State officials signed closing papers Thursday on the largest land conservation project in recent Minnesota history.

The state is paying $44 million for an easement that will keep nearly 300 square miles of northern Minnesota near Grand Rapids undeveloped and open to the public.

Tom Duffus , Upper Midwest director of The Conservation Fund, says it comes at a time when opportunities for forest recreation are being cut off. And while UPM-Blandin Paper will still own the land, the company will manage the forest sustainably.

Duffus says the Upper Mississippi Forest project would not have come together without the approval of voters in 2008 of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment, which is providing over $34 million. The rest came from private grants.


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