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Nature Conservancy Protects 3,243 Acres in Central Wisconsin

Acquisition provides opportunity to diversify the forest, benefit wildlife, and keep land open for recreation.

Aerial image showing forests and wetland covered in winter snow with large water body and blue sky on the horizon.
Central Sands TNC’s purchase of 3,243 acres in Adams County is a rare opportunity to diversify the forest, benefit wildlife, and keep land open for recreation. © Patrick Flood Photography

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) announced today that it has purchased 3,243 acres of forest and wetlands in the Central Sands region of Wisconsin. The acquisition is a rare opportunity to protect and restore thousands of acres in a part of the state identified as a stronghold for native plants and animals, some of which are globally imperiled. 

“In this region of Wisconsin where forestlands are being subdivided and sold for private development, we’re excited about the opportunity this acquisition provides to restore wildlife habitat, keep the land open for recreation, and help diversify the forests so they are resilient to a changing climate,” says Elizabeth Koehler, who directs The Nature Conservancy’s work in Wisconsin. 

The property in Adams County consists of five separate tracts of land primarily composed of red pine plantation, with more than 500 acres of wetland and some hardwood forest intermixed with the pines. The largest tract of land is located just north of Quincy Bluff and Wetlands State Natural Area; the other four tracts are farther north and east (click here for map). Other nearby protected lands include county parks and state parks and wildlife areas. 

Small, silvery butterfly with blue and orange spots on wings sits at top of conical flower with purple petals.
Karner Blue Restoration of this land will provide better habitat for wildlife including endangered species like the Karner blue butterfly. © Ian Adams

The land is currently open for hiking, hunting, fishing, and snowmobiling, and TNC will continue to keep the land open to the public for those uses.

Using its Resilient Land Mapping Tool, TNC identified the Central Sands region of the state, where this property is located, as one of the areas in Wisconsin best able to support plants and animals in a changing climate due to its rich biodiversity and highly varied and connected landscape. 

“Historically, the area was dominated by large sedge meadow wetlands and vast open areas of pine and oak barrens,” says Stephanie Judge, TNC conservation project manager. “Today, the land we are purchasing has largely been converted to rows of red pines. We have an opportunity to make these forests healthier and less prone to wildfires by thinning the pines to allow a greater diversity of our native trees to thrive, while also restoring some of the barrens and grassland communities that once existed here.”

“It will take time, but eventually the land will not only support managed timber production but also provide better recreation opportunities for hunters and other outdoor enthusiasts,” Judge adds. “It will also provide improved habitat for wildlife like the Kirtland’s warbler and Karner blue butterfly, which haven’t fared well in a landscape dominated by a single tree species.”

“The Nature Conservancy is a non-profit organization with a mission to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends,” says Cynthia Haggard, County Manager/Administrative Coordinator with Adams County.  “The County is collaborating with the Conservancy to explore areas of potential mutual interest, including the possibility that lands they acquire may ultimately become part of the County's proposed Forest Program.”

The Nature Conservancy purchased the land with funding from TNC supporters who contributed to the organization’s recently completed Wisconsin’s Path fundraising campaign.

TNC has a 30-year history of working in the Central Sands region to protect almost 3,800 acres at Quincy Bluff & Wetlands in Adams County. The organization also worked with partners to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Karner blue butterfly, which was listed as an endangered species in 1992.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 76 countries and territories—37 by direct conservation impact and 39 through partners—we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.