Gary and Sandy Roerick have seen first hand the impact people can have on a landscape, first through Gary’s decades at the US Forest Service, and then as the stewards of a unique 80 acre piece of land in Hubbard County. Having managed and restored their land over the past 20 years, the Roerick’s recently protected it with a conservation easement through the Minnesota Land Trust, meaning it will stay in its natural state forever.
It all started 20 years ago, when the Roericks bought the property adjacent to the Lester Lake Scientific and Natural Area and Paul Bunyan State Forest. The forest features trees of varying ages, including some with fire scarring that could be over 200 years old. The cedar had regenerated in the 1950’s, and there was a deer wintering area on the property, which the DNR asked for help with the upkeep and feeding of. As Gary grew more involved in the maintenance of the property, he applied what he learned from his time as a land management practitioner at the Forest Service. He began thinning the trees, and restoring the land to the unique natural state. “We did plant surveys, and found all sorts of rare and unique plants that had moved in just since the clearing,” says Gary. Thinning the forest not only was good for the trees on the property, but as sunlight began to creep in, so did new plants and animals. “It just triggered a whole new response.”
Cutting aspen on the property led to beavers coming in to feed on new aspen saplings, and now there are 6 or 7 beavers dams on the property. A healthy white tail deer population has brought timberwolves as well, whose tracks can be seen crisscrossing in the snow in the winter. Finally, whole new plant communities have sprung up along the open areas and trails on the property, including a variety of orchids and some rare ferns.
“Cedar trees and orchids are now king on our rare and very unique Lester Lake property,” says Gary. “Conserving our land, trees, our very diverse plant communities and water is paramount for the future.”
“Gary and Sandy have done an amazing job reviving this land, and showing how private landowners can play a big role in protecting the natural resources we all depend on and love” says Vanessa Perry, program manager for the Minnesota Land Trust. “We’ve worked closely with Gary to create a habitat management plan to make sure the hard work he’s done in restoring this land is maintained. This property is at the head of the watershed that feeds Kabekona Lake, so protecting land and water quality is very important for the area.”
By protecting their land with a conservation easement the restoration work that Gary and Sandy have done will be protected from future development, and they retain ownership of the property. Beyond the immediate plants and animals on the land, protecting the property has real benefits for the water quality and plants and animals of greater Hubbard County as it connects to existing protected public properties.
“Protecting the water quality and natural areas of our state depends on the generous spirit of Minnesotans like Gary and Sandy Roerick, says Kris Larson, executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust. “By taking this important step to preserve this land forever, they are is ensuring that the natural systems they’ve brought back will continue to grow and thrive.”