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Landowner’s gift: 2 new scientific and natural areas in Itasca County

A landowner’s gift of two parcels of property will result in two new scientific and natural areas (SNA) in northern Itasca County, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) said.

The Little Too Much Lake SNA is about 58 acres and contains two types of mesic hardwood forest; aspen-birch-red maple and sugar maple-basswood. A few patches of red and white pine on this new SNA include trees more than 250 years old. The site also protects about 2,600 feet of natural lakeshore on north side of Little Too Much Lake.

The 84-acre Potato Lake SNA contains old red pine and white pine woodland, along with other high-quality forest and wetland types. Old mixed pine-hardwood forests are relatively rare and are not commonly available for protection.

“Creating these two SNAs will protect ecologically sensitive parcels, while also making them accessible to the public,” said Peggy Booth, SNA program supervisor. “What was formerly a private piece of property will now be managed in a way that allows more people to enjoy it -while protecting native habitat.”

SNAs are a state land unit, like state parks or wildlife management areas, but with a different emphasis. The purpose is to protect the best of Minnesota’s remaining natural heritage, such as rare species, native prairies, old-growth forests and geologic features.

Landowners can play a significant role in the creation of future SNAs through conservation easements or donations. Both Itasca County parcels were donated by an Illinois resident.

“The landowner’s commitment to land protection goes above and beyond anything I saw in my career,” said Steve Wilson, retired DNR SNA specialist. “Because of his discerning eye in purchasing undisturbed riparian plant communities, and decades-long protection of them, each tract is an ecological gem in its own right. Combined with his future plans for five more parcels in the area and two previously protected natural areas in Wisconsin, they speak to a conservation legacy that few can match.”

Visitors are welcome to hike the area or visit by other means of foot travel, like skis and snowshoes. Both new SNAs are open to fishing, hunting and dogs under control. Nature observation, education, scientific research, and other nonmotorized recreation are allowed on most SNAs. Consistent with the above intended uses and protection of the site’s natural features, camping, campfires, trapping, damaging vegetation and motorized recreation are not allowed.

Learn more about the state’s 158 SNAs, their conservation and scientific value, or how to submit a parcel to be considered for donation by visiting the DNR website at

Denton (Denny) Newman Jr.
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