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Hundreds of years ago, before an influx of European settlers, the area that would one day become the state of Minnesota was a heavily wooded region filled with majestic red and white pines, some as tall as 200 feet. Native Americans roamed the lands, foraging and hunting for food. If you are interested in experiencing what the terrain must have been like back in those times, you can plan a visit to the Lost 40, a stand of trees in the Chippewa National Forest, just outside of the Boundary Waters and Itasca State Park. Visitors here marvel at the size of the magnificent red and white pine trees towering above the land, including Minnesota's state red pine Big Tree Champion which stands 120 feet tall. Some of these trees living here are estimated to be 250-300 years old. 'The Lost 40' continues to stand to this day largely as a result of a surveying mistake back in the late 1800's. Interestingly, the survey team mistakenly included this section of forest as part of a lake. Because the land did not technically 'exist', according to the survey, the timber companies couldn't technically buy it, thus preserving this extraordinary stand of red and white pine trees to this day.
Now, imagine that the forest as it exists in 'The Lost 40' covered most of the northern part of Minnesota. Early settlers flocked to the region as a result of these rich timber resources and the beauty of the land itself. In 1849, Minnesota was legally named the Minnesota Territory, and it became the 32nd state in 1858. After the Civil War, the logging, timber and farming industries became the primary industry of the area. Throughout the 19th century, railroad lines were established in the region, facilitating the transportation of timber to other regions. The developing timber and lumber industries flourished in Minnesota during this time. Traditionally, sawmills had to rely on the power generated by naturally flowing water, such as the mill at St. Anthony's Falls. Steam power replaced this requirement, allowing sawmills to thrive in a variety of areas including Duluth, Brainerd, and Bemidji. By the turn of the century, Minnesota lumber was sold across much of the continental United States and beyond as a result of high demand for the product and the advances in technology that helped the industry succeed.
By the turn of the century, it was estimated that Minnesota was home to thousands of lumberjacks charged with harvesting this timber and transporting it to national markets. The western frontier continued to expand and timber harvesting, milling and processing rose to meet the increasing demand. Attempts at agriculture followed in the wake of the lumber companies as forests were levelled, but unfortunately, the climate of northern Minnesota proved tricky for farmers to conquer. The lumber companies left large swaths of land laid bare. The leaves and the tops of the trees were left behind, which created the danger of lightening sparking forest fires of massive proportions, such as the Great Hinckley Fire of 1894. This fire helped spark a national debate about appropriate forest management led by leaders in the conservation movement such John Muir, the founder of the Sierra Club. Tragically, many of these heavily wooded forests were depleted during this time until the 1920's and 1930's when people began to realize the importance of forest conservation. Practices such as rotation harvesting, re-planting, and contained fires were used in order to help protect the forests going forward. Having depleted many of the natural resources of Minnesota, lumber companies moved on to the next new frontier in logging, the Pacific Northwest.
Today, the lumber and paper industries continue to thrive in northern Minnesota; however, they have adopted more sustainable, protective practices in their relationship with the old world pine forests. Every year, more and more wooded areas are added back to the great northern woods of Minnesota as a result of conservation efforts. While the world continues to demand lumber from the great woods of Minnesota, more sustainable methods of harvesting these forests help protect these areas.
As a result of the timber industry, heavily wooded land remains a valuable commodity in Minnesota. The trees are valuable to make products such as lumber for building, hardwood flooring, paper, toilet paper, paper towels, wood pulp and more. For developers looking to buy heavily wooded property though, there are a variety of considerations to keep in mind.
Before buying a heavily wooded piece of property, make sure you know what your intended use of the land will be. Are you going to allow a lumber company to come in and harvest the timber? If so, what type of wood are you dealing with? Are there any environmental regulations restricting your use of the wood or the land for such purposes? If you are dealing with a forested area with younger trees, do you plan to build on the land? If so, what sort of costs might you be facing in regard to clearing the land?
Heavily wooded property can be valuable not only for the lumber and wood products it might generate. Sometimes heavily wooded property can be very valuable as a result of its natural beauty. People seek to move to the Northwoods of Minnesota in order to immerse themselves in nature. What better way to accomplish this than to build a dream vacation home on a heavily wooded piece of property along the shores of a tranquil Minnesotan lake? Or, if you happen to be entrepreneurially minded, why not build a world-class vacation resort in a stand of heavily wooded land? The forests of northern Minnesota are incredible places to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the great outdoors. Hike, bike, snow mobile, cross country ski, keep an eye out for wildlife; there are so many possible recreational activities here in these forests.
Developing heavily wooded property may be more costly than other properties and it will be important to have a clear idea of your budget before forging ahead with your project. Heavily wooded land may be more difficult to clear for the purpose of residential or resort building. Because you do not want all of the property cleared, crews will have to work carefully around existing trees. Additionally, heavily wooded properties have a tendency to be more remote in location. Paying crews to come out to clear this land may be more expensive the farther away from 'civilization' you may be. Furthermore, more remote land is less likely to be connected to existing utility systems including water, sewer, electric, gas, cable, and internet services. These costs can be multi-layered and expensive to connect your property up with these utilities.
If you have considered investing in or developing heavily wooded land here in northern Minnesota, you will need to assemble a team of experts to advise you on your purchase. First and foremost, having a trusted real estate advisor to help you identify the positive and negative attributes of a particular property will be invaluable as you begin your quest. Heavily wooded property can be a valuable commodity or an enormous detriment, depending on your perspective and the specific properties of the land, so do your homework and have a plan before venturing into the purchase of heavily wooded acreage.