Protecting a Richly Diverse Landscape
The Big River Country of Western Wisconsin drains primarily north to south through a series of large river systems including the St. Croix, Red Cedar, Chippewa, and Black Rivers. These rivers and their extensive forested riparian areas serve as important migration corridors for birds, fish and mammals. These rivers contain some of the largest floodplain forests in the Midwest and remain strongholds of biodiversity. The rivers flow through the towns and cities we live in, and are often the part of the landscape we associate with best. Along their length, these rivers offer fishing, canoeing, hiking hunting and birding opportunities for the many people who live, visit and recreate along these important resources.
Partnership with Township Yields Youth Forest Protection near Eau Claire
A strong partnership with the Town of Union culminated in the permanent protection of 84 acres on the Chippewa River west of Eau Claire. The Town of Union Youth Forest has been owned and managed by the Town since 1950, about the same time area youths planted pines that occupy parts of the site today. The current Town leaders and residents want to ensure the permanent protection of this unique property regardless of future ownership.
The property contains approximately 2,600 feet of frontage on the Chippewa River, as well as significant bluff prairie and oak savanna remnants on south-facing slopes. The two hundred foot bluff on the property provides commanding views of the Chippewa River and the Lower Chippewa River State Natural Area. The property is also located within the Lower Chippewa River Important Bird Area (IBA). The IBA consists of floodplain forest, prairie and savanna, and a matrix of riparian forest and wetland communities, which hosts numerous common and declining bird species. Protection of the Lower Chippewa River corridor from Eau Claire to the Mississippi River is key to the success of the IBA.
Under the terms of the Youth Forest conservation easement, West Wisconsin Land Trust and the Town leaders are planning for low-impact public use of the site. Recognizing that citizens, particularly children, need close-to-home opportunities to experience nature, the Town leaders are doing their part to provide parkland within their Township, while accomplishing significant ecological goals in the process. The Youth Forest is WWLT’s second cooperative project with the Town of Union, the first being Sherman Creek Park on Eau Claire’s west side.
In 2009, the children of Susan Arndt protected their Dunn County land in memory of their late mother, who owned the land for over thirty years. In 2012, the three siblings sold the property, entrusting its long-term care to West Wisconsin Land Trust. Daughter Aasta Thielke dreamed of having a tree from the property to make a table with her husband, who is a custom furniture maker. Aasta worked with the new owner, and in 2013 they harvested a white oak, and removed the logs using draft horses before milling the logs a short distance away.
After milling, Aasta arranged for transportation of the wood, and the lumber is now air-drying in her yard, almost 2,000 miles away in Portland, Oregon. Two years from now she expects to make her table. We hope she shares pictures!