Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust was founded in 1996 to “preserve and restore the natural heritage of Northeast Wisconsin land and waters through partnerships in land conservancy and resource management.”
In 1993 the idea to found NEWLT began with a simple but important concept which emerged from the 1993 The State of the Bay: A Watershed Perspective which stated “We cannot clean up lower Green Bay unless we clean up Lake Winnebago. We cannot clean up Lake Winnebago unless we clean up the Fox and Wolf Rivers. We have to attack pollution at its source and we have to do it through the entire watershed.” Extensive cleanup of point sources (ex: industry waste) was occurring which meant pollutants were derived from non-point sources (ex: eroded stream banks). The clear solution was to protect the land from uses which are detrimental to our waterways. Thus, NEWLT was founded by Bruce Johnson with the help of Northeastern Wisconsin Waters of Tomorrow (NEWWT), Gathering Waters Conservancy (GWC), and the Land Trust Alliance (LTA). The service area of the newly founded land trust included the Fox-Wolf watershed and other counties draining into Lake Michigan – since then, the service area has been reduced as more land trusts in the area were established.
A steering committee was formed in 1995. NEWLT founder, Bruce Johnson, secured a $50,000 grant from the EPA Great Lakes National Program Office Habitat Preservation Program. This grant was not to be used for direct land protection but rather to build and expand the organization. This grant, along with attending the LTA Rally established a foundation for our land trust.
NEWLT filed for tax exempt status through the IRS and was granted preliminary approval on December 10, 1996. Our founding board included: President Jeanne Agneessens, Vice-President Sue Kinde, Secretary Curt Solberg, Treasurer Bob Stadel as well as Bill Elman, Sue Dyer, Kari Esbensen, Ken Jaworski, Bruce Johnson, Paul Neumeyer, Tim Schmidt, and John Young. After the land trust was established, many public outreach meetings were held in the area and from these meetings, two landowners began working with NEWLT to protect their properties.
We published our first newsletter in 1997, held well-attended banquets in 1997 and 1998, and celebrated how far we had come in the past few years at Ken and LouAnn Pauer’s Environmental Education Preserve – all of which attracted new members to NEWLT. This is not to say we weren’t working very hard at preserving our environment – we worked closely with landowner Pat Timm and protected her 60 acres in 1998, now known as Timm’s Woods/Vessey Lake, our first conservancy! By the end of 1998, we were actively protecting 259 acres of land!
In 1999, John and Jean Reeve donated the Reeve Reserve on the Little Wolf River, creating our first nature preserve with public access for fishing, hunting, and pedestrian recreation. Volunteer resource managers developed a management plan for the property.
In 2005, NEWLT received the Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve located on the west shore of Little Lake Butte des Morts as part of a Fox River habitat restoration project. This 48-acre protected marsh is visited by many species of migrating waterfowl and provides opportunities to restore some measure of ecological value to the Fox River.
We celebrated our 10th anniversary with a picnic near the Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve. Over 70 members enjoyed an array of speakers who spoke about the history and significance of preserving special places in northeast Wisconsin
2007 was a very busy year for us, we added nine new conservancies, which totaled 887 acres, to our protected lands making a total of 30 conservancies – 23 of which are located on water! We also received over 60 inquiries from landowners regarding preserving their land. The fun did not stop there! We were awarded our first Knowles-Nelson stewardship grant for the purchase of our Gilson Creek Preserve and Winneconne Wetlands.
One of our proudest achievements was adding land to our Mt. Morris Conservancy in 2009 – which provides a natural habitat for the federally endangered Karner Blue Butterfly. This addition brought our total acreage of preserved lands to over 3,500!
We feel very lucky to have had so many great opportunities. To watch the number of preserves and conservancies grow and to consistently protect more land each year has only strengthened our commitment to protecting natural lands in northeast Wisconsin. In 2010, we purchased 50 acres of land in Green Lake County and donated it to the Wisconsin DNR State Natural Areas Program to add to Puchyan Prairie State Natural Area. We added 354.5 acres via a conservation easement as well as our first conservation easement on the west shore of Green Bay.
In 2011, we welcomed our largest conservancy to date – 600 acres at Three Creeks Conservancy. This helped us reach the milestone of protecting over 4,500 acres of land! Since we’ve been so busy, we added staff members, developed a new three-year strategic plan for our organization, and moved to a new location in 2011 to accommodate our growing family.
We are so grateful for our supporters and would not be here if it weren’t for you! In 2012, we are working on: building a boardwalk and observation platform for Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve, purchasing a new property we hope to open as a public preserve this year, sponsoring and hosting a number of events as well as attending a number of community events. We have also been addressing several landowner inquiries regarding possible preservation; more than 400 acres currently await preservation.
Thank you to all of our members and supporters, without you none of this would be possible.
Would you like to know more about our work, events, or would just like to chat about land conservation? You can like us on facebook, check out our events page, join our mailing list, or contact us to chat.