Celebration in Duluth Sept. 8.

The Larsons have volunteered for the nonprofit conservation organization for more than 10 years as conservation easement monitors. Linda Larson recalled how they got started.

“We can’t remember the exact year — I think sometime in the mid- to late 90s, but it was when the land trust gave a talk at the Nisswa Town Hall and the result was that a group was formed and we called ourselves the Heartland Lakes Chapter of the Minnesota Land Trust,” Ann trained us and got us started monitoring properties”.

The properties Larson refers to our mainly private lands that have been protected for their conservation values by willing landowners. The land trust has been active in the Brainerd area for 20 years, using conservation easements that keep property in private ownership but include restrictions on how the property may be used. The organization works with other local conservation groups such as the Leech Lake Area Watershed Foundation to preserve sensitive lands and shorelands for fish and wildlife habitat and to ensure pristine water quality for future generations of landowners.

Kris Larson, executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust, praised the Larsons for their role in helping advance conservation in this part of the state.

“Protecting land for conservation purposes is an on-going process that requires vigilance long after the project has been completed,” he said. “The Larsons represent the best of our corps of dedicated monitors who visit each and every protected property annually to make sure the land continues to serve its intended conservation purposes.”

The Larsons, who are both retired teachers, enjoy the task immensely, land trust officials said, and have logged many miles hiking the protected lands.

The award was presented at the Minnesota Land Trust’s annual Treasured Places Celebration held at Spirit Mountain in Duluth. The Minnesota Land Trust is a member-supported, nonprofit conservation organization working statewide to preserve Minnesota’s natural and scenic heritage through public and private partnerships. More information can be found online at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
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