A Forested Legacy: Conservation Easement Protects 39 Acres

A Forested Legacy

One of central Wisconsin’s finest examples of a managed forest is being donated to the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point by a family long committed to conservation.

Jeanette Rogers, who died April 22, along with her children, Jim and Jane, are honoring the wishes of their late husband and father, George Rogers, to permanently preserve a 39-acre managed, working forest in the town of Hull.

The family is donating the land to the UW-Stevens Point’s College of Natural Resources (CNR). The George Rogers Living Forest will be used by as an outdoor laboratory for education, demonstration and research.

The Rogers family worked with North Central Conservancy Trust (NCCT), a Stevens Point-based land trust, to place a conservation easement on the property. This was an essential first step to Rogers.

“Dad believed that preserving green spaces in an increasingly urbanized landscape is a top priority for maintaining quality of life in Portage County,” Jim Rogers said.

George Rogers, a Stevens Point native, longtime writer, editor, civic leader and devoted conservationist, died last November.

“We are grateful to the Rogers family for this generous gift, and we are honored to carry on the legacy of stewardship that George started more than 60 years ago,” said CNR Dean Christine Thomas. “This forest has been extremely well managed and is exactly the type of woodland property we look for in a field teaching site.”

Rogers purchased the property in 1950, when it was mostly open land with a few scattered scrub oak and jack pine. He planted more than 40,000 red pine seedlings and 500 white pine seedlings, with the help of UW-Stevens Point students. Nurtured through the state’s Forest Crop (Managed Forest) Law program, the property was transformed into a productive, managed forest.

He felt it could be a great learning space for forest management students and wanted the property kept in permanent green space, regardless of who owns it.

“What an incredible gift Jeanette and George have made,” said NCCT’s Executive Director Betsy Kerlin. “This special place will remain forever forested for the enjoyment and benefit of students and the public.”

Rogers wrote about the managed pine planation in his book, “Among the Leaves.”  He harvested about 1,900 cords of wood between 1972 and 2007, including logs to build three cabins at the Central Wisconsin Environmental Station.

A conservation easement provides permanent protection of scenic working lands, preserving habitat for wildlife and plant communities, Kerlin said. Local landowners interested in preserving their property from development can contact NCCT for information on conservation easements.

Conservation GIS Intern Hired

GIS Intern

Through the support of a University of Wisconsin Stevens Point (UWSP) grant, NCCT hired a full time Conservation GIS Intern for the summer of 2014. April Ann Opatik from Baraboo, Wisconsin is a Land Use Planning major at UWSP and was hired to assist staff and volunteers with furthering NCCT’s understanding and use of ArcGIS for NCCT’s land conservation needs. April will assist NCCT’s Executive Director with learning the basics of ArcGIS Spatial Analyst software for the purposes of NCCT’s easement, baseline and public relations needs. By the end of the summer, NCCT hopes to have printed and interactive maps showing parcels preserved by NCCT and other local, state, federal, and other non-profit conservation efforts within NCCT’s eight county service area. April will also build upon existing data collected by past UWSP Land Use Planning students, by furthering spatial analyses of varying scope and complexity including easement prioritization, ecological and cultural modeling and mapping, and field efforts to support easement efforts. April shared that she is grateful for the opportunity to work in the field of conservation, a field she is passionate about and a field she hopes to work in following graduation. NCCT is grateful to UWSP for this mutually beneficial opportunity and welcomes April to the NCCT family!

Local organizations secure land for future Ice Age Trail in Marathon County

Permanently protected property features wetland forest and shoreline on undeveloped Rice Lake

Forty-one acres in the Town of Reid in Marathon County will one day hold a section of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a 1,200-mile hiking path that traces the geology left by the most recent glacier, thanks to the partnership of two Wisconsin conservation organizations.

NCCT Rice LakeThe North Central Conservancy Trust, a Stevens-Point based land trust, sold the property to the Ice Age Trail Alliance, based out of Cross Plains, in early February. The property sits between two existing sections of the Ice Age Trail in Marathon and Portage Counties and will help link the Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails, through central Wisconsin.

“This property serves as an anchor point for the Trail in southern Marathon County,” said Kevin Thusius, director of land conservation for the Alliance. “Future Ice Age Trail will give area residents and visitors a unique and interesting outdoor experience, complemented by the natural features the property has to offer.”

The property includes 1,000 feet of shoreline on Rice Lake, a spring-fed, undeveloped marl lake. White cedar forest covers the majority of the property’s acreage and protects the water quality of the lake.

The land was originally gifted in 2011 to preserve these natural features. Claire Pfleger of Milwaukee donated the property as a gift to NCCT, which also retains a conservation easement that further protects the property from development.

The proceeds from the sale will go toward furthering the NCCT’s conservation work in central Wisconsin. Upon learning of the purchase, the Town of Reid and Marathon County both passed resolutions in support of the acquisition. The Ice Age Trail Alliance purchased the property using funds from the state Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which protects the state’s most valuable natural areas and expands opportunities for outdoor recreation.

“In addition to protecting the shoreline and wetland forests, the property will be open to the public, guaranteeing the public enjoyment of this beautiful place for years to come,” said NCCT Executive Director Betsy Kerlin. “I am thankful to the Ice Age Trail Alliance for the opportunity to collaborate on this project.”

NCCT IATA GroupThe North Central Conservancy Trust works to protect scenic working lands and environmental resources for the benefit of the people of central Wisconsin. The North Central Conservancy Trust has preserved over 3,000 acres in eight counties. Learn more at ncctwi.org.

The Ice Age Trail Alliance is a nonprofit volunteer- and member-based organization established in 1958 that works to build, maintain and promote the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is a thousand-mile footpath that highlights Wisconsin’s world-renowned Ice Age heritage and natural resources. Visit iceagetrail.org to learn more.

1,000 Acres Preserved In Portage County

Wilke Land

In November 2013, North Central Conservancy Trust and Richard and Sarah Wilke
signed a conservation easement on a 27 acre property located in the Town of New
Hope, Portage County. The Wilke easement will forever protect a scenic vista of Hintz Lake, a
diverse wetland ecosystem, a spring breeding area for waterfowl, and one of the largest fall
staging areas for geese and sandhill cranes in eastern Portage County. The signing of the Wilke
easement was significant as it pushed the total number of acres permanently protected in
Portage County by NCCT to well over 1,000 acres!

The Wilke easement includes more than one-third mile of shoreline and more than three and
one-half acres of a shallow bay. The upland parts of the property support a mosaic of forest,
thickets, and openings. Areas of lupine support the endangered Karner blue butterfly. Scenic
islands of trees and shrubs set off the grasslands and contribute to beautiful natural scenic
vistas down to the lake and bay. Richard and Sarah Wilke shared that they were “delighted to
partner with NCCT to permanently protect this scenic and ecologically significant area so it can
be enjoyed by future generations of both people and wildlife”.

At the time of the Wilke easement filing, eight other conservation easements within five miles of
the Wilke conservation easement protected 556 more acres of natural glacial landscape,
including NCCT’s first Portage County easement on 94 acres donated by Lowell and Christine
Klessig. The area surrounding the Wilke conservation easement, better known as the moraines
east of Stevens Point, boasts the highest concentration of property preserved by NCCT. NCCT
has permanently protected 1,077.9 acres in Portage County as a whole.

Since our inception NCCT has been dedicated to protecting the worthy scenic, working lands
and environmental resources for the benefit of the people of central Wisconsin. Conservation
easements are especially important for protecting the agricultural, scenic, and environmental
qualities of our landscape. From our first Portage County easement on 94 acres in 2001 to our
latest easement with Sarah and Richard Wilke, NCCT is grateful to our conservation minded
benefactors and is dedicated to continuing our growth as an active and vital land trust.

NCCT Welcomes New Board Members

Greg Dahl

Greg DahlGreg recently retired after more than 31 years from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources working in Wildlife Management. Most recently he was the Wisconsin Rapids Area Wildlife Supervisor where he was involved in the management of the Buena Vista Wildlife Area and the prairie chicken program, involved in the establishment of the Central Wisconsin Grassland Conservation Area, and oversaw the Mead/McMillan and the Sandhill/Meadow Valley work units.  Throughout his career he worked and partnered with other Department programs (forestry, fisheries, law enforcement and lands), other agencies and sportsmen groups. He is an active member of NCCT’s Stewardship and Properties Committees. His hobbies and interests include fishing, hunting, gardening (both vegetable and perennials), bird watching, hiking, camping, travel, and activities with family and friends.



Justin Isherwood

Justin IsherwoodJustin is an award-winning author and fifth-generation Portage County farmer. He farms peas, sweet corn, field corn, potatoes, and maple syrup on 1400 acres in southern Portage County. He has authored 24 books and is an active columnist in the local paper. He is a member of the Wisconsin Potato Board, board member of the United Potato Growers of Wisconsin, and has fought to get Portage County Drainage District to adapt new hydrological precepts without dredging and with habitat. Justin shares that he “was raised by woodlots, farmers who dwelt well with woods, sawmills, wood craft” and that it continues to be a part of his life. Married to Lynn for 45 years, they live in a hundred plus year farmhouse at the far end of a dirt road.



Diane Wessel

Diane WesselDiane is an AICP planner and a graduate of UWSP with a BS in Forest Management. As planning analyst for Marathon County, she is responsible for planning all aspects of community development including natural resource management, economic development, farmland preservation, landuse, hazard mitigation, stormwater management, sewer service, and intergovernmental relations.  Diane served as project manager and grant administrator for the largest multi-jurisdictional planning grant in the state.  Diane is staff to several committees of the County Board, the Wausau Area Metropolitan Planning Commission, and as a county representative to Marathon County United Way committees.  She is creator and chair of the North Central Wisconsin Stormwater Coalition since its creation in 2008, editor and contributor to Marathon County’s newsletter, graduate of Leadership Wausau, graduate of Wisconsin Women in Government, and is an active member of the American Planning Association.



Roger Zimmermann

Roger ZimmermannRoger recently retired from the Wisconsin Public Service Corporation at the Weston Power Plant, as the Weston Plant Manager. Roger has been the chair of the Central Wisconsin Airport and the Marathon County Solid Waste Board. He served on the Marathon County Board for 7 years serving on the Infrastructure Committee, Marathon County Library Board, Executive Committee, Rules Review Committee and the Human Resources Committee. He is currently serving on the Board of Adjustment, and the Public Service Commission. Roger Zimmermann has been taking photos of the native plants and animals at NCCT’s Rice Lake property for the past six months and plans to complete a one-year cycle of its flora and fauna. He has had photos published in many issues of Nature Photographer magazine and was a winner in the Nature Photographers 2012 Fall Contest. Besides Photography, Roger is the president of the Wisconsin Valley Woodturners Club and has published articles about wood turning in American Woodturner magazine.

3000 Acres – NCCT’s Legacy of Success

3000 Acres Robertson(1)During the 2012-13 fiscal year, NCCT completed easements on three properties that totaled 292 acres. The first easement to be completed was Nancy Stevenson’s easement that was signed in the last week of December. The Stevenson easement permanently protects a 40-acre bird sanctuary in the Town of Linwood, Portage County.  Nancy and her late husband purchased the property along Mill Creek in 1967.  Her 45-year record of birds using the property includes 88 nesting species among a total of 179 species.  This represents perhaps the longest and most complete record of a bird habitat in central Wisconsin.

In February of 2013, NCCT completed its first conservation easement on public land. The 35 acre Benn Conservancy, located adjacent to the Rosholt School District, was established by James E. Benn and Louise Benn Bernard to support conservation education and to provide public access to families in the Village of Rosholt. The Benn family decided to donate the property to Rosholt School District along with a conservation easement to NCCT to ensure the property would be protected in perpetuity.

In late April, NCCT and the Robertson Family Limited Partnership signed NCCT’s latest easement, on a 218-acre property located in the Town of Marion, Waushara County. The Robertson property is a working farm, with 148 acres in Managed Forest Law Program. The easement contains part of a sylvan lake, with an underdeveloped shoreline and more than 60 acres of relatively natural native forest and savanna ecosystems, providing significant habitat for wildlife and plant communities. The signing of this easement was significant as it pushed the total number of acres permanently protected by NCCT easements to well over 3,000 acres (3,139.62 acres to be exact!).
NCCT is grateful to have contributors like Nancy Stevenson, James Benn, Louise Benn Benard, and Allan and Joan Robertson, who care deeply about protecting the beautiful central Wisconsin landscape where we work, play, and live. Conservation easements help protect in perpetuity quality habitats, species diversity, watersheds, and beautiful places with inspiring histories.