Undeveloped Island on Burntside Lake Protected

Gusty Island (Photo courtesy Listening Point Foundation)

After several years of discussion and debate, an island on Burntside Lake near the Boundary Waters will not be added to a state Scientific and Natural Area that encompasses nearby islands. Instead, Listening Point Foundation — the nonprofit organization that honors the legacy of Sigurd Olson, wilderness writer and advocate — is taking over.

The Burntside Lake Scientific and Natural Area includes a few of the more than 100 islands on Burntside Lake. It preserves old-growth forest, wildlife habitat, and diverse ecosystems.

“The SNA islands complement the scenic beauty of this popular recreational lake, while protecting wildlife habitat and natural features of remarkable ecological value,” the Department of Natural Resources says.

Gusty Island (Photo courtesy Listening Point Foundation)

The Trust for Public Land purchased Gusty Island in 2014 with the idea to donate it to the state of Minnesota to include in the SNA (the acquisition was supported by a 2014 grant from the Quetico Superior Foundation). Morse Township, the local jurisdiction that includes most of Burntside, opposed the plan on the basis of potential lost tax revenue. In view of the opposition, the state said it would not add the island to its holdings.

Now, the 4.5-acre island has been assigned permanent legal protection, and given to the Listening Point Foundation. The organization owns and manages nearby Listening Point, the rustic retreat on Burntside once owned by Sig Olson, as well as his home and writing shack in Ely.

“In 2019, Trust for Public Land donated Gusty Island to Listening Point Foundation, after first placing it under a conservation easement with the Minnesota Land Trust,” LPF says. “We have been working closely with both organizations to put measures in place that protect the present ecological systems, allow regulated public access, and give us the flexibility to use the island for future environmental education purposes.”

The Listening Point Foundation is currently working on taking over stewardship, and making plans for the future of Gusty Island. The organization says it will use the islands to advance Sigurd Olson’s legacy of wilderness education.

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