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362-acre Door County donation safeguards rare boreal species, expands recreation

Contact(s): Jim Lemke, DNR real estate section chief, 608-266-2136; Thomas Meyer, State Natural Areas conservation biologist, 608-266-0394
June 27, 2019 at 8:52:20 am

MADISON - The Natural Resources Board on Wednesday accepted a 362-acre donation of Door County land that significantly expands recreational opportunities and protects a rare and unique boreal forest along Lake Michigan harboring dozens of rare animals and plants, including some that are globally rare, and several species of wild native orchids.

The donation, from The Nature Conservancy, will expand the Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest State Natural Area in Door County from its current 486 acres, and open the new parcel to nature-based activities including hiking, bird watching, nature study and hunting. The conservancy used private dollars, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant and funds from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to acquire the land.

Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands - Photo credit: Thomas Meyer
The Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest State Natural Area on the Door Peninsula protects several rare plants and animals and more than 1 miles of frontage on Lake Michigan.
Photo credit: Thomas Meyer

"This is a tremendous gift to Wisconsinites now and in the future," says Drew Feldkirchner, who leads the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program responsible for managing the State Natural Areas.

"We are grateful for the generosity and partnership of The Nature Conservancy. Their donation safeguards a truly unique property and expands opportunities for nature-based recreation and appreciation."

Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands is part of an internationally recognized wetland and designated as one of roughly 100 critical habitat areas for birds. Its location along the northeastern coast of the Door Peninsula, influenced by the cool waters of Lake Michigan, allows northern plant and animals species and a boreal forest to thrive here, far south of their normal range.

With 1.5 miles of undeveloped Lake Michigan shoreline, the state natural area protects large populations of endangered and threatened plants and animals. It supports a wide variety of birds associated with boreal habitats, including yellow-bellied flycatcher, Blackburnian warbler and merlin.

The enlarged state natural area will be managed in part with funds made available through a generous endowment from Patricia Stocking and managed by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. A 190-acre unit of the Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest State Natural area was designated in 2013 to honor Stocking's late husband, former Natural Resources Board member and chair Jonathan P. Ela, to commemorate his long career and accomplishments as an environmentalist, according to Jim Lemke, DNR real estate section chief.

In other action, the board also approved land donations that will enlarge the Rush Creek State Natural Area in Crawford County to safeguard rare bluff prairie along the Mississippi River and the Ferry Bluff State Natural Area to benefit wintering bald eagles in southern Wisconsin.

Rush Creek State Natural Area - Photo credit: Thomas Meyer
Rush Creek State Natural Area protects dry prairies, butterflies, oak savannas, and forested slopes on 400-foot high bluffs along the Mississippi River in Crawford County.
Photo credit: Thomas Meyer

"Through their generous gifts, Groundswell Conservancy and Ferry Bluff Eagle Council members have made sure that Ferry Bluff remains an important winter roost site and part of bald eagles' great comeback story, and Mycelium LLC has helped assure that rare bluff prairies on the Mississippi River bluff are protected. These lands now belong to all Wisconsinites, and we appreciate their investments in making sure these special places and rare species will be around for future generations to enjoy," says Feldkirchner.

A fourth donation, a .2-acre land donation from the Terry J. Tappon and Cathleen M. Tappon Trust, will expand accessibility for anglers and property managers to the Gilbert Creek Fishery Area in Dunn County.

Ferry Bluff State Natural Area donation

The 31-acre donation from the Groundswell Conservancy enlarges Ferry Bluff State Natural Area along the Wisconsin River in Sauk County, a site hosting one of only three winter concentrations of bald eagles in Wisconsin. The site is a pivotal base and communal roost for the eagles, which congregate in the area to forage for fish in the open-water areas near the Prairie du Sac Dam on the Wisconsin River. The donated land includes restorable prairie and oak maple forest. The proposed donation fronts on a town road and will allowed improved access to existing state lands for management and public accessibility.

Ferry Bluff State National Area - Photo credit: Thomas Meyer
Ferry Bluff State National Area in Sauk County protects a bald eagle winter roost and provides visitors with a panoramic view of the Wisconsin River valley.
Photo credit: Thomas Meyer

The donation was made possible by a joint fundraising campaign by the conservancy and the Ferry Bluff Eagle Council, a conservation group that conducts outreach about eagles and eagle habitat, including hosting the long-running Bald Eagle Watching Days. More than 67 individuals, foundations and organizations contributed half of the $159,100 purchase price, which was matched by a Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program grant.

Rush Creek Natural Area donation

Mycelium LLC has donated 31 acres of steep bluff land next to Rush Creek State Natural Area in Crawford County. The donated land contains dry prairie and oak forest on Mississippi River bluffs and protects several rare species of plants and animals. Adding this parcel will allow for more efficient management of DNR lands, which surround it on three sides, and provides a contiguous block of oak forest for rare birds that require contiguous habitats. The property provides important bird nesting and stopover habitat within the Upper Mississippi River Flyway bird migration corridor.

View more photos of the donated land and the State Natural Areas enlarged through the donations.

Last Revised: Thursday, June 27, 2019

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