Chippewa County (WQOW) - An offer to trade Chippewa County land for private land appraised at a higher value is off the table.
For more than a year, Leland Christenson faced critics to his proposed land swap. Christenson said he wanted to trade 781 acres, including Foster Lake, to Chippewa County in exchange for 580 acres. The land he owns and is offering to trade includes 394 acres near the County Forest, and he is trying to buy the other 387 acre parcel near Kemper Woods and the state-owned Hallie Marsh Wildlife Area. An appraisal showed the county would come out $820,000 dollars ahead and gain more than 200 acres from the trade.
Christenson said his passion is wetland restoration. He wanted to give the county quality land for the public to enjoy so he could restore the land that was inaccessible and had timber harvested. His ultimate goal was to turn the land into a camp for children. Christenson said the county already has nearly 35,000 acres of land it cannot afford to manage, and this option helps the county own usable land without using money from timber sales or from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. Christenson said the fund spends $1,600,000 each week in debt service, which will eventually fall on the taxpayers.
Opponents argued the land was being sold to a man they considered an affluent developer. Neighbors News 18 spoke with in the past said they were worried the trade would bring increased traffic into the area and have a negative impact on wildlife.
Christenson argues that he is an award-winning conservationist who wanted to help improve the county. "Finally, it just got so ridiculous that when I attended the meeting and there was so much hatred in the room, and this faction of people from the Chippewa County Land Conservation where brought into that meeting, I decided to just pull the plug on it and say, 'I don't want to make anybody mad at me. It makes common sense, but if you don't want to listen to common sense, then so be it.'"
Christenson said if county officials change their minds, they can contact him about making the land swap possible.