It's Our Turn To Carry On Conservation Tradition
Guest Column by Mary Jean Huston, State Director
The Land Legacy Report released by the state Department of Natural Resources this week is a treasure trove of information, photos, charts and maps about the places it will be critical to protect to meet Wisconsin’s conservation and outdoor recreation needs for the next 50 years.
This is not a boring tome that will gather dust on too many shelves. It will be a valuable tool for local governments, communities, and citizens engaged in land use planning. It will help state agencies and conservation organizations direct their conservation efforts and resources like the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund more effectively. Educators will find it to be invaluable as they teach students about the rich natural diversity of the Badger State.
The Wisconsin landscape is changing daily. Agricultural land is being covered with housing and commercial developments. Large blocks of industrial forest land are being sold, divided into small parcels, and re-sold to private individuals as home sites. Our wild lakes and rivers are under continuous development pressure.
Creating the infrastructure that supports Wisconsin’s economy is important, but we need to do it in a way that conserves the forests, wetlands, grasslands, lakes and streams that enhance our quality of life and underpin our forest products, recreation, and tourism industries.
Knowing the most important places to conserve will help us find a balance between our economic and environmental needs, and the Land Legacy report is designed to do just that.
Many people had a hand in making this report a reality. Governor Thompson’s Blue Ribbon Task Force on the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund recommended that the Department of Natural Resources undertake the study in 1998, and the Natural Resources Board passed a resolution requesting it in April 1999.
Department of Natural Resources staff did an exceptional job of soliciting input from private citizens, outdoor enthusiasts, land managers, researchers and conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy to ensure that the 229 Legacy Places truly represent the most critical areas for conservation and recreation in the next 50 years.
Many of Wisconsin’s most beautiful and beloved places — the Apostle Islands, Devil’s Lake, the bluffs and beaches of Door County, and the Brule and Wisconsin rivers — have been conserved thanks to the foresight and generosity of those who came before us.
Now it’s our turn to grab the baton and continue the long, bipartisan tradition of conservation in Wisconsin. The Land Legacy report provides us with a roadmap we can follow as we conserve Wisconsin’s most outstanding lands and waters for future generations to cherish and enjoy.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.