On the cusp of hunting season, the largest private property owner in Minnesota is blocking access to 128,000 acres of property previously open for hunting and snowmobiling. The landowner, Molpus Woodlands Group, based in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is a timber supplier.
Molpus actually owns 286,000 acres of Minnesota forest, 128,000 of which was enrolled in the Sustainable Forestry Incentives Act program. Under the program, the company’s tax break was at $2 million to maintain the land used by the public, but in 2010, the state capped payments for the program and Molpus saw its annual tax break cut down to $100,000.
The company has posted “Keep Out” signs and barred motorized access to the hunting land and snowmobiling trails popular with residents and visitors. Molpus’ land stands in between hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails.
Rep. Dave Dill, D-Crane Lake, is working toward restoring the tax incentive or reaching another deal with Molpus to reopen their land which is crucial to the local economy.
“We have hundreds of crossings on their land. This is going to shut down snowmobiling in that area if we don’t get this changed,” Dill told the Duluth News Tribune. “This is bigger than just deer hunting. If those snowmobile trails don’t open, they [snowmobilers] will just go somewhere else. It’s a big hit to the economy.”
The legislature convenes again in January to discuss further options, but it’s likely the matter will not change until then.