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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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. 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.
Just over ten years ago, John and JoAnn Henningsen gave a heartfelt letter and a key to each of their three adult children. The letter begins, “Use this key to escape to the great outdoors,” and continues on, urging each of them to embrace nature’s gifts on the approximately 400 acres in Barron County where they have a family cabin. At the end of 2019, they placed a conservation easement on the property with Landmark Conservancy. The conservation easement ensures protection of the land and its conservation values by prohibiting future subdivision, commercial and industrial use.
Over the years, John has implemented a variety of land management practices including sustainable timber harvest and almost complete control of European buckthorn, an invasive exotic species. He accessed state and federal grants, including a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to plant a 4.5-acre pollinator field with 25 different flowers and pollinator plants, and funds through the State of Wisconsin to support invasive species control.
JoAnn said they feel fortunate that their children and grandchildren have developed an affinity for the land and are involved in its caretaking, through annual spring planting and clean-up, a fall pre-hunting weekend, and annual holiday gatherings at the cabin, which they lovingly call their ‘cottage.’ In the letter to their children, they put forth that “the task is to be diligent in our care of the land and to each other.”
“The Henningsen’s sound stewardship of their land and the thoughtful manner in which they explored its permanent protection serves as an example for all landowners”, said Rick Remington, Landmark’s Conservation Director. “Their protected property contains significant forested and wetland ecological communities and provides resilient habitat for species to shift and adapt in order to meet the challenges of climate change.”
100+ acres in the orchard district becomes a public recreation area
Written by Dennis McCann
Bayfield County’s newest recreation area could have turned into something very different.
When developer Bob Davidson approached the Town of Bayfield planning commission in spring of 2017 he laid out his vision for the 104-acre property he owned high atop Fire Tower Road in Bayfield’s orchard district. He was attracted to the property for its steep topography, stunning views, and beautiful forests especially in the fall. Davidson, who had previously developed the low-density, low-impact Brickyard Creek community, proposed a similar conservation sub-division for the property, one of the highest points in the county.
But the plan commission, along with some neighboring property owners, didn’t support a development on the site, desiring instead to keep the property in its natural wooded state. Davidson wasn’t pleased by the rejection, but as the meeting ended he was approached by plan commission member Demaris Brinton with a question. Would he consider working with Landmark Conservancy to instead find a way to convert the property to a place for public recreation?
As it turned out, he would. It took more than two years working with Landmark’s staff to iron out the details, obtain funding and complete the paperwork but in December the property was acquired by Bayfield County for use by hikers, skiers, birders and other outdoor enthusiasts. Funding for the $171,840 purchase came from the Wisconsin Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and Wisconsin Coastal Management Program.
Davidson, credits “a group affair” for turning his original vision into something that will benefit both the Bayfield community and visitors to the region.
“There are a lot of components, a lot of parts that went into it,” he said. “It wasn’t just me, but I did own the land.”
Brinton praised Davidson for being open to considering a public recreation area over a conservation sub-division.
“At the end of the meeting it was just sad. Bob was so disappointed; he was so sad because he wanted to do something meaningful with the land. (A sub-division) just wasn’t a good idea for that land. I just said to him, why don’t you talk to Landmark Conservancy. It’s a beautiful property and I know you want to do something good. This could both meet your goal of doing something meaningful and getting some return on your investment.”
Tom Gordon, chairman of the Town of Bayfield, and other Town Board members were supportive of the project as the region has been emphasizing outdoor recreation in its tourism efforts for some time and needs to make sure there are ample opportunities for it. “The Board does not oppose all development but just felt the property was better suited for public use, especially in the middle of apple country,” he said.
As he thought more about it, Davidson agreed.
“Kind of in the twilight of my life I thought it would be the right thing,” said Davidson, who is 86. “It’s such a beautiful piece of land. In the end, I’m really pleased with the whole thing.”
Erika Lang, Landmark Conservancy’s Conservation Manager in its Bayfield office, was encouraged by Bob’s actions. “Land protection is only achieved by working together as a community. Conservation of this land provides important protection for wildlife as well as the water quality of the Pikes Creek watershed and downstream Lake Superior. Keeping the property in its forested condition will provide multiple benefits including flood mitigation and increased resiliency of the landscape to changes in climate. Recreation is an important driver for this region, and Landmark is also excited about helping to improve visitors’ recreational experiences on the Bayfield Peninsula.”
Jason Bodine, Administrator of Bayfield County’s Forestry and Parks Department, said no firm plans have been made for the site but it is likely that trails for hiking, skiing and other non-motorized uses will be developed, along with a small parking area. The name of the site is yet to be determined, he said, though it may be along the lines of Fire Hill Forest Preserve. Yurts available for rent by campers have proven popular in other county parks and might be added at the Fire Tower property as well.
“There’s a lot of recreational potential,” he said. “The potential is almost endless. With that terrain and that contiguous block of forest…it’s a beautiful property. It’s really rugged, there’s not a whole lot of flat areas on that property.”
Bodine credited the collaborative efforts of the Town of Bayfield, Landmark Conservancy and others for helping advance the project but especially singled out Davidson for embracing the idea when his own initial plan was rejected.
“It takes people like Bob to have the vision and willingness to see this through, and the persistence of Landmark Conservancy,” he said.
Does Davidson think the final product is something of a legacy?
“Yes, I do,” he said. “I do. It just makes me feel very good that I was at this age financially able to pull this off. But that’s not the important thing. The important thing is that it’s preserved.”
Landmark Conservancy Acquires Nearly 600 Acres Adjacent to Copper Falls State Park