Carlos Avery Wildlife area gains 80 acres
The addition of the parcel of land to the nature area is result of a compromise to an earlier sale the city of Columbus had blocked.
By JIM ADAMS, Star Tribune
Eighty acres of valuable wetlands and oak forests that shelter deer, grouse, turkeys and other wildlife were acquired this week for the Carlos Avery Wildlife Management Area in Anoka County.
The parcel was half of a larger property in the city of Columbus that the owners offered to sell three years ago to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). But that sale was stopped by the Columbus City Council and the Anoka County Board, both of which voted it down to preserve potential property taxes from possible future development. No development is permitted in Carlos Avery, which covers 23,000 acres, including about 10,000 in Columbus.
“We were happy to find a compromise to allow the most environmentally sensitive land to be conserved, yet provide the city with what it felt was needed,” said Bob McGillivray. He is senior project manager for the Minnesota office of the Trust for Public Land, a nonprofit agency that helps buy and preserve such lands. He said the 80 acres have been designated as a site of “outstanding biological diversity” by the state County Biological Survey.
The parcel cost $520,000, which will come from state bonds sold for preserving such habitat, said Tim Bremiker, regional wildlife manager for the DNR’s central region, including the Twin Cities.
“It is a key 80 acres for public recreation” because it is about 30 miles from the Twin Cities, the state’s largest population center, Bremiker said. The site’s proximity to the Twin Cities can help increase declining public participation in outdoor activities, such as hunting, added Harland Hiemstra, a DNR spokesman. Columbus Administrator Elizabeth Mursko said the city did not object to the DNR buying the western 80 acres of the 160 that were in the original deal three years ago. But the council opposed including the adjacent 80 acres to the east because the land was near two city roads and easier to develop. The council didn’t want to lose potential property taxes from a future residential development, Mursko said.
Eventually, the DNR and property owners Gerry Dederick and Al Levitan agreed to settle for half a loaf. Then the City Council voted 5-0 in early March to support the 80-acre sale, and the Anoka County Board approved it in late March.
Mursko noted that the city had asked the DNR for its long-range plans for buying property around Carlos Avery, which the agency provided in 2007. The city has opposed only three of 14 sites the agency wanted to buy, and two of those cases, including the latest purchase, have been resolved, she said.
“Overall, we support the DNR’s hunting and wildlife management program,” Mursko said. “As we move along and further develop, we have to look at what is the best plan for Columbus overall. When we look at the tax base, we have 12,000 [nontaxable] acres in public ownership. The council said we have to look out for the city, so we can provide services. It’s a balance.”
The city also includes two other state wildlife management areas, and all or parts of two large county parks, Mursko noted.
She said state law allows townships and certain cities such as Columbus to receive state payments in lieu of taxes for wildlife management and similar areas. The state pays the city about $32,000 or more a year for its public, nontaxable lands, she said.