The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is one of The Nature Conservancy’s best conservation partners and an essential part of our ongoing effort to conserve Wisconsin’s most outstanding lands and waters for nature and people. Following are a few examples of the lands and waters the Stewardship Program has helped The Nature Conservancy protect in Wisconsin.
Wild Rivers Legacy Forest (Forest/Florence/Marinette Counties)
The Wild Rivers Legacy Forest encompasses 101 square miles of forest, wild rivers, and lakes in northeast Wisconsin. The forests are rich in plant life and wildlife, including bears, flying squirrels, wolves, and northern goshawks. More than 48 lakes and ponds and 70 miles of rivers and streams— including portions of two wild rivers—flow into and contribute to water quality in Green Bay and the larger Great Lakes system. An innovative partnership among The Nature Conservancy, the State of Wisconsin, and a timber partner conserved more than 64,600 acres at the Wild Rivers Legacy Forest in 2006.
Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area (Vilas County)
The 2,249-acre Catherine Wolter Wilderness Area encompasses a large block of northern forest and 36,000 feet of undeveloped shoreline on 15 wild lakes and ponds, an increasingly rare commodity in northern Wisconsin today. The lakes and surrounding forests provide habitat for many native plants and wildlife, including loons, osprey, otters, fishers, bears, and wolves. The preserve is part of a larger area, referred to as the Border Lakes by the Conservancy, which spans about 24,000 acres in Vilas County. The area harbors white pines up to 400 years old and includes wetlands, spring-fed ponds, many wild lakes and streams.
The Door Peninsula on Lake Michigan is well-known in Wisconsin and beyond for its natural beauty and rich cultural heritage. Its rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, marshy bays, fertile wetlands, and conifer forests provide habitat for plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world. Conservancy project areas on the peninsula include:
- Mink River Estuary: One of the few high quality estuaries remaining in the Great Lakes region. It is an important spawning ground for fish and a critical migration site for birds. More than 200 bird species may pass through the area annually.
- Kangaroo Lake: A shallow, marl-bottomed basin with calcium-rich water. Large, shallow marl lakes, while common to Door County, are uncommon regionally. Those that have escaped intensive shoreline development are especially rare. Piel Creek, which flows into the lake from the northwest, is one of less than 15 sites in the world where the federally-endangered Hine's emerald dragonfly has been found.
Lulu Lake Preserve (Walworth/Waukesha Counties)
Less than an hour from Milwaukee and Waukesha, Lulu Lake glitters amidst the rich marshes of the upper Mukwonago River watershed. When viewed through the lens of species richness and water quality, this 86-acre lake and its watershed comprise one of Wisconsin's highest quality natural areas. On higher ground, you will find prairie remnants and oak openings, two of the world’s rarest plant communities. The State, the Conservancy and private landowners in the area have worked together since the 1970s to conserve more than 2,000 acres of habitat. Most of the natural area is open for hunting, hiking, canoeing, bird-watching and other types of recreation. It is a popular outdoor laboratory for local teachers and their students.
Spring Green Prairie (Sauk County)
Known as the "Wisconsin Desert," Spring Green Prairie is one of the region's finest examples of dry sand prairie grading into dry lime prairie on steep dolomite cliffs. This preserve harbors some of Wisconsin's rarest plant communities, including sand prairie, dry bluff prairie, and black oak barrens. All of these communities, which once covered thousands of acres in the state, are now almost completely gone. They provide habitat for many rare and unusual plants and animals. One of these species is prickly pear cactus, which is not common in the state but abundant at Spring Green Preserve.
Barneveld Prairie (Iowa County)
In Iowa County, near the village of Barneveld, the Conservancy has protected close to 1,000 acres of prairie remnants and more heavily-grazed prairie pastures surrounded by tilled agricultural fields, hay fields and pastures. The prairie remnants occur on the sides of ridges and have rich stands of prairie dropseed, shooting stars and violets. Combined, these prairies and surrounding lands constitute a relatively treeless landscape, providing habitat for many grassland nesting birds and butterflies. The preserve is located in the Military Ridge Prairie Heritage Area, a 50,000-acre grassland landscape in Dane and Iowa counties that contains one of the highest concentrations of native grasslands in the Midwest.