Company's tax protest exiles some Minnesota snowmobilers

Publish Date: 
Oct 1, 2012

DULUTH, Minn. – A company’s tax protest is worrying snowmobilers in northern St. Louis County now that the Molpus Woodlands Group is blocking long-used access roads to snowmobilers.

The “Keep Out” signs started going up after the state legislature cut a tax break the Mississippi-based company received for sustainable forestry and allowing public access. The state reduced the tax break to $100,000 from more than $2 million previously.

In addition to affecting the upcoming hunting season, the closures will affect hundreds of miles of snowmobile trails that cross Molpus land. The company has refused to renew the easements used by the Arrowhead and Voyageur trails and others, Rep. Dave Dill (DFL-Crane Lake) told the Duluth News-Tribune.

“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 said. “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.”

In 2010 state lawmakers and then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty changed the state’s Sustainable Forestry Incentives Act, adding a cap of $100,000 to any single landowner.

“We don’t want to lock our land up in the long term. But we felt we had to do something,” said Craig Halla, Minnesota property manager for Molpus. “This is a direct result of the loss of tax incentives. It’s very difficult to manage this land based just on the timber sale revenues now with (timber) prices so low and still paying taxes. If we want to keep the land in production and open to public access, there has to be another source of revenue.”

Posted by Holly Wagner