Archived entries for Stewardship Program

Representatives Loudenbeck, Kitchens, and Novak are the Policymakers of the Year

Representatives Amy Loudenbeck (R- Clinton), Joel Kitchens (R- Sturgeon Bay), and Todd Novak (R- Dodgeville) championed the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in the last state budget – vocally supporting Stewardship with members of their caucus and actively participating in a working group that successfully negotiated a compromise restoring Stewardship funding to $33 million per year.

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Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

From early on in the state budget, Representative Kitchens engaged the land trust community—meeting with constituents and stakeholders at the Door County Land Trust office and communicating regularly with helpful insights about the state budget.  Rep. Kitchens voiced his strong support for Stewardship early and often in the process.

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Representative Joel Kitchens (R- Sturgeon Bay). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

Representative Novak, who also serves as the Mayor of Dodgeville, has been a consistent proponent of Stewardship during his first term in the legislature and is quick to articulate the program’s importance to his district, which includes popular areas like the Lower Wisconsin Riverway and Governor Dodge State Park.  Rep. Novak spoke at length with both opponents and proponents of Stewardship to help find middle-ground.

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Representative Representative Todd Novak (R- Dodgeville). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

Representative Loudenbeck sits on the powerful Joint Committee on Finance and took the lead on natural resources issues in the state budget.  Rep. Loudenbeck engaged with a wide range of stakeholders including land trust leaders in her district.  She studied the details of the Stewardship Program and initiated a productive dialogue with her colleagues, working hard to find a compromise with fellow members of the Joint Committee on Finance. In her role, she was instrumental in the outcome of the state budget.

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Representative Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R- Clinton). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor these three outstanding leaders with Policymaker of the Year awards, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! IHeartStew

Order of sisters makes sure lake preserve remains protected

The following story was written by Don Behm for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A pond, woods and wetlands in Mequon used by an order of Catholic Sisters as a rustic, spiritual retreat has been sold to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

As Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother ended its decades-long stewardship of the 155-acre Spirit Lake Preserve, the change in ownership Friday established a milestone — protecting more than 6,000 acres of open spaces — for the regional land trust.

A small, wood-frame cottage at the dead-end of a farm lane provided members of the order with access to solitude: a natural area encompassing the small body of water, an adjacent grassland and a forest with two separate canopies.

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Photo courtesy of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

The lowland woods is topped with swamp white oak, yellow birch and red maple. Ephemeral ponds form in depressions during spring, providing habitat for salamanders and frogs.

Red and bur oak, shagbark hickory and ironwood dominate the upland. The spring carpet is colored by wildflowers: wild geranium, spring beauty, trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit.

An unnamed, intermittent stream cuts through a cattail marsh and wet meadow on the west edge of the property.

The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother are facing declining numbers of members in the region, and a drop in use of the rural retreat, which is costly to maintain, said Pat Groth, a spokeswoman for the Oshkosh-based order.

Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother was founded in Rome, Italy, in 1883. The order is known for establishing Marian Health Care, a national health care system that created Ministry Health Care in northern and central Wisconsin. Marian became part of Ascension Health in 2014.

The order sold its Spirit Lake Preserve south of Bonniwell Road to the land trust for a little more than $1 million.

The congregation agreed to sell the property at a discount by trimming $150,000 off an appraised value of $1.2 million, said Shawn Graff, executive director of the land trust. A fiberglass canoe was left behind as part of the deal.

“The property will be held in conservancy and used as a nature preserve,” which is in line with the order’s own environmental values, Groth said. “We will continue to use it along with the public.”

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Photo courtesy of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

Ozaukee Washington Land Trust received a state Stewardship Fund grant of $600,000 to help pay acquisition costs.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District will contribute $200,000 toward the acquisition in exchange for a permanent conservation easement on 85 acres. The L-shaped parcel includes the forest, marsh, meadow and intermittent stream. This is the 100th property protected by the district’s Greenseams flood management program and its inventory now encompasses a total of 3,142 acres. The easement prevents subdivision of the property and future development while harnessing the water-absorbing abilities of the woods and wetlands, said David Grusznski, Greenseams program director for The Conservation Fund. The fund manages Greenseams for MMSD.

Black soils in the wetlands are full of organic matter from decaying plants. Those soils act like natural sponges by trapping water in storms and reducing downstream flows. The intermittent stream draining the property is a tributary of the Milwaukee River.

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Photo courtesy of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

The forest is part of a larger natural area, known as the Highland Road Woods, recommended for protection by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Fields on the northeast corner of the property are leased to local farmers. Those acres will remain in agriculture for a few years as the land trust works with other partners, including the Milwaukee Audubon Society, in establishing a management plan for the preserve, Graff said.

The land trust intends to transfer ownership of the entire property to Milwaukee Audubon in several years, he said. The group contributed $133,000 for the acquisition.

Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area Grows

A 144-acre bluffland on the Great River Road, Wisconsin’s only national scenic byway, was slated for residential development. When the community found out, many banded together under the leadership of the local land trust, Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC), to make sure that didn’t happen.

Jay Olson-Goude

MVC tapped into an invaluable resource—the state’s Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program. Funding through the Stewardship Program provided over 80% of the money needed to purchase this special place from the folks who owned it. A number of community institutions came through to cover the $86,436 balance. Clearly, protecting this land was important to the community and instead of being developed, the land became an extension of the Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area.

And for good reason! They now have 420-acres available to them for hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching and other family recreation.  Additionally, as Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director pointed out, this “will benefit the students of De Soto Junior High and High School, who have adopted Sugar Creek Bluff, doing restoration workdays as well as environmental education activities.”

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“if today was my last day on earth, I’d like to spend part of it on Sugar Creek Bluff.” (Laura Patten) Photo courtesy of Mississippi Valley Conservancy

Andy and Laura Patten, who own property next to the state natural area were asked how they would describe it to someone who hadn’t been there before. Andy said it “combines all the natural beauty of the Driftless in a setting that makes it easy for anyone to access. The goat prairie, a spring-fed trout stream, the full range of the oak savanna and woodland ecosystem, grasslands and an abundance of rare and native plant and animal species all exist there to be appreciated and enjoyed.”  Laura said, “if today was my last day on earth, I’d like to spend part of it on Sugar Creek Bluff.”  She added, “Seeing the bluff out my window when I’m at work reminds me that when people work together, we can make good decisions that will reward the land and others for generations to come.”

Cerulean Warbler

A variety of wildlife will always be able to count on this place, including the rare cerulean warbler. © Mark S. Szantyr

Joanne White, member of the Ferryville Tourism Council, said that the Bluffland is part of Ferryville’s identity as the smallest of the 93 cities in the Bird City Wisconsin program.  “We’re thrilled to have it protected,” she said. The community co-sponsors public hikes on the property with MVC. She said the rare cerulean warbler has been seen on each of the hikes she has attended.

Keeping Forests Accessible for Timber & Recreation

Wisconsin is a leader in the forest products industry and our timberlands directly support the state’s economy. Funding from the KnowlesNelson Stewardship Program protects this valuable asset by limiting the subdivision of large forest properties and complementing the active management of adjacent public forestlands.

Since the 1990s, Wisconsin has lost more than a quarter of a million acres of industrial forestland—much of which is now in small, parcelized ownerships. The smaller the parcel, the less chance timber will be managed to support local mills. Hunters also lose out as “no trespassing” signs typically follow changing ownership.

Fortunately, through the leadership of land trusts, the Stewardship Program has been instrumental in slowing forest land parcelization. Funding from the program allows land trusts and land owners to find business solutions, ensuring our forests remain accessible for recreation and timber harvest.

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This Stewardship project supports an economically viable forest, which creates jobs while ensuring access to outdoor recreation. Photo by Michael Anderson

 

In fact, as a nationally recognized leader among land trusts, The Conservation Fund has become a champion of Wisconsin’s northern working forests. Its most recent victory for the state was the permanent protection of the 13,732-acre Twin Lakes Legacy Forest in Iron County.

This Legacy Forest has been a top priority for supporters of working forests because its resources and outdoor recreation opportunities are major drivers of the regional economy. An important aspect of this land deal is providing permanent public access for recreation, including vehicle access on over 10 miles of private-woods roads that enable hunters to continue accessing the interior of the property.

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“These investments in our future are made possible by the Knowles-Nelson State Stewardship Program, helping communities safeguard the state’s habitats and inhabitants.” – Tom Duffus, Vice President – Midwest for The Conservation Fund, Photo by Amy Singh

 

It will also now continue to support jobs and provide a sustainable supply of forest products in perpetuity, ensure and enhance access to outdoor recreation, and protect habitat for important game and non-game species.

Why Stewardship Matters:

  • It supports Wisconsin’s $20 billion forestry industry, including jobs.
  • It provides a sustainable supply of forest products.
  • It ensures that our forests remain and are accessible for recreation, timber, and sport—major drivers of the regional economy.
  • It protects important habitat for game and non-game species.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program! This story is also available as a 3 minute video watch it today!

Conserving Water, Benefitting Birds and Business

For many years, Dr. Noel Cutright envisioned the creation of a bird observatory along Lake Michigan. As a renowned birder and ornithologist, he knew that the western shore was a significant stopover point for birds on their migratory journeys, being part of a major flyway stretching from South America to Alaska. So when a golf course in the town of Belgium went on the market, he saw an opportunity.

photo by Kate Redmond

This is a dream-come-true for the late Dr. Cutright and for over 200 species of migratory birds. It’s good for the economy, water conservation and is truly a special place for all to enjoy. Photo by Kate Redmond

Dr. Cutright encouraged the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) to buy the golf course property, which included frontage on the Lake Michigan shoreline, and transform it into a migratory bird preserve. Skeptical about siting a nature preserve on such a manicured landscape, OWLT did their research while experts devised a plan to create several habitat types favorable to migrating birds. Ultimately, they were convinced of the ecological significance of the land and the viability of Dr. Cutright’s vision and began fundraising for the project.

OWLT secured funding for half of the purchase price through the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program, making this incredible undertaking possible. Then, collaborating with local birding groups, many local contractors, and people at every level of government, ten years of land restoration was accomplished in only eighteen months of intensive work.

photo by Ken Tapp

One of Dr. Cutright’s favorite quotes was this one by Rachel Carson: “There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” Photo by Ken Tapp

Today, this special place is known as the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve. In addition to providing 150 acres of safe cover for birds to rest and feed, it offers a trail system that winds through the property, and is home to the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, another of Dr. Cutright’s visions. It also uses 10-20 million fewer gallons of water per year than its predecessor. The nearby town of Belgium was planning to dig a new well and build a water tower to meet municipal demand, but since the Preserve was created, the town found it no longer needed more water production.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

Sense of Identity & Source of Revenue

Terrie Cooper, a lifelong resident of Door County, considered the view from the top of the bluff in the town of Liberty Grove, saying, “I grew up in Ellison Bay. This is my home. The Grand View property was an iconic view that we had all known and loved. It identified our community. I don’t think anybody ever realized that could change.”

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This 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Photo by Julie Schartner

 

From this Door County high point, one can see the sparkling waters of Green Bay, islands in the distance, and sheer bluffs topped by hardwood forests. Residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the scenic overlook for many years, often pulling over to the side of the road to snap photos or take in the majestic view. Only when construction of a 44-unit condominium development began on the property did people realize that this signature view could disappear.

Beyond the community concern, an economic threat also loomed. Door County draws over two million visitors every year, most of whom come to enjoy the scenery and outdoor activities. Tourism accounts for almost $300 million in annual revenue in Door County. Though privately owned, the Grand View property was a de facto tourist attraction that drew thousands of visitors each year.

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“My wife Vonnie and I drive into Ellison Bay every day and always slow down to marvel at the remarkable view. This very special place has been naively taken for granted until the past few years when the potential for development became real.” – Dave Callsen, community member, Photo by Door County Community Foundation

 

Concerned citizens approached Door County Land Trust to help find a solution. The land trust responded, marshaling its resources for what would be a five-year-long commitment to forge a path to preservation of the popular and iconic view. Their expertise in conservation and real estate led to successful grant-writing, private fundraising, and land purchase negotiations. They also partnered with the Town of Liberty Grove, which agreed to take eventual ownership of the land and manage it as a public park.

Through persistence and dedication, the land trust was able to secure funding for the overlook property through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the National Scenic Byway Program. The 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Door County, known for its beautiful landscape, can rest assured that this destination spot will always remain.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

A Legacy and Gift

John Muir, the nineteenth century naturalist, writer and advocate of wilderness preservation, is most often associated with California. He did, after all, spend much of his later life there, working tirelessly to protect its forests and mountains. But his early years were spent in Wisconsin, on his family’s farm near Portage. It was there, amongst woods, prairies, wetlands and glacial lakes that he developed his lifelong passion for the natural world, which became a national legacy and inspiration.

Born in Scotland, Muir came with his family to the United States as a young boy. His parents settled in Marquette County in central Wisconsin and started farming. He later described his feelings at first seeing his new home: “This sudden splash into pure wilderness – baptism in Nature’s warm heart – how utterly happy it made us!” and “Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!”

Photo by Brant Erickson

This Stewardship project protects a Wisconsin legacy while providing locals and visitors with a destination spot where they can explore, recreate and more. Photo by Brant Erickson.

About a century later, Bessie McGwin Eggleston and her husband owned a farm in Marquette County that included 38 acres of what had once been part of Muir’s family farm. Bessie felt a strong personal connection to her land and to nature, writing: “I think we have to help our children learn to appreciate and to enjoy the beauties of nature. If we can develop the appreciation for the loveliness which has been given us, we will also develop the desire to preserve these precious gifts for the heritage of future generations.”

Bessie wished to have her entire 198 acre property permanently protected, to benefit future generations. Although she didn’t live to see it, her wish was granted when her family sold the land to Natural Heritage Land Trust. While a number of organizations and donors chipped in, the fulfillment of this dream wouldn’t have been possible without funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

credit - McGwin Family Photo Collection

This photo of Bessie on the farm is courtesy of the McGwin Family Photo Collection.

Now, a portion of the land will become part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail while another will be added to the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. And all of it will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching; a fitting tribute to both John Muir and Bessie McGwin Eggleston.

“ In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. Photo by H. W. Bradley and William Rulofson

“ In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. Photo by H. W. Bradley and William Rulofson



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