Three hikers walking on a trail through a forest in the fall where the leaves have turned to yellow and orange
Fall Color: Fall brings a riot of yellows and oranges to the trees in Door County. © Emily Mills/TNC

Stories in Wisconsin

Wisconsin 2019 Conservation Highlights

It’s the little things: Celebrating wins for nature both big and small in 2019.

Thanks to supporters and nature lovers like you, 2019 was a great year of conserving the lands, waters, and wildlife we all love in Wisconsin.

Not only did we continue our core land and water protection work, with your help, we expanded it to take steps towards solving big environmental and human challenges in Wisconsin to help create the future we want to see—one where people and nature can thrive.

We hope you enjoy these highlights and invite you to help us make 2020 (our 60th anniversary!) another great year for nature.

A small group of people stand at end of a trail and look out at wetlands with lake and forested shoreline in the distance
Accessible Trail: Visitors take in views from the ADA-compliant trail around Pickerel Lake Fen near East Troy. © Rachel Wimble/TNC

Pickerel Lake Fen Preserve – Southeast Wisconsin

Part of an overall effort to make the outdoors more accessible to people with different abilities, our new ADA-compliant trail at Pickerel Lake Fen Preserve was created thanks to the generous support of Melita Frankfurth Grunow. People who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices to help them get around can now enjoy the sights and sounds of this natural area without barriers.

New growth carpets the ground beneath fir trees in the new addition to Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands
Boreal Forest: TNC donated 362 acres of forest habitat to expand the Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands SNA in Door County. © Thomas Meyer/WDNR

Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands – Door County

In the summer, TNC donated 362 acres of gently rolling coastal boreal forest in Door County to the State of Wisconsin to expand the Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands State Natural Area. The addition almost doubles the size of this unique and diverse natural area. It also improves public access to the State Natural Area (SNA) by connecting formerly-isolated parcels of land. The Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands SNA is within the Door Peninsula Coastal Wetlands Ramsar site, a globally important wetland. Influenced by its location on Lake Michigan and the resulting local climate, the SNA is a landscape where northern plants, animals, and forests can thrive far south of where they are normally found.

A group of AmeriCorps NCCC members and high school interns pose for the camera in the woods in the Mukwonago River Watershed
Next Gen Conservationists: AmeriCorps NCCC crew members and high school interns assist with invasive species removal in the Mukwonago River watershed. © Matt Whitney/TNC

AmeriCorps Crew and High School Interns – Mukwonago River Watershed

This summer, the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) crew contributed 240 hours to TNC, with thanks to Waukesha County Parks, who hosted the group. These 18 to 24-year-olds take part in a 10-month, full-time service program involving disaster response and community-based work.

The NCCC crew worked on land along the Mukwonago River in the Town of Eagle that TNC had protected with a conservation easement, removing buckthorn and other invasive species that had formed a dense wall separating the upland from the wetland along the river. They were joined by six high school interns from Waukesha South, Waukesha North, El Puente, Escuela Verde, Brookfield Academy and Mukwonago high schools. 

A Blanding’s turtle hatchling sitting in someone’s hand barely covers two fingers.
Blanding’s Turtle: A Blanding’s turtle hatchling, part of a boom of babies this year, is gently observed in habitat recently restored by TNC. © Stephanie Judge/TNC

Baby Turtles!

The smallest things sometimes reveal the biggest successes. This Blanding’s turtle hatchling was one of several born thanks to our concerted restoration efforts on preserves across the state. Thanks to your support, we’re able to restore wetlands, prairies and other habitats, which helps animals and plants thrive. If you restore it, they will come!

Marsh marigolds bloom alongside a profusion of skunk cabbage in the wetlands at Honey Creek Preserve in the Baraboo Hills
Honey Creek Valley: Marsh marigolds bloom upstream in Honey Creek Valley from recent TNC land purchase. © Steve S. Meyer

Honey Creek Preserve – Baraboo Hills

Your support helped TNC add 117 acres of important and diverse habitat to its Honey Creek Preserve in the Baraboo Hills. Adding this land and restoring it to its natural state will greatly improve habitat for resident and migratory wildlife species, many of which are currently listed as uncommon or of special concern due to low numbers. The land also includes almost 1.5 miles of stream frontage, including a long stretch of the North Branch of Honey Creek, a Class 2 trout stream and an expanse of rare forested wetlands.

Sophie Meringoff stands by sign that says Restoration in Progress, which highlights her family’s donation to the project
Pheasant Branch: Sophie Meringoff stands in front of a sign highlighting her family foundation’s donation to the project at the newly expanded portion of Pheasant Branch Conservancy. © Nick Miller/TNC

Pheasant Branch Conservancy – Middleton

Cleaner water, less flooding, and more diverse habitat for wildlife are just some of the benefits provided to the entire Yahara River Watershed by the Pheasant Branch Conservancy. Thanks to the 160-acre addition of land just north of the existing preserve in 2019, those benefits will only grow. University of Wisconsin-Madison undergrad Sophie Meringoff made a generous donation to TNC from her family’s foundation to restore the wetlands on the former Acker Farm land recently purchased by Dane County. We’re grateful to Sophie and supporters like her who value and understand the role of restored and resilient natural areas in building healthier communities and combatting climate change.

Closeup of the root of a freshly harvested radish used as a cover crop to improve soil health and prevent erosion
Radish Cover Crop: A radish from a cover crop used to improve soil health and prevent erosion; cover crops were highlighted at a field day hosted by the Sheboygan River Progressive Farmers. © Julia Brunson/TNC

Soil Health and Farm Resilience

We continued our work with farmers across the state to offer education and resources to help them utilize conservation practices to build soil health. This year especially, farmers saw real world benefits in using soil health practices—including cover crops like this radish--that are helping build up soil structure so it can carry the weight of heavy farm equipment even in wet conditions. This meant those farmers were able to plant and harvest earlier than others during this year’s extra rainy conditions—a crucial adaptation as climate change results in more extreme weather events and challenging growing seasons.

Silhouette of Deputy State Director Matt Dallman in a rowboat on tranquil waters at sunset at Tenderfoot Forest Reserve
Climate Change: TNC Deputy State Director Matt Dallman rows a boat on tranquil waters at the Tenderfoot Forest Reserve in northern Wisconsin. © Greg Anderson

U.S. Climate Alliance

In February, Wisconsin was the 20th state to join the U.S. Climate Alliance. A Wisconsin U.S. Climate Alliance Team was formed this fall to work with Governor Tony Evers’ administration and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to advance and implement policies aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions through the management of our natural and working lands. TNC Deputy State Director Matt Dallman was invited to serve on the Wisconsin team and is specifically advising on natural climate solutions related to forests and forest management. Climate is one of TNC’s priorities, especially when it comes to natural solutions to climate.

TNC Cities Conservation Fellow Lainet Garcia Rivera helps a group of 5 students from Milwaukee’s Escuela Verde
Escuela Verde Students: TNC Cities Conservation Fellow Lainet Garcia Rivera helps students from Milwaukee’s Escuela Verde collect native prairie seeds in the Mukwonago River watershed. © Gary Porter

Escuela Verde Students Learn and Share – Milwaukee/Mukwonago River Watershed

Students from Escuela Verde in Milwaukee visited our office in the Mukwonago River watershed to learn about and collect native plant seeds with help from TNC staff, including TNC Cities Conservation Fellow Lainet Garcia Rivera (at left). The students cleaned and then put the seeds into packets with handmade instructions about planting pollinator-friendly gardens, which they handed out at a community Dia De Los Muertos event in the fall. This is one small but mighty way that we can help inspire the next generation of conservationists and build healthy cities!

A female cardinal perches on a snowy tree branch
Cardinal: A female cardinal perches on a snowy tree branch at Pickerel Lake Fen Preserve. © Gerald H. Emmerich, Jr.

Like this cardinal, each of you—our donors, members and volunteers—contributes to the splendor and diversity of our planet in your own unique way. Please join us in protecting the beauty and health of Wisconsin’s forests, prairies, lakes and rivers in 2020 with a gift today.