Minnesota Brown: The grand dupe in the great north woods

On this date in 1923, Warren Harding, an amiable, if corruptible president who sometimes questioned his own abilities to govern, died of a heart attack in San Francisco. Vice President Calvin Coolidge was sworn in during the night by his own father, a notary public. On this same date in 1928, President Coolidge became the first chief executive to visit Minnesota’s Iron Range, the only to do so outside the context of a campaign.

I made a wonderful online find, a Time Magazine account from August 1928 of Coolidge’s visit to the Range as he wrapped up his presidency. I encourage you to read it.


My favorite legend of the Coolidge visit to the Range comes from his Hibbing stop, mentioned briefly in the Time story. In the story he climbs a new viewing stand overlooking the Hull Rust Mine. Local historians have told me that many expected Coolidge to give a speech at the Hull Rust to inaugurate the new viewing stand and commemorate his historic visit. But the understated Coolidge, known to history as “Silent Cal,” merely watched the shovels and trains, turned and said, “That’s a pretty big hole,” got back in his car and left for Virginia, Minn., where he was presented with animal pelts.

Mind that the paper company will still be able to use this land on its normal logging schedule, which is how the value of these particular acres have always been calculated.

This is not only bad for the people of Itasca County and the noble intentions of the legacy forest’s many architects, this is the sort of thing that could end up dragging down the whole legacy amendment program. A generation of complacency, inconsistent leadership, and the seeping influence of foul national political brinksmanship has created an environment where powerful monied interests (both corporate and political) are able to run rough shot over whole regions. We will be asked to defend this sort of deal, and there is no liberal or conservative defense for this kind of shenanigan.

To take $44 million and then try to get millions more from a county that provides health, human service and law enforcement protection to a county with one of the state’s higher poverty levels? Who does that? They only do this because they think they can get away with it. And that’s why this must not stand.

This post was written by Aaron J. Brown and originally published on Minnesota Brown. Follow Aaron on Twitter: @http://twitter.com/minnesotabrown

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Comments (3)

  1. Submitted by dan buechler on 08/01/2011 - 10:26 am.

    What then legally do you suggest people do?

  2. Submitted by rolf westgard on 08/01/2011 - 11:38 am.

    Thanks for publishing Aaron Brown. His columns are always informative and worth reading.

  3. Submitted by Steve Titterud on 08/01/2011 - 08:55 pm.

    I am very sympathetic to the public’s interest in this matter, but I don’t think this column or the underlying article tell the whole story.

    A conservation easement, I believe, does not change who owns the property, but only what the owner can DO with the property. It provides for restrictions on the uses a landowner can put the land to, say, compared with his neighbors who don’t have such an easement. It applies to future owners as well as the current owners.

    The reason an owner gets paid money for a conservation easement is because it lowers the market value of his land. E.g., it can’t be developed, so no developers will buy it, and the price that developers would pay is no longer available to the seller in the marketplace. So granting a conservation easement can have a negative material impact on the owner, therefore compensation is given.

    It seems to me not unreasonable for the landowner in a case like this to apply for a new classification of his land, because of the limitations on its use – his ownership is not like it was before the easement.

    I think the real problem here is that the proponents of these conservation easements, which I am in favor of and think hold a tremendous value for Minnesotans, didn’t quite think their way all the way through this whole thing. Obviously, they never imagined it might possibly lead to a different tax classification of the land, and so now they cry foul, as though Blandin were a bad boy.

    I don’t see Blandin as a miscreant here. I think Blandin has done Minnesota a terrific service by granting the easements on a good deal of land.

    Think of the alternative: over time, they might have sold these off to numerous owners, creating a discontinuous patchwork with all the attendant problems, and no benefit of use for the public.

    So they want to take advantage of the law to obtain a maximum benefit for their corporation? What do you think corporations do? Do you think all others who grant conservations easements shouldn’t be allowed to seek re-classification? Or is it only Blandin?

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