Door County Land Trust Announces Major Land Purchases

Governor to Present Two State Grants for the Preservation of over 500 acres of Land in Door County

CLAYBANKS, WI – Today, Governor Jim Doyle is announcing the award of Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund grants totaling almost $2 million for use in the Door County Land Trust’s purchase of two properties in Door County including the county’s largest conservation acquisition in more than forty years and another that preserves over a half-mile of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline in southern Door.

One grant involves the Door County Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy’s announcement today of the conservation of 421 acres in Door County. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) collaborated on the acquisition of the property. This purchase by the Door County Land Trust marks the largest single conservation acquisition in Door County in more than four decades

The property, located two miles east of Sister Bay, will be named the Harold C. Wilson Three Springs Nature Preserve. The late Wilson was a prominent Door County businessman and renowned naturalist whose family owned the property for several decades beginning in 1940. Three Springs Creek flows through the preserve before emptying into Lake Michigan’s North Bay, which is located along the eastern shore of Door Peninsula. The preserve lies in a region of Wisconsin that has the state’s highest diversity and density of rare species and natural communities. The offshore waters of North Bay also serve as a major spawning ground for Lake Michigan’s whitefish population. The preserve contains springs and headwaters that are critical to the health of North Bay. The land also includes breeding habitat for the federally-endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

“This is our biggest conservation purchase to date and protects what had been the largest remaining undeveloped property that had not yet been conserved in northern Door County” says Dan Burke, Executive Director of the Door County Land Trust. “A project of this magnitude could not have been accomplished working alone. We thank the state and federal agencies, The Nature Conservancy and all our donors for working collaboratively to preserve this special place. We also owe a big thanks to the current owners of the property, George and Jean Reynolds, for being great stewards of this place for the past 40 years and for providing us with the opportunity to establish this new preserve.”

Mike Grimm, who directs The Nature Conservancy’s work on Door Peninsula, says the land was long considered a top priority for conservation. “This is a keystone property,” Grimm explains. “It has a critical influence on the quality of water in both Three Springs Creek and North Bay. It is also strategically located within a beautiful and ecologically exceptional landscape in the western Lake Michigan region.”

The preserve is located within a 13,000-acre natural corridor that includes Toft’s Point State Natural Area, The Ridges Sanctuary, Mud Lake State Wildlife Area, Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands State Natural Area, Marshall’s Point State Natural Area, Moonlight Bay Bedrock Beach State Natural Area and North Bay State Natural Area.

Eye-catching native plants including showy lady’s slippers can be found on the property along with a diverse forest made up of white cedar, tamarack, balsam fir and black ash. Three Springs Creek supports smallmouth bass, yellow perch, brown trout, Chinook salmon and northern pike. The land also provides crucial stopover and breeding habitat for neotropical migratory birds.

The preserve is rich not only for its natural resources but also for its contributions to local and state history. The property was acquired in 1940 by Harold C. Wilson, whose family owned the popular Wilson’s Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim. One of Wilson’s passions was the natural world and he was particularly interested in migratory birds. He banded more than 60,000 birds and he was considered to be one of the country’s leading experts on herring gulls. In 1947, Wilson also opened the family-friendly Three Springs Nature Center on the property to educate visitors about the wildlife and ecology of Door County. In 1950, C.D. “Buzz” Besadny, who would later lead the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and help establish the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, worked as a summer intern at the nature center. Wilson ceased operating the nature center in the early 1950’s.

“The Door County Land Trust is honored to follow in the footsteps of Harold Wilson by once again making this property available for all the public to enjoy and appreciate,” explains Terrie Cooper, Door County Land Trust’s Land Program Director. “We expect to add signage and trails to the preserve in 2009 and to prepare the preserve for recreational opportunities including hiking, birding and hunting.”

The property was purchased with a mix of state, federal and private funds: $746,000 from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund; $471,750 from a USFWS National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant; $42,250 from the Door County Land Trust; and $90,000 from The Nature Conservancy. The Door County Land Trust is also raising an additional $140,160 needed to cover acquisition costs and necessary land stewardship activities.

“We are thrilled to be able to support our local partners in on-the-ground conservation through this National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant,” says Louise Clemency, Field Supervisor of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wisconsin Ecological Services Office in New Franken, Wis. “Not only will this new preserve protect critical habitat for the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, it will help prevent other rare species from becoming endangered by maintaining the coastal wetlands where they live.”

Governor Doyle is also announcing today a second Stewardship Grant of $1,215,000 to be used in the Door County Land Trust’s impending purchase of 90 acres in the southern Door County township of Claybanks. This undeveloped property, located six miles south of the City of Sturgeon Bay, contains nearly 3,000 feet of pristine Lake Michigan shore frontage.

Bluffs on the property rise above the waters of Lake Michigan and provide panoramic views of the Door Peninsula. The property hosts a diverse mix of natural community types including lakeshore, cedar forest, open fields and bluff all of which provide ideal habitat for many species of shore birds, waterfowl, and plants.

Funding for this acquisition was also made possible by a generous donation from the owners of the property in the form a “bargain sale.” The state-approved appraisal of the property was determined to be $2,430,000. The landowners agreed to sell the property to the Door County Land Trust for half this value.

“We are thrilled that the owners of this special place are providing us with the opportunity to purchase and protect this one-of-a-kind parcel,” states Dan Burke, executive director of the Door County Land Trust. “Due in part to their generosity and the State Stewardship Grant, the spectacular scenery and wild shoreline here will be enjoyed and appreciated by the public and will remain forever a place of beauty and solitude.”

Upon assuming ownership, the Door County Land Trust will develop a detailed land management plan for this property that will consider land restoration goals as well as public recreational opportunities such as hiking, birding and hunting.

Since its creation in 1989, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund has helped land trusts, local units of government, and the State protect about 500,000 acres in Wisconsin for outdoor recreation and natural habitat. Governor Doyle’s 2007-2009 Wisconsin State Budget reauthorized the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund at $86 million per year beginning in 2011 through 2020.

The Door County Land Trust is a not-for-profit conservation organization supported by over 2,000 members and is celebrating its 22nd year of preserving lands that contribute significantly to Door County’s rural, scenic and ecological integrity. Since 1986, the Land Trust has permanently protected nearly 5,000 acres throughout Door County. If you are interested in becoming a member or finding out more about the Door County Land Trust visit its web site or contact the office at 920.746.1359.

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. In Wisconsin, the Conservancy has helped conserve more than 140,000 acres – including 5,200 acres on the Door Peninsula – since 1960. The Conservancy has more than 21,000 members in Wisconsin and offices in Madison, Baraboo, East Troy, Minocqua and Sturgeon Bay. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 15 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 102 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific.

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