Nestled between the expansive Chippewa National Forest and beautiful Land O’Lakes State Forest lies Thunder Lake, a quickly developing lake in Cass County. A lake with high water quality, Thunder Lake is home to iconic Minnesota species like the common loon. Thanks to the generosity of Bruce Steiner and his family, 49 acres of natural land and 2,700 feet of undisturbed shoreline are protected forever through a conservation easement with the Minnesota Land Trust.
The property was first purchased by Steiner’s grandfather, Frank Steiner in 1925. Even then the area was facing development pressures, and the family worked diligently over the years to clean and manage the property for recreation and wildlife habitat. When it was acquired most of the trees had been harvested from the land, but the property now boasts a beautiful canopy of northern red oaks and bigtooth aspen trees.
In addition to the property’s importance to the Steiner family, it’s just as important a piece of wildlife habitat for common loon, least darter, and other Minnesota Species in Greatest Conservation Need. The protected parcel connects to 400 acres of state forest, adding another 49 acres of needed habitat to that larger wildlife complex.
“The importance of this project in this location cannot be understated,” said Ruurd Schoolderman, program manager at the Minnesota Land Trust. “If we are to continue to ensure our natural lands and wildlife are able to remain resilient in the face of a changing climate and increased development, we will need the support and additional protections provided by private landowners like Bruce Steiner and his family.”
Steiner agrees. “I’ve been a big supporter of initiatives around fresh water in Minnesota, and the upper Mississippi area is an important focus area to try and maintain that quality. A big part of that is shoreline preservation and here we have substantial undisturbed shoreline – that seemed to make it a fit for the things I support.”
Long term, the property will be given to Steiner’s children to continue to manage and enjoy.
“For conservation in our state to succeed, we need private landowners like Steiners to be a part of the solution,” said Kris Larson, executive director of the Minnesota Land Trust. “This sort of generous protection means that the land will continue to be managed by a private landowner who truly knows and appreciates it, while also protecting wildlife habitat in perpetuity.”
“I’ve enjoyed seeing the maps where you have increasing numbers of these easements around the state – there’s a few right around us – it’s encouraging to see something that’s protecting land like this taking hold,” said Bruce. “The process was very valuable and the end result – I feel like it’s as good a forward-thinking way of stewarding and protecting the land as I can think of.”