St. Martin Island

Protecting a Great Lakes Island in Lake Michigan

St. Martin Island

Wisconsin Public Television profiles St. Martin Island on “Wisconsin Life.”

St. Martin Island

Fly Over St. Martin

Get a bird’s-eye view of St. Martin Island from the air.

Fly over St. Martin Island.

The Nature Conservancy has launched an ambitious effort to protect an island in Lake Michigan, and you can help! Generous donors will provide a 50 percent match to gifts for St. Martin Island! Scroll down for details.

St. Martin Island — a collection of rocky bluffs, cobble beaches, wetland, white cedar and sugar maple-white birch forests — is located in Michigan waters about five miles from Washington and Rock islands at the tip of the Door Peninsula.

One of the larger islands in a chain that stretches from Wisconsin’s Door Peninsula to Michigan’s Garden Peninsula, St. Martin Island provides critical stopover habitat for birds that migrate through the Great Lakes each spring and fall, as well as habitat for fish and other wildlife.

In November 2013, The Nature Conservancy acquired nearly 1,244 acres, or 94 percent, of the island from the Fred Luber family of Milwaukee. At the end of 2014, we purchased another 36 acres from David Uihlein, Jr., president of Uihlein-Wilson Architects in Milwaukee. Both the Lubers and Mr. Uihlein made generous donations of a portion of the value of the land as part of their sales to the Conservancy in order to see the island protected.

In September 2015, St. Martin Island became part of the Green Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The refuge, which includes Hog, Plum and Pilot islands, is a sanctuary for native birds and endangered plants and animals.

The Natural and Human History of St. Martin Island

St. Martin Island is part of the Grand Traverse chain of islands in Lake Michigan between Wisconsin and Michigan. These relatively undeveloped, forested islands are safe places for birds to land, feed and rest during migration, which is critical to their survival. More than 100 species of birds have been documented using the island in recent years. Migrating butterflies, dragonflies and bats also use the islands.

St. Martin Island is part of the Niagara Escarpment and has significant bluffs, which have rare snails and plants associated with them. The broad shallow “flats” off the shore of St. Martin are likely to be a prime area for fish to spawn because those areas warm up faster and the eggs are protected from predators as they fall amongst the rocks.

St. Martin Island has an interesting human history. In the mid-1800s, up to 27 families lived on the island year round, making their living fishing for whitefish, lake trout, sturgeon and lake herring, which they salted and shipped to Chicago, Milwaukee and other cities. Fish populations eventually declined and people left the island. In 1889, the island was officially declared vacated.

Your Gift Can Be Matched!

The Nature Conservancy has launched an effort to raise $2 million in public and private funds to purchase St. Martin Island and continue its conservation work on the Door Peninsula and in the Green Bay watershed and the Great Lakes. We’re making great progress, but we still need to raise $311,000 to reach our goal.

Generous donors who love Door County and Green Bay want to encourage others to join them in protecting St. Martin Island and the Door Peninsula. To help us reach our fundraising goal, these supporters will provide a 50 percent match to gifts of $100 or more for St. Martin until we raise $126,000.

In addition to private donations, the organization has received grant awards from the North American Wetlands Conservation Act program and the Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has also received a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative grant to help fund this project.

To join us in protecting this special island for migrating birds and for everyone who loves birds, islands and all things wild and free, please click here to make a contribution today.

You can also contact Gail Van Sluys at or 608-316-6435 about making your gift.


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