Clearwater County Develops Bold Plan for County Forest Land

What do residents of Clearwater County want from their forest lands over the next 30 years?

That was the central question that was answered as the Headwaters RDC worked with Clearwater County on their County Forest Plan.

The management of county forest resources has undergone a major transformation in just a few short years.  While the traditional job of a county was to produce fiber for the wood products industry, the task is now much broader, with a greater number of stakeholders and interests to be addressed, a greater number of challenges to face, and an even greater number of opportunities to capture.

A number of factors will influence the management of the County’s 90,000 acres over the next three decades:

  • The changing nature of the wood products industry
  • The increased demand for wildlife habitat
  • The increased demand for recreation opportunities
  • The increased emphasis on aesthetic, and other non-economic resource considerations
  • The increase awareness of water quality concerns
  • The increased pressure due to growth on the fringes of county forest land
  • The change in energy policy, particularly as it relates to bio-mass

While it is certain that these changes are, and will continue, to occur, the exact nature of some of the change cannot be predicted.

The purpose of the Forest Management Plan is to put the County in a much better position to react to these changes by giving it a clear sense of the existing nature of its resource as well as a broadly held agreement on what it wants that resource to accomplish for its citizens in the future.

The final Clearwater County Forest Plan can be viewed here.

For more information on this effort, please contact Bruce Cox, Clearwater County Natural Resources Director, or Tony Mayer of the Headwaters RDC.

HRDC Assists Counties in Local Water Plan Updates

The Headwaters RDC worked with both the Beltrami Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) and the Clearwater SWCD over the past year to complete Priority Concerns Scoping Documents for their Comprehensive Local Water Management Plan updates.  The Headwaters RDC’s role in the process included facilitating public participation, soliciting information from local stakeholders, holding public meetings, soliciting priority concerns from various local and state agencies, and document preparation.  Beltrami County formally adopted the full plan on July 1, 2008.  The Clearwater County SWCD is currently in the process of updating the full plan and completed their Priority Concerns Scoping Document in the fall of 2008.

The Beltrami County Priority Concerns Scoping Document can be viewed here.

Beltrami County Adopts Breakthrough Recreational Trails Plan

A local vision for having the best trail system in Minnesota took a big leap forward last spring when Beltrami County adopted a Recreational Trails Plan for County-managed lands.

In a process that began in the spring of 2005, over a dozen local groups stepped forward to work with the County to create a vision for multiple uses of County forest lands that includes recreational trails.  Led by a County Board-appointed task force of 20 people, a consultant team of the HRDC and Brauer & Associates developed a plan that identifies the location, general design characteristics and development strategies for each type of trail use.

One of the highlights coming out of the process was a consensus by the task force to balance broad forest access for multiple uses with the creation of well designed, fun trails that meet the needs of various users.  For example, the County currently has about 500 miles of forest access roads on 147,000 acres of land that will largely remain open for all uses, provided those uses don’t exceed ecological or economic “impact thresholds” set in the plan.

Most users, however, will be drawn to a system of designated trails that will be developed by the County in manageable, easily accessed sites.  Cross country skiers, snowmobilers, ATV riders and mountain bikers (among others) will find well-designed and managed trails being developed as the plan is implemented.

One of the benefits of the County’s approach to including representatives of all user groups in the planning process is that the user groups are eager and willing to help implement the plan.  From the County Natural Resource Management Department’s perspective, that is critical.  With limited resources, it will take dedicated volunteers to help department staff design, fund, construct and maintain the facilities envisioned in the plan.

Implementation of the plan began with the County establishing a Recreational Trails Advisory Committee and a Recreation Resource Manager within the Natural Resource Management Department.  John Winter, formerly with the DNR Parks Division, was hired to fill the Recreation Resource Manager position and is responsible for working with user groups to develop the various facilities identified within the plan and to manage all designated recreational trail systems on an ongoing basis.

You can view the Recreational Trail Plan as well as the Recreational Trail Plan Map on the Natural Resource Management section of the Beltrami County website.  John Winter, Recreation Resource Manager, or the HRDC may also be contacted for additional information.

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