Webster’s Dictionary defines stewardship as the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care. For West Wisconsin Land Trust, stewardship includes protecting the conservation values of property we own and actively manage, as well as over 20,000 acres of privately owned land under conservation easement.
We take our responsibility very seriously, and are fortunate to have the assistance of many dedicated landowners, volunteers, members and supporters. For us, land protection is just the beginning, and stewardship is the means without an end.
In 2013, we experienced the largest one-year growth of the Stewardship and Defense fund in our history. This was due to a gift of $787,000 from the estate of Ms. Virginia Townley of Green Lake, Wisconsin. The fund is now just over $1,000,000 and the yearly earnings provide much needed stability for carrying out the in-perpetuity elements of our work.
Ms. Townley was an ardent conservationist and especially loved the north woods of Wisconsin. These values had their roots in her close relationship with her grandfather, Thomas Lewis Latane Temple. In the late 1800’s Mr. Temple traveled from Virginia to the pine forests of east Texas. Beginning with a mill and a few hundred acres, Mr. Temple’s Southern Pine Lumber Company eventually owned over 500,000 acres and became one of the largest wood products firms in Texas. In this era reforestation was hardly a common practice. However, Mr. Temple continued to plant a tree for each one harvested and left select trees for seed bearing. He believed this was the only way to have a sustainable lumber business. His conservation practices, as well as his philanthropy, earned him special recognition from the Texas Senate. The company town of Diboll had many amenities that would not usually be found in a Texas lumber town, including a movie theater and a library. When the depression came, Mr. Temple saw to it that his employees and their families could weather the storm. He was also inducted into the Texas Forestry Hall of Fame in recognition of his pioneering work in forest management and his impact on the lumber industry in Texas.
In the early 1940’s, Virginia Townley, granddaughter of Mr. Temple, was a busy mother in Rockford, Illinois. In 1941, the family decided to buy a cabin on the iconic Brule River in far northwestern Wisconsin. A few years later her mother came up from Texas to visit the cabin and was thrilled by the pristine river and the cool, clean northern air. It wasn’t long after that visit that she also became a Brule river landowner.
Virginia’s oldest son, Bill Rogers of Superior, Wisconsin, recalls the deep connection that his mother had with the natural world. According to Bill, “She wouldn’t even consider trimming a branch from a live tree!” Bill and his brothers grew up spending summers on the Brule, and he holds the strong land ethic that has come down through the generations from great-grandfather Lewis Temple. Bill is now a board member of West Wisconsin Land Trust. He views his mother’s gift to the trust as further affirmation of his family’s commitment to conservation and is delighted that this commitment will live on in the lands that are permanently conserved by West Wisconsin.
On July 1 2011, a severe windstorm impacted over 100,000 acres of Burnett, Washburn and Douglas Counties. In Burnett County, straight-line winds leveled large areas of timber, damaged homes and power lines, and blocked roads and driveways. If left unaddressed, storm-damaged timber has the potential to contribute to disease and insect infestation, increases the severity of wildfire, and limits the use of property, which is left virtually impassable.
To address this stewardship challenge, West Wisconsin Land Trust worked with the Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and private landowners to conduct a salvage harvest on the most heavily impacted portions of its Love Lake preserve.
Salvage harvest goals included increasing the health and vigor of the forest, while improving the visual and functional aesthetics of the impacted areas. Harvest treatments were also used to move the forest towards a more sustainable and diverse forest community, favoring long-lived species like white pine, red pine and oak, while protecting the shoreline of all lakes and wetlands with a significant vegetated buffer strip. The harvest also gave WWLT the opportunity to thin a red pine plantation on the property, the first step towards integrating the plantation into the surrounding natural forest community.