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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: County should consider impacts to environment

In reading Mark Hanson’s clean water and shoreland protection letter in the Pioneer (Oct. 31), we fully support and concur with Mark‘s comments. We too, would urge Beltrami County residents to express their views to their County Commissioner and our County Administrator.

The desire to acquire and retain in public ownership a parcel of land on Mississippi River first came to our attention while attending a Bemidji Minnesota Pollution Control (MPCA) meeting on water quality. MPCA advised attendees where there were problems and what needed to be done to maintain and possibly improve water quality. The Mississippi River parcel received some discussion. Further checking revealed that monies are being appropriated for acquisition and/or conservation easements on undeveloped lake shore and river frontage. We are not sure who initiated the buying and transferring to public ownership this river frontage, but we do know The Nature Conservancy, Trust for Public Land, Mississippi Headwaters Board, Frohn Township, and a number of Frohn Township residents supported and urged the Beltrami County Board to add their support to the project. A quote from the County Board minutes (Feb. 2, 2017) indicate the board’s position: “Commissioners were adamant that they would not have agreed to any land sale without a trade of equal value.”

It seems that a few years back our commissioners established a policy of “no net loss of taxable lands.” Since that date the commissioners amended the policy to state that if the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) was equal to or greater than the properties real estate taxes the parcel could be approved for purchase. It was stated that in this case the PILT payment would be greater than the present real estate taxes. One would have thought that the purchase was a “no brainer.”

Yes. There is no guarantee PILT payments will continue. But that said, PILT payments have been made to the counties since 1933. In fact Beltrami County received $2.5 million in 2017 in payment for the public lands. That’s not peanuts.

Please, take the time to urge your county commissioner and our administrator, that each acquisition project as well as the possible sale of tax-forfeited lands that comes before them should be also rated on their possible impacts to the environment. Minnesota PCA just added 618 waterways and lakes to the impaired list and only removed 25. We can do better.

Jerry and Shirlee Maertens

Bemidji

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