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Land Exchange Board to Hear Minnesota DNR Request to Purchase Talking Lake County Land

The Land Exchange Board will consider MNR’s request at its regular meeting scheduled for 10:00 a.m. on December 1.

DNR Commissioner Sarah Strommen told the West Central Tribune during a visit to Willmar in October that the department planned to submit its request to the Land Exchange Board while continuing to work on building relationships with officials. County.

Sarah Strommen, Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Photo courtesy of MNR

The Parle Lake County Board of Commissioners in February 2019 denied MNR’s request to purchase 80 acres of what was described as marginal cropland from Phillip Sonstegard of Jo’s Family Farms LLC. The owner challenged the refusal in court. District Judge Thomas Van Hon ruled in April 2021 that the county council’s denial was “arbitrary and capricious” and his reasons were invalid. The court said the MNR and the landowner could take the case to the Land Exchange Board to pursue the acquisition.

MNR is seeking to acquire the land and expand the Baxter Wildlife Management Area, which it borders in Baxter Township.

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Sonstegard purchased the land in 2011 when it was enrolled in the conservation reserve program. According to the application to the Land Exchange Board, he subsequently attempted to exploit the property and encountered challenges ranging from areas with standing water during wet years and soybean yields significantly below the county average. .

MNR has stated that its interest in acquiring the land is to protect the existing wetlands on the site and provide perennial cover for the benefit of grassland nesting birds and pollinators. The property’s proximity to the Baxter Wildlife Management Area allows for the development of a larger habitat complex for the benefit of wildlife. The ministry also cites the water quality benefits and additional recreational opportunities that the acquisition can provide.

Payments in lieu of taxes to be made annually to the county will be higher than the property taxes currently provided by the land, according to the request to the Land Exchange Board.

Allowing the acquisition to go ahead with a willing seller also protects the landowner’s rights as landowner, MNR said in its request.

MNR also cited the importance of public lands in its request to the Land Exchange Board.

“According to a recent survey, Minnesota hunters rely on and want more public land. The survey showed that Parle Lake County is “the most popular county destination in the state for pheasant and waterfowl hunters who depend on these public lands.” And, he’s right behind Kandiyohi County with the deer hunters, ”the DNR said.

The Land Exchange Board is made up of Governor Tim Walz, State Auditor Julie Blaha and Attorney General Keith Ellingson.

The link to view the December 1 meeting will be available on the Land Exchange Board webpage: www.dnr.state.mn.us/lands_minerals/landexchange/board.html


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