Cass County Board: Backus, Akeley residents petition for county help with 'abusive' ag practices

BACKUS - About 50 people living between Backus and Akeley signed a petition presented to Cass County commissioners Tuesday, asking the board "to defend our area from the abusive practices of industrial agriculture."...

BACKUS - About 50 people living between Backus and Akeley signed a petition presented to Cass County commissioners Tuesday, asking the board "to defend our area from the abusive practices of industrial agriculture."

The petition was signed on various dates from September 2014 to January 2015. It was submitted to the land department early this month.

The signers of the petition express concern about the effect of pesticides and fertilizers on groundwater and neighboring residents, about the loss of timber land to farm land and concerns about any downgrade of water resources would have on the tourist industry and the local natural environment.

"We feel we're doing what they asked," Land Commissioner Joshua Stevenson told the county board.

The board in October 2014 passed a resolution calling for ongoing research to implement best agriculture and forest practices, a statewide water permitting process with reasonable enforcement, countywide regulations that balance public and private interests, public land acquisition of private parcels where it fits with local government policy and for the county to expedite its geologic atlas.


Since that was adopted, Stevenson said Cass has entered into a contract using state Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage money to purchase 300 acres of Potlatch timberland. Some of that will serve as a buffer between residents and proposed agricultural conversion land, he said.

Minnesota DNR currently is reviewing its policies toward requiring more environmental review than in the past when agricultural enterprises seek multiple irrigation well permits.

Stevenson reported he has met with the Soil and Water Conservation District board to outline his program for sustainable timber harvest rotation. He said it appears there is market and demand for cutting some aspen stands regenerated from storm damage regrowth from 1969.

This could shorten the growth rotation for aspen from 60 to 80 years down to the 45- to 50-year range, he noted.

Stevenson also explained the types of tree stands Cass is selecting to preserve as old growth forest as a part of meeting criteria for continuing to be sustainable forest certified. Old stands of white cedar and tree stands located in hard to reach areas such as islands of timber surrounded by marshes are among those being designated, he said.

He also reported federal officials have delayed a determination of whether the long-eared bat will be designated as endangered or threatened until April 1.

Those officials have listened to forest resource managers about how they have been managing forest growth like providing pine stands around cleared openings, which benefits the bat breeding and feeding areas, Stevenson said.

"I'm still concerned, but more encouraged than last fall," he sold the board about his view of what the final outcome might be in April. Originally, the federal proposal could have largely eliminated summer logging here in the bat's breeding area, while the bat's problem stems from its susceptibility to a white nose fungus acquired during winter hibernation in other parts of the county.


Stevenson reported Cass County has received a grant to improve the section of Snoway 1 snowmobile trail from County State Aid Highway (CSAH) 40 by Hackensack north to Heartland Trail near Walker. Cass will provide $10,000 toward the $40,000 project.

Last year, the county improved the Snoway 1 leg from Highway 87 east of Backus to CSAH 40 with help from a grant.

Grant money ran out in 2014 before funding could be obtained for the county's cross country ski program. Stevenson said he will reapply this year for the ski trails.

The county board approved a reciprocal agreement with private property owners in Trelipe Township, so the landowners can reach their property and the public can reach county land in that area. Trelipe Town Board approved the plan.

The commissioners approved allowing CitiFinancial's request to repurchase a tax-forfeited property in Meadowbrook Township by paying past due taxes and current fees of $5,441.06.

They selected low bidders Bieniek Abatement Services for up to $10,480 to remove asbestos from a rural Motley house and one in Cass Lake, Storlie Construction for up to $15,950 to demolish three houses at Cass Lake and all dead trees on the lots and one house with an old barn and decrepit shed in rural Pine River and Hengel Ready Mix and Construction for up to $15,833 to demolish an old motel and three trailer houses on the property at Motley.

All are on tax-forfeited properties.

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