Conservation Minnesota

Legacy Amendment funds help Lake Vermilion landowners protect shoreline, 150-year-old pines on 85-acre island property

For Immediate Release

Contact information:
Walter Abramson
Director of Development & Communications
Minnesota Land Trust

June 18, 2012 – St. Paul, Minnesota – Steve Keibler counted the growth rings on the uprooted white pine. “I counted over 120 rings and I knew that this wasn’t the largest tree on the property.”  In fact, the 85 acres and 1,226 feet of shoreline that he and his wife June own on Pine Island in Lake Vermilion contain numerous old-growth red and white pine estimated to be 150 to 200 years old.

Working with the Minnesota Land Trust, they permanently protected their land and its shoreline. The protection comes in the form of a perpetual conservation easement, donated by the Keiblers, which limits future division and development of the property.  The Land Trust’s long-term stewardship and other costs were provided by the Outdoor Heritage Fund, one of four funds created when Minnesota voters passed the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment in 2008.

The Keiblers, who are long-time residents of Illinois, fell in love with the property in 1995 when visiting friends on Pine Island. According to Mr. Keibler, “We had been looking for land like this in Maine for several years with no luck. When we stepped onto the island it was every bit as spectacular as Maine, only a lot closer to our home in Illinois – we could hardly believe it.” They purchased an available five-acre parcel, adding an additional 80 adjacent acres a few years later.

The Keiblers have been active in conservation in Illinois for years.  June Keibler coordinated a successful, 15-year effort to re-establish the eastern prairie fringed orchid in their home state.  Their 85 acres on Pine Island contains numerous orchids, including the Minnesota state flower.  “Between the rare orchids and the old-growth pines, we knew that this piece of land was something special. We wanted to do what we could to preserve it so future generations could come to appreciate its wilderness quality.”

The conservation easement keeps the land in private ownership but prevents the Keiblers and any future owners from developing the property further than its existing buildings which include a cabin, boathouse and a couple of sheds.  The easement also prevents the property from being split into smaller parcels, which will keep the 1,226 feet of shoreline free from excessive impacts that degrade spawning areas for fish.

Pine Island is one of the premier islands in Lake Vermilion. Within earshot of the newly created Lake Vermilion State Park, the Keibler property is bordered on the south by a 170-acre parcel already protected with a conservation easement held by the Land Trust.  The Land Trust is actively pursuing similar land protection projects with willing landowners of high-quality shoreline in northern Minnesota.  With Legacy Amendment funding for its Critical Shoreline Protection Program, the Land Trust expects to complete a third Pine Island project later this year.

“If we want to maintain the quality of our lakes and rivers, we need to protect the shoreline areas where the most important ecological functions take place,” notes Frances Fitzgerald, regional conservation director of the Minnesota Land Trust. “In addition to keeping the water clean and the aquatic habitat robust, undisturbed shoreline areas improve the health and diversity of upland wildlife.”

“This is a great use of Outdoor Heritage Fund dollars,” adds Kris Larson, executive director of the non-profit Land Trust. “It keeps land in private ownership while protecting its conservation values for everyone else to enjoy. Whether you’re a Lake Vermilion angler casting a line against the undisturbed shore or simply motoring past in your boat, you can thank the Keiblers for this incredible and generous gift. You can also thank the Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council and the state legislature for their wisdom in providing funding to make this project possible.”

The Minnesota Land Trust is a membership-based non-profit organization.  Its mission is to permanently protect Minnesota’s natural and scenic heritage through public and private partnerships. The organization is funded by individual members and through grants from a variety of private and public sources and operates statewide through regional offices in Duluth, Ely and St. Paul.  The organization has completed 437 conservation projects permanently protecting more than 39,000 acres of natural and scenic land and over 850,000 feet of fragile shoreline statewide.

The Outdoor Heritage Fund is one of four funds created by the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment and provides funding to restore, protect, and enhance wetlands, prairies, forest and habitat for fish, game, and wildlife. The Lessard-Sams Outdoor Heritage Council (LSOHC) was established by the legislature to provide annual recommendations on how the Outdoor Heritage Funds should be used.

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