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Minnesota Land Trust Works with Area Landowner to Protect Anoka County Property from Development

October 11, 2010 | Minnesota Land Trust | St. Paul

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Walter Abramson
Director of Development & Communications
1-651-647-9590 | wabramson@mnland.org

 

Minnesota Land Trust Works with Area Landowner to Protect Anoka County Property from Development


ST. PAUL, MN
-- “It’s a little oasis in the middle of a concrete and asphalt jungle.” That’s how William Gombold describes his property, a 44-acre parcel adjacent to the Sandhill Crane Natural Area. Bill Gombold provided the City of East Bethel with a lasting legacy of conservation by completing a land-protection project with the Minnesota Land Trust and the Anoka Conservation District.  

Funding for this project was provided in part by the Minnesota Environment and Natural Resources Trust Fund as recommended by the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR). The Trust Fund is permanently funded by Minnesota State Lottery proceeds to ensure future benefits for Minnesota’s environment and natural resources.

Bill describes his property as an ideal mixture of some of the iconic landscapes of Minnesota. It includes hardwoods, bluestem prairie, wetlands, and nearly 2,000 feet of shoreline on Deer Lake and two ponds. “It’s got it all,” Bill says.

The property has been mapped by the Minnesota County Biological Survey (MCBS) and includes the type of land that provides habitat for many species that are finding fewer and fewer places to call home.  These include sandhill cranes and American badgers, both of which have been seen on the property by Bill Gombold.  Other species seen on the property include herons, egrets, coyotes, black bears, Blanding’s turtles, bitterns, and trumpeter swans. The shallow profile of the lake and surrounding wetlands are ideal places for western grebe, northern pintail and other migrating birds that were once plentiful in Anoka County and are now considered “species in greatest conservation need,” defined as wildlife species with small or declining populations or other characteristics that make them vulnerable.

Providing habitat for a diverse group of birds and animals is a driving force behind Bill’s desire to preserve his family land. “I have a deep appreciation for our natural resources and I
realize how unique this piece of property is,” Bill said recently. “It’s given me a lifetime of enjoyment and appreciation for it.”

While Northern Anoka County still appears rural and relatively untouched, in reality it’s facing increasing pressure from residential and commercial development.  The DNR has been supportive of a need for open space. “We’ve had an interest in seeing the Gombold property protected for some time,” said Bryan Lueth, DNR Area Wildlife Supervisor. “It is part of a larger complex of relatively undisturbed land that provides critically important wildlife habitat in a part of the metro area where good habitat is disappearing.”

Indeed, the Minnesota Land Trust places properties like this high on the priority list. Kris Larson, executive director for the Land Trust, explains why. “This property represents a unique, quality natural landscape that’s contiguous to other open spaces, along with a family’s deep commitment to improving and preserving the land for future generations. We’re proud to play a role in helping Mr. Gombold to achieve his goals for his property.”

The Gombold family has a strong connection to this land. The property was originally homesteaded by the Jackson family, and became part of a larger cattle farm. Bill Gombold’s grandfather, Rudy Gombold, leased the property from the Jackson family in the 1920’s to use for seasonal hunting.  Bill remembers his grandfather’s stories about driving from his home in St. Paul along Highway 65, which was a sandy dirt road in those days, in anticipation of a few days hunting. Always looking for ways to improve habitat for waterfowl, the elder Gombold gathered wild rice from a property he owned up north and planted it in the southern end of Deer Lake where it prospered.

As time passed, Bill and his father continued to lease the property from the Jacksons and established a hunting club.  In 1976, there was a severe drought in the area that dried up much of the wetlands and southern end of Deer Lake.  The drought caused the wild rice to die off, and it failed to return the following summer.  Bill contacted the University of Minnesota’s Agricultural Department for assistance in reestablishing the wild rice.  With their guidance, Bill gathered wild rice from the same property his grandfather had 50 years prior and replanted it in the lake when the water levels returned to normal.  The rice quickly became well established throughout the southern end.

Bill purchased the property from the Jackson family in the late 1980’s and lived for many years in a nearby farmhouse.  Although he no longer lives on the land full time, he continues to use it as seasonal hunting grounds and a place to continue his family’s connection to the land.  The property remains in private ownership, and Bill Gombold will still be responsible for managing the property and paying property taxes. However, in order to preserve the property’s outstanding conservation benefits, certain uses of the property are restricted such as industrial or commercial uses, intense residential development or inappropriate land management.  

Completing a conservation easement with the Minnesota Land Trust has been a gratifying experience for Bill. “I didn’t know there were organizations like the Land Trust that will help landowners.” While Bill’s easement took several years and involved a few twists and turns, he maintains that “it turned out good – extremely good. I’m very satisfied with the fact that I don’t have to worry about ever seeing bulldozers on that land.” In fact, a neighbor on an adjoining piece of property has been inspired by Bill’s experience and is considering an easement on his own land.

The Minnesota Land Trust is a non-profit conservation organization working to preserve our state’s natural and scenic heritage through public and private partnerships. It is the state’s only nationally-accredited land trust and operates statewide through regional offices in Duluth, Ely, Red Wing and St. Paul. More information can be found online at www.mnland.org.

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