Posted by Bruce Siebold, Landmark Board Member
Many years have passed since I last visited the Punchbowl and like an old friend, she welcomed me back without judgement. With my camera in hand, I descended the well-worn steps hoping to hear her voice, understand her many moods, and capture her beauty. I vowed not to be the typical tourist who makes a hurried stop, snaps a photo and jumps back into their car and speeds away to their next destination. Rather I visited the Punchbowl several times over two weeks. I was there as the sun rose and set. I was there on both cloudy and sunny days. I was there when children’s laughter echoed against the walls. I saw the joy in the eyes of an eighty-year old couple who celebrated their victory over the steep steps.
I took dozens of photos during this time period. Reviewed them multiple times and asked… what stories does the Punchbowl want me to share? Finally, after days of head spinning and second guessing myself, I settled on only six photos. I believe these six photos represent the story the punchbowl wanted me to share with you. I call them, “The Punchbowl’s Summer Moods.”
The land speaks to each of us in many different ways and offers us entirely unique stories and lessons. If you haven’t been to the Punchbowl recently, I urge you to do so. No doubt the Punchbowl will warmly welcome all who visit and hopefully she will speak to you. Move slowly. Linger. Feel her spirit, gauge her moods and understand that all of us play an important role in protecting her for future generations.
Nearly 100 steps down to the punchbowl. You will quickly see that over the years the wooden steps have been repaired several times. Cement blocks, wooden braces, nails and screws all hold the cobbled steps firmly in place. But be careful, for all the steps are not of equal distance. Handrails and resting areas will help guide you to the stream, waterfall and rock formations below. There are no trail maps or signs to guide you. It is your own personal journey so you decide what direction to go and how long you will linger. All are welcomed!
A gentle stream flows through the base of the punchbowl. It seems not to have a schedule or be in a hurry to reach the Red Cedar River. Rather it moves slowly, meandering over sandstone rocks and dropping over tiny waterfalls. If you are quiet and listen, the river may share her many stories with you. It is here you will find the Punchbowl’s peace and tranquility.
The waterfall is the Punchbowl’s natural gathering spot. This is where the Punchbowl invites you to frolic, to laugh, to smile, to shout, to take the group photo, and get really wet.
During the night heavy rains turned the punchbowl into a raging river. The sound of the waterfall became a deafening roar as it hurled its water to the river below. Riverbanks and Punchbowl signage were washed away and the erosion turned the water into a caramel-like color. Standing near the waterfall, I felt the Punchbowl’s power and anger.
As you stand amongst the Punchbowl’s 500-million-year-old rock formations you will feel a sense of mystery. Stories layered within the sandstone. Secrets concealed. Fossils sleeping. Ancient mysteries known only to the land.
I often wonder why some Punchbowl visitors feel the need to leave their imprints and messages? From paint can graffiti, initials etched into the soft sandstone, soda cans and broken glass. A sacred place scared by just a few individuals but seen and felt by many.
Landmark Conservancy has significant maintenance planned at the Devil's Punchbowl in the coming 1-2 years.
Your gift is welcome and appreciated!
Posted by Nile Merton, Founder and Michael Sinclair, Co-Owner
Our goal for this restoration project is to establish a native grassland while providing pollinator habitat. Pollinator habitat isn’t just about the flowers; many insects need structure like dead grass and hollow stems to nest in. To do this we need to control some invasive plant species including tansy, garden valerian, nonnative lupine, and reed canary grass. Helping us in this work is the local business, Regenerative Ruminants, and their herd of goats and sheep. They rotationally graze the old field which helps mimic bison and elk grazing in the past. The goats and sheep eat the invasive plants and woody species while aerating the soil.
This year to prepare the site, our company, Bay Area Environmental Consulting (BAEC), will be repeatedly mowing to prevent invasive species from producing seed. This fall, we will plant a cover crop of rye on a portion of the project area. Rye naturally suppresses other species, which is a helpful management tool when landowners would like to avoid herbicide use.
Next spring, we will chop down the rye and then plant the site with native species. We plan to establish a northern mesic sedge meadow with a significant grass component. This will encourage native species historically prevalent on the landscape and provide habitat for many grassland birds and insects. Following planting, we will have ongoing invasive species management and possibly some further native plantings. Like everyone who has done restoration work knows, it won’t be a one-and-done deal. Restoring sedge meadows on Lake Superior clay hasn’t been widely done, so this is all experimental. To track our progress, we conducted vegetation sampling this spring, and will continue throughout the project. This way, we know how the plant community has changed with our management.
Our hats are off to Sue DeNuccio for choosing to conserve and manage her land in an ecologically conscientious way. Some landowners ask why they should do the same. There are many reasons but one of the biggest in Wisconsin is to combat habitat fragmentation. By providing islands of habitat for plants and animals in this fragmented system, we encourage native communities which will be resilient to climate change.
Bay Area Environmental Consulting has been operating for 4 years, mostly in the northernmost counties of Wisconsin – Ashland, Bayfield, Iron, Douglas, and Sawyer. We do some work outside of this area also. If you would like to see more of our work, please visit our website at cheqbayrestoration.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Lincoln Community Forest is approximately 400 acres near Mason, Wisconsin. In late 2012, Landmark Conservancy acquired the land with funding from two grants: the US Forest Service Community Forest and Open Space Conservation Grant Program, and the State of Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grant Program. Today this land is open to the public and offers a variety of non-motorized recreation opportunities.
The Forest is managed with help from the non-profit group Friends of the Lincoln Community Forest. Their mission is to facilitate the conservation and enjoyment of the Lincoln Community Forest. They organize volunteer work days, trail maintenance, and nature-based education, in addition to recommending land management projects, and much more. Recently a couple of the Friends board members volunteered to help check white pine seedlings that were planted last year, and staked up the ones that were bent from the heavy wet snow.
When the "Safer at Home" order went into effect, the Lincoln Community Forest guestbook had an uptick in entries, suggesting that more people may be visiting the property. Here we share a few entries as a testament to the valuable work the Friends group does to make this a special place to visit:
4/1/20: "There's no place like home" and a beautiful Community Forest, during these Covid19 days. Thank you everyone."
4/2/20: "Always great out here. Perfect population density for a pandemic. I am a Lincoln Town resident."
4/26/20: "....hiked to Mikinaak Lake. Spring Peepers, glorious sounds were deafening. Wild leeks, brilliant green. Morning cloak, delicate flitting in the wind...Lovely day, Lovely trail."
We want to extend our immense gratitude to the Friends group for their time, energy and passion. Thank you!
Visit the Friends of the Lincoln Community Forest website to learn more.
Families have been gathering at Love Lake for generations to enjoy the tranquil beauty of the Minerva Chain of Lakes and the forested land that surrounds it. The Love Lake conservation complex in Burnett County includes almost 300 acres owned by Landmark Conservancy and a 37-acre conservation easement held by the Nature Conservancy. Several months ago, a group of citizens alerted area residents and the conservation community to proposed development that threatens this special place. Houman’s Resort, a cabin rental business on the Minerva Chain, is under new ownership and planning for significant expansion as a campground, which threatens the water quality of this chain of lakes.
Love Lake’s conservation story began when Judge James Otis, Alice Budd and Elizabeth Dickerman donated 183 acres to The Nature Conservancy in 1976; by the end of the year the property was conveyed to Northland College. In the 1980’s former board member Ned Bixby led the charge to create an endowment that would cover ongoing expenses related to land management and stewardship of the lake and protected properties. Today, the Love Lake endowment is invested with the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and continues to provide an important stream of revenue for lake protection and management. Over the years, the residents of Love Lake have made numerous thoughtful decisions related to long-term land management and protection around the lake, with the goal of protecting water quality and wildlife habitat as well as preserving the pristine natural setting for residents and visitors.
Houman’s Resort, also known as North Camp Properties II, LLC, has proposed expansion through adding RV campsites, mobile homes, cabins, storage units and associated infrastructure. The increase in use and density has the potential to significantly affect water quality, increase the spread of aquatic invasive species and degrade shoreland habitat. These high-density campgrounds are becoming increasingly common in the Northwoods and without a champion to counter them, will continue to impact Wisconsin’s precious water resources.
Landmark supporters John Caswell and Susan Zoidis are among the Love Lake summer residents that are leading the effort to challenge the expansion of the Houman’s resort property. "Landmark Conservancy has always been an excellent partner in providing information and guidance on conservation issues on our lakes,” said Susan. “We turned to them once again to help us empower our elected officials to preserve our lakes and rivers. As our family has had 5 generations on our property, we have witnessed the importance of working with experts in protecting the quality of the lakes, rivers and land in Burnett County, and specifically the Minerva Chain of Lakes."
To learn more about efforts to protect the Minerva Chain, visit https://www.preservetheminervachain.com/
A Burnett County Land Use and Information Committee meeting is scheduled for June 4.
In 2018 Landmark embarked on an ambitious endeavor to develop a strategic conservation focus that will result in the protection of targeted areas rich in biodiversity and resilient to climate change. We believe that conserving larger, intact tracts of land will aid terrestrial and aquatic species in adapting to habitats that are evolving at an increasingly rapid pace. Working with partners and agencies, including The Nature Conservancy science staff, we overlaid our conservation priorities with areas having the greatest potential for resilience to climate change. Our process emphasizes the ecological connectivity of natural landscapes and habitat in and around Conservation Opportunity Areas (COAs), and further incorporates climate science.
This effort resulted in the established 17 focus areas in our service area that meet our conservation objective of Ecological Resiliency in the face of a changing climate. Of those, we have selected three areas in which we will prioritize new landowner outreach: the Lake Superior South Shore Streams, the Upper Eau Claire River and Barrens, and the St. Croix River Watershed. We will continue to consider high-quality projects outside of these focus areas as our capacity allows.
The resiliency of these areas is attributed to their physical geography. That is to say, the geology, soils, mineralogy, slope, aspect and temperature all create the physical diversity of place to host the resulting ecological diversity. These are the places that over thousands of years have hosted rich species diversity and will continue to do so even with a changing climate, although the composition of that diversity may change. The physical geography of each focus area has a unique history, and thus is uniquely resilient and ecologically diverse.
In the St. Croix River Watershed, our initial outreach areas include the St. Croix River, Upper Namekagon River, Namekagon and Totagatic Rivers, Yellow River and Straight Lake Area. As the last ice melted from the Wisconsin Glaciation, sediments from the ice poured down the spillway of what is now the St. Croix River. This left behind pockets of wetlands, organic deposits and channels of well-drained sands and gravels that now interact with the ground and surface waters to create ecological diversity. The Straight Lake Area is a great place to see glacial transported boulders and collapsed moraines, yielding nooks and crannies for ecological diversity to develop.
The Upper Eau Claire River and Barrens focus area is also a result of meltwater and deposited sediments from the Wisconsin Glaciation. Here erosion worked on sandstone bedrock and metamorphic rock creating waterfalls; a broad flat floodplain was created with the Eau Claire River eventually carving a channel into the sediment; and ice dams created backwaters and wetlands. The headwaters of the Eau Claire River reside in the DNR designated Central Sand Plains Ecological Landscape and the surrounding habitat is of barrens, mixed deciduous and conifer forest and forested wetlands. We are pleased to announce new funding from Earth Cloud Fund of Headwaters Foundation for Justice that will support land protection efforts in this area.
Being the coldest and deepest lake of the Great Lakes, Lake Superior is the backdrop for the South Shore Streams focus area. This area has cool temperatures off the lake, deep clay tills, and cool ravines that host boreal forest - some of the only places in Wisconsin with these attributes outside of Door County. Migratory birds stopover along these shores to rest and feast on insects that hatch in synch with their journey. The Bayfield Sandstone of the Bayfield Peninsula rises above the clay plain, providing sources of springs and seeps that flow to Lake Superior.
The next step is to evaluate land within these focus areas that meet our Landmark objectives for protection of Ecological Resilience in the face of a changing climate. As Landmark moves into this exciting step, we will focus on four attributes: resiliency, climate flow, parcel size, and proximity to protected lands. We are guided by our partners within the focus areas to learn of the locally cherished conservation values to protect within this framework, creating opportunities of leverage for project success.
With the summer season just around the bend, Colfax area residents can look forward to new opportunities for outdoor recreation. Landmark Conservancy recently purchased the 150-acre former gravel pit owned previously by Dunn County Highway Department. The property -- known for years as the “Ferry Pit” – has two miles of Red Cedar River frontage and is located adjacent to Town of Colfax’s Felland Park.
Local environmental advocate and outdoor enthusiast Kathy Stahl of Elk Mound serves as chair of the management planning committee. Kathy stated she is “just tickled about the County Highway Department wanting it to be a public recreation area and working with Landmark to make that happen.” The nine-member planning committee is working to create a land management plan that will address public access and future land and water use. A small prairie remnant exists already, and expansion of prairie and wildlife habitat is being considered. Kathy listed partners and volunteers including local educators, restoration experts, municipal officials and local citizens, including students. “I’m so pleased about the diversity of people involved,” Kathy said. “Our committee members are from all walks of life.”
As Landmark Conservancy raises additional funds, they plan to convey the property to the Town of Colfax later this year. The new public area will be managed for low-impact public recreation including hiking, canoeing, fishing and kayaking and wildlife habitat. This project is part of a series of protected Red Cedar River riparian lands bordering the Otter Creek oak barrens. “There is a strong conservation ethic that exists up and down the Red Cedar River corridor, where numerous groups are involved in protecting, restoring and improving the watershed, said Landmark’s Conservation Director Rick Remington. “Dunn County has been an outstanding partner in this endeavor, and I'm looking forward to future collaboration with the Town of Colfax.”
To learn more about the new Town of Colfax public recreation area or find out how to get involved in planning, contact Kathy Stahl at 715-962-4010 or email@example.com.
Posted by Rick Remington, Conservation Director
I've been observing woodcocks every spring for over 30 years. Lucky for me, I've always lived somewhere where their arrival and evening courtship ritual were easily observed. I watched them with my wife back when we were dating. I watched them with my daughter when she was just a baby. And so each spring, its one of the bright spots on my long to-do list.
Watching woodcocks doesn't take a tremendous amount of skill, but the birds require a particular type of habitat for this part of their life cycle. An old field or marsh where the grasses are flattened from winter snow, a meadow with sparse tree growth, or even an early successional forest with enough openings for the birds to feel safe on the ground and have easy access to the sky. It helps that I have a south-facing seeping slope that attracts the birds during the day for feeding, the ground moist, muddy and snow-free to accommodate their long beaks.
I listen at dusk for their nasal-sounding "peent" indicating they are on the ground, or the trilling sound during their aerial flight display. While they are in flight, I have 30-40 seconds to relocate myself closer to their point of take-off. If I am lucky, and still, the male woodcock will land near me and begin to call. They tend to return to good display areas unless alarmed or scared away. So I am quiet, still and respectful in sharing their space for awhile, until it is their time to fly again in their serpentine course into the sky. And so goes our dance until it is too dark for me to see. After dark, their calls and display continue into the night.
The American Woodcock is considered a Special Concern Species in Wisconsin, and a Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). These designations highlight species which are rare, declining or at risk because of threats to their habitat or other life cycle needs. And so I hope my work with Landmark and throughout my career has made a difference - is making a difference - for birds like these, and other at risk species. They need our help, and during these stressful and uncertain times, I believe they can help us as well. Get outside and enjoy spring everyone!
Landmark Conservancy has closed our public offices out of concern for the health of our communities and staff until May 26 in accordance with the extension of Governor Evers' Safer at Home order. During this time our staff will be working remotely and may be contacted as usual by phone or email. In-person meetings will be held via phone or video conference, and in-person gatherings will be postponed in accordance with CDC restrictions.
This period of quarantine and social distancing is unprecedented in our lifetimes. We want to remind you to seek time outdoors to help sustain your health! Enjoying fresh air, sunshine, and time in nature has remarkable power to boost our mental and physical well-being.
Lindsey Ketchel, Executive Director
Traveling from the City of Bayfield to Port Superior, the Brownstone Trail is a popular trail among Bayfield residents and visitors. Landmark Conservancy helped establish the trail in 1996 in cooperation with private landowners who own sections of the trail. Landmark has enjoyed working with local community members for many years to maintain the trail and the natural habitat along the lakeshore.
Many people are aware that a small section of the Brownstone Trail has been closed for over a year. A large landslide has been active since 2017, and the trail has slumped away. The site remains very unstable and was closed to protect public safety and to minimize further human-caused erosion. A reroute has been established along Highway 13 and Lakeshore Drive.
Landmark is working with a coastal engineering firm to understand the natural and man-made causes of the erosion, and to determine what can be done. It is a complex site, and anything that is done will require cooperation of the adjacent landowners, permits, funding, and consideration of future storms and conditions. Landmark is grateful to Wisconsin Coastal Management, Town of Bayfield and Bayfield Chamber and Visitors Bureau for supporting the engineering study. We will have final recommendations from the engineering study by June 30 or sooner.
“Landmark is exploring solutions and committed to engaging community partners as part of that process. Because the Brownstone Trail is a community asset and funding for any restoration of the site will need to come from community donations and grants, Landmark staff and board will be engaging the community in the decision-making process. We anticipate holding a community meeting in early summer.” -- Executive Director Lindsey Ketchel
In the meantime, please contact us if you have any questions by calling 715-235-8850 or emailing Erika Lang in the Bayfield office.