Minnesota’s Mississippi Headwaters area has seen a popular resurgence in recent years, as Minnesotans have rediscovered the natural beauty and recreation opportunities in the area. This explosive growth however has had its downsides, particularly as other land uses such as potato farming have simultaneously increased in the area. These development and land use pressures have created an untenable situation for our iconic cold water lakes, wild rice areas, and wildlife. Fortunately, a local Hubbard County couple has taken an important step to protect their land from development forever and preserve the region’s wildlife habitat with a conservation easement through the Minnesota Land Trust.
Alan Olander grew up exploring the lakes in the region, and has seen the area change significantly in his lifetime. “I’ve seen a huge change – not just in the number of people in the area, but how these bigger lots have been broken down and developed,” says Alan. “When I was young, every step around the lakes you’d see frogs jumping in the water. Now with shorelines being developed and habitat being destroyed – those frogs are all but gone.”
His wife Kathy moved to the area over 40 years ago as well, and has enjoyed that same connection to nature on their undeveloped property. “We named our property Wolf Song,” she says. “I can’t tell you the joy that sound brings to us, when we hear them singing at night. We have come to appreciate the cycle of the wolves and the deer here, the cycle of nature.”
The Olander property plays an important part in protecting wildlife habitat for the region, and is connected to the Paul Bunyan State Forest. “Properties like this serve an important role in expanding wildlife habitat adjacent to public lands,” says Vanessa Perry, program manager at the Minnesota Land Trust. “With most land in Minnesota in private hands, having individuals step up and protect these natural places is a vital part of conservation in our state.”
By protecting private land with a conservation easement, the property is still owned by the individual property owner, but future development is limited. “As more and more landowners realize the benefits of protecting their land with a conservation easement, we’re making sure the waters and lands we all rely on will be here for future generations,” says Perry. “By using a conservation easement, we’re also ensuring the land will stay in private hands, and that landowners will continue to pay taxes, recreate on the land, and sustainably manage the land for timber through a professionally designed habitat management plan.”
More than anything though, the Olander’s hope that by permanently protecting their land, they can pass on a legacy of conservation to their family and friends. “We’ve had folks come and do monarch counts for over 20 years on our land. We snowshoe on our land and see the big wolf tracks. This is all something so rare – we just want to have a place where nature can do its thing,” says Kathy.
“We’ve always worried that if something happened to us, if someday the connection we have to the land were lost, that the property might get split up and sold off. The prospect of the Land Trust keeping it safe in perpetuity was the most amazing thought. It lets us sleep better at night knowing it will always be this way.”
“Protecting the water quality and wildlife habitat of our state depends on the generous spirit of Minnesotans like Alan and Kathy,” says Kris Larson, executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust. “By taking this important step to preserve their land forever, the Olander’s are helping to protect Minnesota’s legacy of clean water and abundant wildlife.”