Landmark Agreement Creates New 421-Acre Nature Preserve

Public-Private Partnership Results in Largest Door County Conservation Purchase in Decades

STURGEON BAY, WI | September 11, 2008

The Door County Land Trust and The Nature Conservancy today announced the conservation of 421 acres in Door County. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collaborated on the acquisition of the property. This purchase by the Door County Land Trust marks the largest single conservation acquisition in Door County in four decades.

The property, located two miles east of Sister Bay, Wis., will be named the Harold C. Wilson Three Springs Nature Preserve. The late Wilson was a prominent Door County businessman and renowned naturalist whose family owned the property for several decades beginning in 1940. Three Springs Creek flows through the preserve before emptying into Lake Michigan’s North Bay, which is located along the eastern shore of Door Peninsula. The preserve lies in a region of Wisconsin that has the state’s highest diversity and density of rare species and natural communities. The offshore waters of North Bay also serve as a major spawning ground for Lake Michigan’s whitefish population. The preserve contains springs and headwaters that are critical to the health of North Bay. The land also includes breeding habitat for the federally-endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly.

“This is our biggest conservation purchase to date and protects what had been the largest remaining undeveloped property that had not yet been conserved in northern Door County” said Dan Burke, Executive Director of the Door County Land Trust. “A project of this magnitude could not have been accomplished working alone. We thank the state and federal agencies, The Nature Conservancy and all our donors for working collaboratively to preserve this special place. We also owe a big thanks to the current owners of the property, George and Jean Reynolds, for being great stewards of this place for the past 40 years and for providing us with the opportunity to establish this new preserve.”

Mike Grimm, who directs the Conservancy’s work on Door Peninsula, said the land was long considered a top priority for conservation. “This is a keystone property,” Grimm said. “It has a critical influence on the quality of water in both Three Springs Creek and North Bay. It is also strategically located within a beautiful and ecologically exceptional landscape in the western Lake Michigan region.”

The preserve is located within a 13,000-acre natural corridor that includes Toft’s Point State Natural Area, The Ridges Sanctuary, Mud Lake State Wildlife Area, Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands State Natural Area, Marshall’s Point State Natural Area, Moonlight Bay Bedrock Beach State Natural Area and North Bay State Natural Area.

Eye-catching native plants including showy lady’s slippers can be found on the property along with a diverse forest made up of white cedar, tamarack, balsam fir and black ash. Three Springs Creek supports smallmouth bass, yellow perch, brown trout, Chinook salmon and northern pike. The land also provides crucial stopover and breeding habitat for neotropical migratory birds.

The preserve is rich not only for its natural resources but also for its contributions to local and state history. The property was acquired in 1940 by Harold C. Wilson, whose family owned the popular Wilson’s Ice Cream Parlor in Ephraim. One of Wilson’s passions was the natural world and he was particularly interested in migratory birds. He banded more than 60,000 birds and he was considered to be one of the country’s leading experts on herring gulls. In 1947, Wilson also opened the family-friendly Three Springs Nature Center on the property to educate visitors about the wildlife and ecology of Door County. In 1950, C.D. “Buzz” Besadny, who would later lead the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and help establish the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, worked as a summer intern at the nature center. Wilson ceased operating the nature center in the early 1950s.

“The Door County Land Trust is honored to follow in the footsteps of Harold Wilson by once again making this property available for all the public to enjoy and appreciate,” explains Terrie Cooper, Door County Land Trust’s Land Program Director. “We expect to add signage and trails to the preserve in 2009 and to prepare the preserve for recreational opportunities including hiking, birding and hunting.”

The property was purchased with a mix of state, federal and private funds: $746,000 from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund; $471,750 from a USFWS National Coastal Wetlands Conservation grant; $42,250 from the Door County Land Trust; and $90,000 from The Nature Conservancy. The Door County Land Trust is also raising an additional $140,160 needed to cover acquisition costs and necessary land stewardship activities.

“We are thrilled to be able to support our local partners in on-the-ground conservation through this National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Grant,” said Louise Clemency, Field Supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Wisconsin Ecological Services Office in New Franken, Wis. “Not only will this new preserve protect critical habitat for the endangered Hine’s emerald dragonfly, it will help prevent other rare species from becoming endangered by maintaining the coastal wetlands where they live.”

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

Contact information

Chris Anderson
Wisconsin Media Contact
(612) 331-0747
(612) 845-2744 (cell)

Don Burke
Door County Land Trust
(920) 746-1359

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