Jason Whalen

The Nature Conservancy acquires land near BWCA in Cook County

Mike Freed understands the value of wild lands. He’s spent most of his life hiking, paddling and adventuring across public lands all over the country.

Now 80-years-old, Freed, a retired forestry professor who lives in Minnesota, decided he wanted to give something back. And the package comes in the form of a 2,000-acre gift to the people of Minnesota.

“I grew up on wild lakes in Minnesota,” Freed said. “These places are rapidly disappearing. My gift to the people of Minnesota is 2,000 acres of wild land that will remain in some kind of conservation ownership. This is the gift that the people of Minnesota deserve.”

The Nature Conservancy announced this week that it has acquired 2,110 acres near the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness Area comprising remote lakes, trout streams and large white pines and white spruce.

The lands are located within a 30,000-acre block of largely intact and mature forest in Cook County on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and they drain into the Temperance River, which flows into Lake Superior.

Freed bought the land, which is located about 15 miles west of Tofte, back in 1994 when a land development company listed it for sale as sites for new cabins. Freed sold the property to the Nature Conservancy for significantly less than the appraised value.

The properties, the only private inholdings in this part of Superior National Forest, are considered highly complex and resilient under a new tool that was created to help identify and connect areas to give native plants and wildlife the best chance to survive in the face of climate change.

Freed was particularly taken by its proximity to the BWCA and its wild lakes.

“This area is very important to the psyche and the emotional needs of a lot of people in Minnesota. I’ve been privileged to take care of this land and I want to pass it onto someone who can continue to care for it.”

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Freed about the Cook County land he sold to the Nature Conservancy and about his passion for Minnesota’s land and water.