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Conservation effort on North Shore is for the birds - and all of us

North Shore Protection Initiative map. File photo

An effort to save 115 acres of critical North Shore habitat was lauded by the Duluth Superior Area Community Foundation this week as one of five 2009 Touchstone Award honorees.

The prize -- and with it, $2,000 -- was presented in Duluth Tuesday to the St. Paul-based Minnesota Land Trust for its North Shore Critical Landscape Protection Initiative.

"Our primary land-protection strategy is the conservation easement," Land Trust spokesman Walter Abramson told the News-Chronicle from St. Paul, describing the group's agreements with private landowners resulting in permanent land-use restrictions focusing on conservation.

The protected parcels include:

-- Palisade Valley: A 21-acre property in Lake County immediately adjacent to another 35-acre parcel with 3,000 feet of Lake Superior shoreline, protected with a conservation easement held by the Land Trust since 1998. The 21 acres former held a rustic campground purchased by the landowners in 2006 and consists of open grassland and northern coniferous forest. The property is part of a state-identified migratory bird corridor, providing feeding and nesting habitat for shorebirds and songbirds.

-- Manitou River: This property in Lake County consists of approximately 8 acres of mature birch forest located northwest of an earlier, 9-acre, Manitou River conservation easement held by the Land Trust. Caribou Falls State Park is less than a half-mile away. This area is a critical wintering habitat for whitetail deer and other native wildlife species that winter along the lake in the birch, cedar and pine forests, taking advantage of the lake-effect temperatures. The property is also an identified migratory corridor.

-- Nine Mile Lake: This 34-acre property in Lake County consists of three islands in Nine Mile Lake, a 300-acre clear lake located within Superior National Forest. Nine Mile Creek flows from the lake into the Manitou River, which flows directly into Lake Superior.

-- Caribou Lake: This 74-acre property in Cook County is located within the Superior National Forest and complements another Minnesota Land Trust project on Caribou Lake that was completed in 1996 that protects 40 acres and more than 3,000 feet of shoreline. This new property consists of mixed northern coniferous forest with scattered bog-type wetlands and rocky tree covered ridges on nearly 1,500 feet of undeveloped shoreline along Caribou Lake, a 728-acre recreational development lake.

Those numbers made an impression on Holly Sampson, the Duluth Superior Community Foundation's president, who said in a statement, "In just its first year, a conservation opportunities plan, four direct land protection projects which will protect 115 acres of critical North Shore Habitat and over 200 presentations about conservation issues on the North Shore were completed."

The other Touchstone award winners, all based in Duluth, were:

- The Northland Connection for its Web-based economic development portal,, that "uses advanced technology and new tools to position and ensure businesses, organizations and entrepreneurs who are looking to expand or relocate to the region have the tools they need to succeed."

- Art Works Expo, a conference held in 2008 that brought more than 300 local arts, business and civic leaders together to collaborate on local economic growth. This branched into other initiatives, including the Twin Ports Regional Arts Alliance.

- The Copeland Community Center, for expanding its annual Hmong New Year celebration

- The Domestic Abuse Intervention Programs, for an initiative that is known worldwide as "The Duluth Model." The approach incorporates community institutions in helping to stop domestic violence, shifting responsibility from victims.

The event's theme, "Celebrating our Creative Economy," included ideas from a 2007 presentation at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center by Richard Florida, an author and professor who talks about the "creative class." Florida passed along "The Four T's," and the community foundation presented awards based on talent, technology, tolerance, territory and overall achievement.