Nestled amongst three scenic Minnesota lakes in Otter Tail County is the unique property of Jim and Joan Burkett. This property is emblematic of the amazing wildlife habitat found in Otter Tail’s lake country and connects to more than 3,000 acres that have been protected near the Burkett’s land on Spitzer Lake. In order to ensure that their prairie, woodlands and wetlands remain intact, the Burkett’s recently acted to protect their property forever with a conservation easement with the Minnesota Land Trust.
For Jim, protecting the land was his way of preserving his memories of watching his family growing up enjoying the land and water. “I’ve made so many memories recreating on this land; from the first duck my daughter shot, to my son’s first deer.” says Jim. “We host an annual Fourth of July event here for the family, and give the kids a scavenger hunt that takes them to different sections of the land to collect things like cattails and oak leaves. It exposes them to different parts of the property.”
The land is mostly forested, but features remnant prairie and oak savanna, both increasingly rare landscapes in Minnesota. In fact, oak savanna is considered Minnesota’s rarest remaining habitat type. The Burkett’s long-term plan is to further restore and manage the prairie and oak savanna. Over the years they’ve seen a wide range of wildlife on their land, including bald eagle, whitetail deer, and American kestrel. Neighbors in the area have also seen hooded warbler and red-shouldered hawk as well.
Jim says that protecting the land will also allow future generations to make their own memories. “Probably the most important thing to us is leaving that legacy for the next generation; whether that’s in our family or whoever owns this in the future. It’s important for me to know that the character of this land won’t change, forever.”
In addition to the land and wildlife benefits of protecting this property, there are water benefits too. Otter Tail county has over 1,000 lakes, more than any other county in Minnesota, and the undeveloped shoreline along this piece of protected land will benefit the water quality in adjacent lakes for the years to come.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to find undeveloped shoreline along a lake in Minnesota nowadays,” says Pat Anderson, program manager at the Minnesota Land Trust. “By agreeing to a conservation easement, Jim and Joan have preserved the shorelines of three beautiful lakes which will help ensure that these lakes will have clean, undisturbed water for anyone who uses them in the future.”
“The work we do to protect the natural places in our state depends on the generous spirit of Minnesotans like Jim and Joan,” says Kris Larson, executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust. “Their desire to leave a legacy of outdoor recreation and wildlife habitat through this untouched natural landscape speaks volumes for them, and means we can now permanently protect a unique part of our state for all Minnesotans.”