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Monday, September 11, 2000


Sun, Sep 10th, 2000
Posted in

To the Editor,

As a property owner and taxpayer in Fillmore County and Pilot Mound Township, I am concerned about the growth of Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. Eagle Bluff is located approximately five miles NW of Lanesboro, MN. I own property that adjoins the state land near the learning center.

Since 1989 I have seen Eagle Bluff expand on state land and slowly, but surely, take control of this land to fit their personal goals. This spring I was surprised to see a new expansion of Eagle Bluff ideals. What once was a beautiful, isolated stretch of approximately one and a half miles along the Root River now has a bulldozed road along that same stretch of river.

When I saw that new road (trail?) it devastated me. They butchered a beautiful piece of wilderness. They plowed right through a major turkey roost. Why? If they truly wanted the nature experience, did they need to alter the land to the extent they did? Who gave them permission to doze that land? Did Eagle Bluff get all the permits required, especially along the Root River? Is it in the flood plain? Did they need an environmental impact statement? Did the DNR approve it? As a private landowner, would I have been allowed to do the same?

Eagle Bluff has “slowly” expanded since 1989. As a landowner abutting state land, I have seen Eagle Bluff take more state land for their needs and post it for no firearms hunting. As more private land is closed to hunting, state land is the best option we have. Eagle Bluff is taking what is left, slowly but surely.

Eagle Bluff was established on state land, has expanded on state land, received monies from state funds, yet is a private, non-profit organization. They directly compete with local business for room, board, and entertainment facilities. If you have a private business, such as a B&B, restaurant, campground, canoe rental, rent your facility for weddings, etc., in the community, you would do well to question what is going on at Eagle Bluff. You, as a general public, are paying through your taxes and license fees for you own demise.

Eagle Bluff has done a superb job of showing and teaching our future generations about nature and the outdoors, but I am not willing to sit back and watch their expansion without voicing my concerns. My biggest questions are:

1. Being a non-profit organization, how did they qualify for state land use?

2. How were they able to receive state monies to fund projects?

3. How did they get the okay to post state land against firearms use?

4. Is Eagle Bluff getting out of hand?

If you share my concerns, talk to you local representatives. This letter is being forwarded to my local, state and federal representatives.

Thomas J. Molitor
Chisago City, MN

To the Editor,

As a property owner and taxpayer in Fillmore County and Pilot Mound Township, I am concerned about the growth of Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center. Eagle Bluff is located approximately five miles NW of Lanesboro, MN. I own property that adjoins the state land near the learning center.

Since 1989 I have seen Eagle Bluff expand on state land and slowly, but surely, take control of this land to fit their personal goals. This spring I was surprised to see a new expansion of Eagle Bluff ideals. What once was a beautiful, isolated stretch of approximately one and a half miles along the Root River now has a bulldozed road along that same stretch of river.

When I saw that new road (trail?) it devastated me. They butchered a beautiful piece of wilderness. They plowed right through a major turkey roost. Why? If they truly wanted the nature experience, did they need to alter the land to the extent they did? Who gave them permission to doze that land? Did Eagle Bluff get all the permits required, especially along the Root River? Is it in the flood plain? Did they need an environmental impact statement? Did the DNR approve it? As a private landowner, would I have been allowed to do the same?

Eagle Bluff has “slowly” expanded since 1989. As a landowner abutting state land, I have seen Eagle Bluff take more state land for their needs and post it for no firearms hunting. As more private land is closed to hunting, state land is the best option we have. Eagle Bluff is taking what is left, slowly but surely.

Eagle Bluff was established on state land, has expanded on state land, received monies from state funds, yet is a private, non-profit organization. They directly compete with local business for room, board, and entertainment facilities. If you have a private business, such as a B&B, restaurant, campground, canoe rental, rent your facility for weddings, etc., in the community, you would do well to question what is going on at Eagle Bluff. You, as a general public, are paying through your taxes and license fees for you own demise.

Eagle Bluff has done a superb job of showing and teaching our future generations about nature and the outdoors, but I am not willing to sit back and watch their expansion without voicing my concerns. My biggest questions are:

1. Being a non-profit organization, how did they qualify for state land use?

2. How were they able to receive state monies to fund projects?

3. How did they get the okay to post state land against firearms use?

4. Is Eagle Bluff getting out of hand?

If you share my concerns, talk to you local representatives. This letter is being forwarded to my local, state and federal representatives.

Thomas J. Molitor
Chisago City, MN

Editor’s Note: The Journal invited Jerome Deden, Executive Director of Eagle Bluff Environmental Learning Center to respond to Mr. Molitor’s letter.

I have been involved with Eagle Bluff since it was legally established in 1978 and have helped guide its evolution along with many other dedicated individuals who have served as board members and advisors. I remember our first year at the current site (1982) when I was the sole employee and I had about 300 total users. I remember taking groups of adults out on daylong educational seminars hiking along deer trails. Now, nineteen years later, we average approximately 20,000 users a year. The old deer trails once used for access have been upgraded, widened, and graveled to handle today’s heavy foot traffic and to accommodate snowmobile and cross country ski tracking equipment in the winter.

Eagle Bluff accommodates approximately 250 students on any given day. We strive to keep our class sizes under twenty students. That means we have up to 13 different groups of students dispersing to complete their three-hour long, experiential educational activities. A three hundred-acre no uncased gun zone was established at Eagle Bluff in 1996 to ensure the safety of these students after a turkey hunter was shot not once but three times on adjoining lands. Regional tourists who are looking for a safe place to hike to supplement their stay in regional communities heavily use the trails at Eagle Bluff for birding and general hiking. Bow hunting and forest management activities are allowed in the no uncased gun zone.

In his comments, Mr. Molitor claims that Eagle Bluff continues to receive state funds. In fact, Eagle Bluff has received no direct state support since 1991 when we received a $174,000 grant through the legislative bonding bill to help construct a Shiitake mushroom research building. The current residential campus and the John Schroeder Office Building all have been built with private funds. Eagle Bluff receives no direct financial government support, be it federal, state, or county for our educational services.

It should be noted that Eagle Bluff owns 80 acres in the midst of 900 acres of state forestlands. Since the beginning, Eagle Bluff has had a good working relationship with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the University of Minnesota, College of Natural Resources. The Minnesota DNR was challenged in the original legislative language that established the Richard J. Dorer Memorial Hardwood Forest to educate the state’s citizens about the ecology of southeastern Minnesota. The DNR, together with the College of Natural Resources and Eagle Bluff have developed a management plan for the state forestlands around Eagle Bluff that focuses on this educational directive.

Contrary to the claims made by Mr. Molitor that Eagle Bluff directly competes with the local tourism industry, a policy has been in place since becoming a residential facility that requires any user group that stays in the dormitory must participate in an educational program. That means that hikers, bikers, weekend sight seers, and tourists in general do not stay at Eagle Bluff, only people who are utilizing our facilities as a whole.

Actually the reverse of Mr. Molitor’s claim is true—Eagle Bluff has had a positive impact on the local economy. For example, last year Eagle Bluff hosted the Cabela’s Sportsman’s Quest, a national 3-D archery shoot over the Memorial Day weekend. Over 1,100 people attended the three-day event. People had to find room accommodations in Rochester, Winona, and LaCrosse because all local accommodations were totally booked. Local eateries ran out of food. The Lanesboro gas station had to ration gas to enable vehicles to reach other communities to top off.

Ask any merchant in the Lanesboro area who regularly surveys why their customers are here and they will tell you that many students return with their siblings and parents to enjoy the wonders of southeastern Minnesota after being introduced to this area by Eagle Bluff. In addition, Eagle Bluff is working with Historic Bluff Country and the Lanesboro Advisory Council to attract conferences to the area in the off season that would utilize our meeting facilities and whose participants would stay overnight in regional accommodations.

In the past, I have chosen not to respond to local editorials. I have always felt that for people, who agree with Mr. Molitor, there is little that I could say that could convince them otherwise. This time, however, I felt that this was an opportunity to set the record straight. Times are changing. Agriculture is in transition. Look at escalating land prices, and at who’s buying land and building houses in rural areas. Many are absentee owners like Mr Molitor. More changes are coming to southeastern Minnesota.

Eagle Bluff has over thirty-five, full time, dedicated employees who are working hard to help the next generation better understand the ecology of this area an

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