Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Land Exchange Withdrawn as New Concern is Raised

Doug Rowlett, DNR Area Supervisor, announced, following the Cook County Board's unanimous vote in opposition of the proposed Land Exchange between the Minnesota DNR and Larry DeWester,that DeWester has withdrawn his request for the exchange. Rowlett went on to state that, "no further actions will be taken to purse this exchange."

The County Board's rejection of the proposed exchange came as a "packed house" of area residents expressed their opposition. Nancy Seaton, chairman of the Gunflint Scenic Byways committee in expressing her committee's opposition stated that while both a diamond and a bucket of coal are made out of carbon they are not equal and that similarly trading the Hovland Land for the Grand Marais land is not an equal trade, and she hoped the Country Board would reject this exchange.

Grand Marais resident Betsy Bowen express the sentiment of those at the meeting that it would be a fine idea for the DNR to acquire the remote land in the Hovland area as proposed in the exchange. However the aesthetic and recreational values of the hillside overlooking Grand Marais is to important to the City and the Gunflint Trail to allow these values to be sacrificed to development. Others at the meeting expressed concern that the city is already having water run-off problems caused by the current development on the hillside above the city. Development of the size proposed by this exchange would only serve to acerbate this problem.

In another twist on the disposition of the exchange land, Jim Raml, of Seagull Lake, announced at the Board meeting that the DNR is also considering selling a portion of the land that was to be included in the exchange. When asked, Rowlett confirmed that this was true. The DNR has two forties from the area listed as land the state is proposing to offer for sale if the proposed land exchange does not go through.

In response to this new revelation, members of the Country Board, including Jim Johnson and Bob Fenwick, express the Board's interest that the DNR work with the County and the city of Grand Marais before any action is taken in the selling any of the DNR's land within the exchange area. Both stated that the County would likely be interested in purchasing this land and using it to benefit the residents of the country. County Commissioner Bruce Martinson suggested that the DNR along with the city and other stakeholders should develop a comprehensive plan for the area above the city just as the DNR has done for the Cascade and Temperance River areas. Rowlett agreed it would work with the Country, city and all interested parties before any further actions were taken on the disposition of any property within this important hillside area.

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