This summer we acquired eighty acres near Long Lake in Chippewa County, a landscape we have been working in for many years. Our conserved properties contain representative examples of the qualities of the Chippewa Moraine and Chippewa Glacial Lakes area, namely hummocky-forested topography, seepage lakes, sphagnum bogs and wetlands. Ecological community types change quickly as the topography undulates between small hills and low lying wetlands.
The land trust began its work with local landowners a decade ago and now has conserved over 2,500 acres through conservation easements. This latest addition contains two wild lakes and a mixed hardwood forest and is just down the town road from the Ice Age Trail. The purchase was made possible by a grant from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, a major contribution from Chippewa County, and very generous terms from owners Lehmen and Sandra Larson. We especially enjoyed completing this project because of their inspiring generosity and the importance of the land to them.
Sandra’s family, the Metcalfe’s, purchased the property in 1952. At that time there was a log house, a small barn and a chicken coop. Their large family resided there for a number of years. They later moved to another location in the county but always held on to this beautiful parcel in Sampson Township. The family, friends, and neighbors hunted and hiked these hilly woods for many years. Lehman spent many a season making firewood on these quiet acres. It was a family oasis that they wanted to protect forever. We were honored to help make those wishes come true. Over the next year or so we hope to establish a trail and a couple of primitive campsites for the public use. This land’s proximity to the Ice Age Trail makes it a very handy spot for hikers wanting to camp or just take a break. Thanks so much to Lehmen and Sandra for their gift to all of us.
Harold Hanson and long time friend and neighbor Miina Helske lamented the growing and sometimes misplaced development occurring in the Amnicon River valley as the river flowed into Lake Superior. Small farms no longer managed for hay or livestock were being divided and sold to make way for larger rural homes and lawns in the Northwoods countryside. “They seemed to have little knowledge of the local land, water, and climate conditions,” explained Miina. Harold’s grandfather homesteaded the Hanson “Century Farm” in 1888. Harold was worried that inappropriate development would lead to loss of farmland and productive soils.
Harold wanted the land to remain available for agriculture and didn’t want his heirs to be faced with the decision to sell parcels for development, eventually creating a checkerboard of lands to manage. Miina lives adjacent to the river and noted her desire to preserve the expanses of pasture, wetlands, and mixed forest — all holding the water in reserve and providing habitat for those Northwoods plants and animals. “These are the ordinary treasures we hoped to preserve,” said Miina.
In 2003 they turned to West Wisconsin Land Trust to assist in placing a conservation easement on 878 acres. This acreage included farmland, forest, wetlands, and ½ mile of Amnicon River Frontage.
A few years ago 53 acres of neighboring river bluff corridor became available for purchase. Harold did not hesitate and proceeded to purchase this land and then combine it with the lands already under easement. This added three-quarters of a mile of buffer to the Amnicon River, along with an excellent example of a Clay Seepage Bluff, an ecological community unique in Wisconsin and warranting protection. In all, the conserved properties now include over 2,600 feet of Amnicon River Frontage. The 502-acre Camp Amnicon conservation easement is contiguous to and just down river from the Hanson Project. These old friends have gained a great measure of satisfaction in knowing that the land and river they have loved in all seasons will remain as they enjoy it today.
This project was funding in part by a grant from the Four Cedars Fund at the
Duluth Superior Area Foundation
The land trust recently completed a conservation easement on 160 acres in Burnett County. The easement was a gift from the Dr. Arthur and Lisa Ide family of Minneapolis.
The Ides had spent years searching for a country place within a 90-mile drive of home, on water, with a fair amount of land for projects and recreation. About sixteen years ago, they came upon this beautiful old farm in Burnett County with frontage on both Pine Lake and the Trade River. Needless to say, they hit the biodiversity jackpot. Wildlife of all sorts abound, even more so now that five waterfowl ponds have been created.
The farm has been an oasis of outdoor activity for the Ides and their four children. Dr. Ide loves the fact that within a morning’s drive, they can be in a totally different environment of quiet days and night skies filled with stars. Their visits to the land include a wide variety of outdoor activities, such as tending the
orchard, vegetable gardening, and hiking on the trail system they have built. Winter days bring cross-country skiing, followed by maple sugaring. They have also established a lovely field of flourishing big bluestem.
The Ides could have continued to enjoy this land and their ongoing rejuvenation efforts without a thought toward the next owners. Instead, they chose to look many generations down the road. With sentiments echoed by many of our 155 landowners, Dr. Ide expressed the reasons for donating the easement. “After several years, you develop a relationship with a place and want to see it conserved, maybe not exactly as we have it now, but at least to maintain the basic elements forever.” Because of this family’s wonderfully generous act, these 160 acres will remain intact as a refuge for a multitude of plants and critters, a beautiful landscape for passersby, and a place of peaceful enjoyment for those many families yet to arrive.
Camp Amnicon, a youth ministry camp in northern Douglas County, has donated a conservation easement to West Wisconsin Land Trust which permanently protects 500 acres of their land on the south shore of Lake Superior. Partners in this effort include Enbridge, the US Fish & Wildlife Service, and the Wisconsin Stop Over Initiative. This easement held by the land trust will maintain the unique conservation values of this property in perpetuity.
This beautiful portion of the Lake Superior Coastal Plain includes two miles of wild Amnicon River frontage and one half mile of Lake Superior shoreline. The Amnicon River originates at Lyman Lake and then flows for thirty miles, descending 640 feet before joining Lake Superior. The Amnicon is designated as Outstanding Resource Water by the State of Wisconsin.
An innovative feature of the easement is the creation of a significant new opportunity for migratory bird research. The camp and the land trust are partnering with the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative to enable avian researchers to utilize this land for long-term studies of the habits and needs of these birds. The Stopover Initiative is a collaboration of public agencies, private organizations, individuals, and businesses working to provide habitat for migratory birds.
In addition to being ecologically important on its own accord, Camp Amnicon is contiguous to over 800 acres of neighboring private properties that are also under conservation easements held by West Wisconsin Land Trust. The combined 1,300+ acres is critical habitat that will remain protected forever.
Camp Amnicon has offered wilderness trips and retreat programs to youth, adults, and families from all backgrounds for almost fifty years. According to the camp’s executive director, Alana Butler, the camp strives to connect the mission of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America with the care of God’s creation through community based camping, family camps, and retreats. Ms. Butler and the camp’s board feel that this conservation easement with a research component fits perfectly with the camp’s mission and it’s commitment to good stewardship of the camp’s lands.
Funding for this project was made possible through a grant from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as generous gifts from the supporters of Camp Amnicon, Enbridge, and from the members of West Wisconsin Land Trust.
– Kim Grveles, Ecologist, Wisconsin Stopover Initiative
Camp Amnicon has great potential to be classified as a very high priority stopover site for migrating birds. Although migratory birds have not yet been quantified on the property, many of its features are known to be important characteristics of migratory bird stopover habitat. These features include Lake Superior shoreline, the mouth of the Amnicon River, and a combination of forested habitats (including mixed hardwood-conifer, lowland hardwoods and shrubs, upland shrubs, riparian, and other woody habitats) within a larger forest matrix.
A nearby property, the Brule Spillway, with similar features was designated a Tier I stopover site by the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative (WISI) because bird use per migratory season was estimated to exceed tens of thousands of songbirds, thousands of raptors, and hundreds of migrating waterfowl (the latter occurring in near-shore, open water areas of Lake Superior). Species of Greatest Conservation Need (designated by the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan) that utilize the Brule site (and could be expected also at Camp Amnicon in spring and fall) include Northern Goshawk, Bald Eagle, American Woodcock, Black-billed Cuckoo, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Veery, Wood Thrush, Golden-winged Warbler, Connecticut Warbler, Canada Warbler, and Red Crossbill.
Similar to the Brule River, the northward flowing, forested Amnicon River corridor most likely funnels migratory songbirds north in spring to the Lake Superior shore, where birds accumulate in high concentrations due to the Lake presenting a geological barrier to migrant crossing. Instead of crossing, songbirds move east and west around the shoreline, foraging as they go, until they reach Canada. Migrating at night is another phenomenon that can result in migrants concentrating along the shore. When dawn hits, if birds are out over Lake Superior (either because of overshooting the shore in spring or moving down from Canada in fall), they head to shore seeking first available woody cover for protection from predators and for foraging opportunities to replace energy used during the long night flight. In spring, they are likely to find emerging adult aquatic insects, such as midges, swarming or resting on conifers near the shore. In fall, migrants will feed on insects and fleshy fruits of lowland or upland shrubs. In spring and fall, they will utilize conifers and dense shrubs for protection from both predators and inclement weather.
Thus, Camp Amnicon, located at the junction of a northward flowing river and the Lake Superior shore, is highly likely to have heavy concentrations during spring and fall of mixed migrant flocks occurring in its diverse forested habitats, especially those containing conifers and/or fruit-bearing shrubs, and would, therefore, qualify as a Tier I stopover site according to WISI’s criteria.
“In a promotional brochure for the land written in the 1950’s advertising two sections of land for sale – of which ours is a part – it states: “The owner fully realizes that he could easily dispose of his land by dividing it into smaller tracts, but with public land almost entirely surrounding it, he believed that its value is enhanced by keeping it intact”. Now, almost 60 years later, the natural state of this land is still intact and we’re happy to report that our neighbors to the north, the Freitags have also begun the process to conserve their half section with WWLT. Isn’t it wonderful that nature’s finest ingredients CAN and ARE being preserved by caring individuals?”
– Chuck and Judy Aldrian, Birchwood, WI
Jim Carter and Victoria Miller, formerly of Eau Claire, and now living near Hastings, MN, have given the land trust four contiguous lake lots on Potato Lake in Rusk County. Their desire was to have the land provide financial support to our organization as well as being permanently protected. The best solution was transfer of the land to the land trust for eventual sale coupled with a protective conservation easement that we will hold and monitor in perpetuity.
We are happy to report that the land transfer was completed in October and the lots are now combined into a single, much larger property. The beautiful shoreline, wetlands, and woods will be conserved forever. Only one lake home will be permitted on the four lots and there are a host of other restrictions that will insure careful use while also enabling the eventual new owner to fully enjoy the property. We are extremely grateful for the remarkable generosity of Jim and Victoria. We applaud their outstanding commitment to West Wisconsin Land Trust and to the conservation of our region’s natural heritage.