As one of the lunch presentations being run by the HEAT team of Health Dunn Right, Rick Remington of the Landmark Conservancy spoke on January 12 to HEAT members and interested participants. He spoke about land conservation, land trusts, and the work of Landmark Conservancy.
Cheryl Miller 0:00
Conservation Director at Landmark Conservancy, Rick will provide a broad overview of land trust information with emphasis on landmarks history and mission, including conservation programs, geography, recent projects and conservation priorities. Rick is a native of Central Wisconsin and a graduate of UW Stevens Point. He has worked throughout the Midwest, Maine and Kentucky, and land management, restoration and protection before joining the land trust staff in 2002. Rick leaves the conservation team from landmarks Menominee office. Welcome wreck.
Rick Remington 0:43
Thanks, Cheryl. Hi, everybody. How long do you all have today? About an hour? So?
Cheryl Miller 0:48
Yeah, but an hour?
Rick Remington 0:49
Yep. I'm gonna plan on rolling through my PowerPoint presentation, probably in, you know, 3030 minutes, maybe a little more, and then offer you all the opportunity for questions. Unless you want to interrupt me as we go along. That's fine with me too. If something is urgent or pressing to shout out, feel free. I'm going to go ahead and share my screen
okay. Everybody see that? Okay. Thumbs up? Okay. Well, hello, everybody, it looks like we've got about nine or so of us. And maybe people will trick a lot long as I'm talking. So as Cheryl said, I'm going to give kind of land trust 101. And obviously, I'm going to draw upon my experience here at Landmark Conservancy in the next half hour, so I'll cover you know, what is a land trust conservancy or a conservancy? Because we get that question a lot. Who we are and how we got here, where we work, what we do, how we select the conservation projects that we work on some recent projects and accomplishments we've been involved with, especially locally, and how folks can get involved. So I get a lot a lot of calls here at the office with people who will start a conversation with I want to start a land trust, or I want to start a conservancy, or I want to support a land trust. And, you know, I always have to step back that conversation with folks by telling them that a land trust or a conservancy is technically the name of the nonprofit organization that works with landowners to conserve land. Not to be confused with conservation easements, or not to be confused with nature preserves, which can also be called conservancies, and things of that nature. But when we say a land trust or a conservancy, we're speaking about the organization itself, not about the different tools or the different different outcomes that we pursue. So the next thing I'm going to throw out there is just why should I care? The fact that you're all here today tells me you care, but I'm not in a place to say why. And, you know, people care for various reasons. And I'm thankful for that. We care about elephants in Africa, we care about clean water, we care, we care, because we want to leave a legacy for our kids or our grandkids. We care because we care about climate change and what the effects might be on species. We care because we want local places to hike and recreate. There's a whole slew of land related. There we go land related reasons why we care. And so again, I'm not going to point out why. But just thankful for the fact that so many people do care or we wouldn't be in the business we are.
Okay, A Brief History of land trusts. So land trusts have been around for a long time, started more or less on both of the coasts as a lot of new trends do, especially before the internet. And then trick trickled its way into the Midwest, or maybe about 40 years ago or so. As you could see, the popularity of nonprofit organization conservation groups has grown over the last 100 years. And now there's about 1700, my number might be off because this is an older slide 1700 land trusts that work in all 50 states, and about 42 Or maybe as many as 45 Working Wisconsin. So there's lots of land trusts, and they vary dramatically. There's states like California and New York have over 100 And within those states, there's a dramatic A lot of variability amongst the organizations from all volunteer organizations, to statewide groups that cover, you know, vast geographies. On the opposite end of the spectrum, I think states like North Dakota, and maybe to a lesser extent, South Dakota, don't really have local land trusts that work there, but are served by larger organizations like the Conservation Fund or Ducks Unlimited or Pheasants Forever, who can serve that role. Here in Wisconsin, again, we have 42. So we're kind of in the middle. By Land Trust standards, I think landmark is one of the larger organizations in the state. There's a handful of other ones that have similar staff sizes, as we do about, you know, five to 10 individuals. And then there's certainly a handful that have that are all volunteer and are just governed by a board of directors with no staff. I'm in Wisconsin, we are members of gathering waters. So gathering waters is not technically a land trust, because they don't literally collect protect land. But they serve a really important role and being kind of a clearinghouse for information of us, enhancing our capacity to do our work working on some statewide legislative issues like the Knowles Nelson stewardship program. And so they serve as kind of an umbrella group for all the land trusts in the state. At the national level, we're also members of the land trust Alliance, which is over 1000 land trusts, again, working on similar interests to boost our capacity. They sometimes grant and re grant funds to us that they can obtain from larger funders, and they work on national legislative issues. So we're thankful to have both those organizations to help serve that role, especially for newer staff members as a place where they can learn and gain information. So who is landmark Conservancy? I like to say that we're a new land trust with old bones. We've been around now for a landmarks, I think, coming up on its fourth year this spring. But we were formed from as you can see my little chart here, starting out with Wisconsin farmland Conservancy, which was a statewide environmental and agricultural advocacy group working out of Menominee. Back in 1988, Wisconsin farm land conservancy ultimately morphed into West Wisconsin Land Trust, which started doing more of the typical Land Trust work of protecting land that we're familiar with. Along the way, West Wisconsin took on the origonal organizational assets of a very small land trust, Upper St. Croix. And then finally, about four years ago, or three and a half years ago, after two years of work, West Wisconsin Land Trust merged with another regional organization Bayfield regional Conservancy, to farm landmark in 2018. Last year, after another couple years of discussion, landmark took on the organizational assets of Coudray waters, regional Land Trust, which was another all volunteer organization that was headquartered in the Hayward area. So as you can see, you know, it's not like we, we were born yesterday, but literally, our name has only been out there for about three to four years, and the work has been going on for if you added up each of these organizations for probably 100 years total.
We're governed by a board of directors, I think there's 15 people or so now that that live and serve probably in the geography of Northwest Wisconsin, which I'll get to in a moment. We have a pretty good board, in my opinion. They're a great board. We have bankers, we have teachers, we have environmental educators, we have biologists, we have corporate executives, we've got plant managers, a whole slew of people that bring sort of the diversity of interests and passion and resources to govern our organization. Our staff right now is 10, which has grown dramatically. I mean, for our for our size, we've added a few positions here in the past couple of years, and brought us up to where we really need to be. When you're a staff of three or four or five, trying to do the work we do you always feel like you're swimming and trying to get your head above water and it really takes bringing on a couple of extra bodies that can that can take on the workload. And then you really start feeling like not only can you enjoy your job more but you can get more done. So the fun part where we work. Landmark works in that big Beautiful area we call Northwest Wisconsin. I think we say we cover about 20. County area. As you can see, there's a few counties where we don't have a lot of activity Taylor Clark and parts of Jackson, you know, so it's not necessarily the entirety of those 20 counties. But we work very actively and probably about 15, or 16, with lesser activity in some of those south and east counties. The dot map there just illustrates conservation projects that we've had, through all our names and things we've had over the years, both West Wisconsin Bayfield Conservancy, and then most recently landmark, illustrated by those projects that have some component of public access, and those that are entirely private. So what do we do? Well, in a nutshell, we work with landowners and other partners to conserve land. And we do so through conservation easements, acquisitions where we acquire fee title interest to land, and also through donations of property. We, in some cases, steward the land that we acquire, sometimes we will pass that on to another owner, a local unit of government, the Department of Natural Resources, county government, and things of that nature. We also do outreach and education, and have realized that in order for us to be successful, we can't protect enough land, we can't steward enough land to make a difference. We have to reach people. And that's people of all ages, it's folks of relatively our ages, middle to older, but also kids, teens, college kids, young adults, young families, if we're really going to make a difference in not only caring for the land we have, we have to reach people. So we've really started to emphasize the community engagement and outreach in our work. And we also dabble in restoration at stewardship of trails. And we've got a couple of very active trail projects, particularly up in the Bayfield area right now where we're investing a lot of resources. So I'll dive in just a little deeper on what we call our our core conservation programs, which are land protection, conservation, easement, stewardship, and then land ownership. Land protection is pretty easy. It's what we consider easy to define, I should say. It's what we consider the tools we use to literally acquire and protect land. And those would be conservation easements, primarily with private landowners
vetting and accepting donations of land, acquiring land where we have to raise dollars to do so. And now and then obviously a bargain purchase, which is just acquiring land, for less than the appraised value. All of that collectively as what we call or refer to as land protection for everything we own, and that would include our interests in constant private conservation easements, or the land we own past to be stewarded for the land we own. We have to post signage we have to determine if there are trails of parking that are going to be permitted. If we're going to do restoration or take care of an exotic invasive species and deal with the host of neighbor and infraction issues that can occur with land management. For conservation easement stewardship. Similarly, we have to worry about the terms of the easement and have to monitor compliance annually. And I'll talk a little bit about that and more about that in a minute. I'm, obviously not all of us here in the office are working on land protection and land stewardship. We have about half our organization devoted to community engagement to advancement or raising the funds necessary to sustain the organization. And all of this work comes with a lot of administration, and isn't done in a box but in cooperation with a lot of different partners, both public and private. So I can't underscore we're not all here, protecting land and stewarding land we have a lot of work and a lot of time devoted to making sure our organization remains healthy and visible. So I mentioned conservation easement stewardship 's a huge part of our protected land portfolio consists of over 200 conservation easements covering over 25,000 acres, I think we added probably close to another 1500 to 2000. And since I made this slide, so we're creeping up for sure on our conservation easement acreage. What I wanted to illustrate with this slide and I could go on for probably half a day about this is that all of these conservation easements and all of these acres have to be not only monitored annually for compliance, but we have to steward what I call transitions between the individual or let's say mom and dad, who placed the conservation easement on the property and everybody that comes after To them, and it could be their kids who might be just as awesome as mom and dad. But it could be someone entirely different, who maybe is not so thrilled about the conservation easement. And so a lot of what we do too, is making sure those properties and those individuals stay in compliance with the terms of the easement, which gets more challenging over time as they transfer for the land that we own. Um, again, I think everybody has visited parks and nature preserves. And you know, the sites we have are, in some ways, no different. Some of them have a lot of infrastructure on them. Stairs, trails, parking, signage, kiosks, things like that. And some of them are places where, though they may be open to the public, there really isn't a lot of infrastructure for hiking, there places to go hunting or place to wander at your will. But without a lot of organized trails, and so forth. We have about 2500 acres that we own over our 20 County areas, a few of those are larger sites, and some of them are little tiny places, which you know, I'll talk about later, that might be only a handful of acres. We also do some restoration and habitat work on those properties. And in some cases, that might include timber harvests, which you know, if comes as a surprise to people, but some of these properties were enrolled in programs like the managed forests law, prior to our acquisition, and so we're not immune to the terms of those contracts and have to implement those as well, which can be a great source of revenue. And then obviously, all the host of administration that comes along with the work that we do takes a tremendous amount of time. Who do we work with? I won't name the name, the I won't read these off verbatim off the screen. But as you can see, we work with people and groups, and that includes public and private. And I'm sure the list goes on here. I can think of a lot of Fish and Game organizations that we've worked with both large and small. You know, everybody, I think that you can imagine us working with we have worked with at one time or another. businesses, nonprofits, late group, citizens groups, and many, many, many, many individuals.
So like, a popular question that always pops up is where do we get our money. And this is our unaudited financial overview from our fiscal year that ended last June, I say unaudited because our third party financial audit is underway as we speak, that started a few weeks ago, and there'll be making their office visit next week. So certain individuals here in the office are scrambling around to find the host of documents that our auditors will be looking for. Um, we've got a pretty diverse income stream. And I'm going to jump ahead here to you know, a slide that I think, won't be as number heavy as this. But it kind of shows where our money comes from. A lot of our money, I think most of it comes from a member and donor support. This could be folks that write out a check for $50 a year or $20 a year, or folks that write a check for $20,000 a year. There's a lot of variability between individuals that support our work, we receive a few foundation grants. And then there's obviously public grants like the Knowles Nelson's stewardship program, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, North American wetlands Conservation Act, big public grants that typically don't help us keep the lights on in the office. But we'll literally go to acquiring land. And it takes both, you know, it really takes grants that help us keep the lights on and pay me something to live on, but also takes large public grants like Knowles, Nelson to help us acquire land. We also receive bequests and plant gifts, some of which we know about, because people have disclosed those their intentions to us. And some come as a surprise, where somebody has placed us in there, we'll pass it on, and we find about it, as their estate matters are being dissolved. There's management income, I mentioned timber revenue a few minutes ago, and the sale of property in situations where we're able to do that. And then we have a handful of endowments that are set up. Some of those are broad to cover all of our stewardship work of the lands that and easements that we hold. And we call that our stewardship and Legal Defense Fund, and that's invested with three different community foundations, St. Croix, Dunn County, and elusive furia. And then we also have two projects, specific Endowments for the Mary Fitz trust, invested with the Eau Claire Community Foundation, and a love Lake and Domino that rests with the Natural Resource foundation of Wisconsin. So it's really great that we can partner with a wide variety of community foundations and that not only helps keep those organizations strong, but they realize the value of our work. And it keeps us visible as they work with, you know, donors and peoples in their community, who might have an interest in supporting us in other ways. So with over 1000, or 1500, land trusts in the country, and 45 or so in Wisconsin, you might seem like protecting land is the Wild West. And some days it does. But we have a pretty methodical way not only in house, but in the Land Trust community, on how we conduct business, and sometimes it slows us down. I know, it slows us down. And that's okay. Because it keeps us all on the correct path to doing business, you know, in a ethical manner. We call these Land Trust standards and practices. Back in, I think, 1989, the land trust Alliance, which is that national umbrella group of ours, came up with standards and practices to help land trusts do their work, and everybody signed on, you know, it was no big deal. But along the way, they realized that as they updated standards and practices, they wanted to make sure that people had the ability to adhere to that. Standards and Practices are divided into governance, finance, transactions, and stewardship, governance and finance are really just you know, how to govern a nonprofit organization, whether you're feeding kids or whether you're protecting land, but the transaction and stewardship components really deal with the work of land trust that we do. And then more recently, I think I said SNPs came out in 1989, probably about 12 or 13 years ago, the land trust Alliance launched a separate Accreditation Commission to really look in at each organization that wanted to apply and offer that third party accreditation status. So we pursued that.
I think Wes, Wisconsin pursued that about eight years ago, Bayfield conservancy pursued it 10 years ago. This year, we're up for re accreditation. So again, here in about three or four months after our financial audit, silver, we'll be compiling documents for that reaccreditation, which, again, is a really good way to make sure we're doing business, not only consistently with other organizations, but in an ethical manner. So how best to advance our conservation vision, these are just a few words that I threw on here. on things that we work on, or think about as we're trying to decide where to protect land, we want our work to be targeted, not just random acts of conservation thrown across the landscape. We want to use the right tools in the right place, whether that be a conservation easement, whether that be acquiring land, or whether that be working with another public partner, like the Department of Natural Resources or county government. We want to leverage the community partnerships that we have both with organizations individuals, we definitely want to stress climate resiliency in our work and make sure we have the ability to make a difference, where we protect land to make sure we get the biggest bang for the buck. Again, rather than random conservation acts, we want to create complexes to the extent we can we want those lands to emphasize both the ecological attributes but also recreation, any want to apply the science and local knowledge that's available to us. So with climate resiliency being such an emphasis, and you can't watch the news these days without hearing about it, landmark really wanted to take a look at our big 20 County area, and where we should be doing what we call strategic land protection, opposed to the opportunistic land protection that can pop up when the phone rings. And we work closely with the Nature Conservancy to develop our map. And I'm going to talk a little bit more about this coming up here in a few slides. But we came up with what we call our focus areas for climate resiliency. These are some of According to the scientists at TNC. With the Nature Conservancy, areas in the state which have the greatest potential to harbor biodiversity as climate changes. There are others and I don't want to I don't want to miss that point. There are other areas but we elected to not include them on our map because they're sufficiently protected. An example would be I'm going to drag my cursor here in south and west Douglas County, it's an area called the north northwest lowlands tremendously diverse area has a lot of potential to harbor climate resilient lands. But it's pretty much all County Forest. And there's not a lot of opportunity for us to work there. And we were considering it sufficiently protected. So we're obviously not going to invest a lot of time doing outreach in those areas, or looking for projects in those areas when they pop up, we'll consider that an opportunity. But the areas you see shaded here would be those areas where if we have an opportunity, or a partner, we will emphasize through outreach and other means strategic land protection. So the Nature Conservancy has a platform called conserving nature state. And the central premise behind that is that certain areas will naturally Harbor High levels of diversity. Over time, as our climate continues to change those areas and the species that inhabit them will change. But because of their geophysical setting, diversity will remain high. I'm going to touch on that in the next four slides on what kind of creates that highly diverse and highly resilient landscape through resiliency, connectedness, flow and diversity. I'm going to keep this pretty light without diving too deep into the science. But hopefully the next couple slides will illustrate what makes a climate resilient landscape or a climate resilient project.
Some of these are no brainers. On the left side of the screen, you see a wetland that's surrounded by forest. So the wetland here shows up as dark green is surrounded by forest. And then again on the perimeters of that you see agricultural land. This is the photos on the right illustrate a cornfield, surrounded by cornfields. Now everybody knows which site has more ecological diversity. And so the capacity of a site to maintain that diversity, as the climate changes is going to be greater in the wetland, which has dry areas, wet areas, mosaic of different natural communities. Versus if you're a quitter, living on the edge of a cornfield, you got nowhere to go. And you're just naturally not going to have a place to escape as the climate changes if your biological needs dictate that connectedness. Again, if you have a contiguous habitat, such as a forest or a wetland, or a prairie, and there aren't a lot of breaks in that habitat by highways, through agricultural fields, home cities, etc, you have a high degree of connectedness. So these things are all things that the Nature Conservancy scored, in their, in their database statewide, or nationwide, excuse me, and have it available to land trust and worked with us to create our climate resilient areas. flow, which is a little bit related to connectedness shows that as species move, from left to right north to south, whatever, sometimes there's pinch points on the way. And an example might be on this stream corridor, where you see the agricultural fields getting really close to the stream. That would be an example of a constrained corridor, versus a diffuse area where species that are attempting to move for one reason or another, have the ability to move over a broader area. And then the last one is just habitat diversity. And I think a good example of this would be a property that has a hill with a north slope and a south slope. Obviously, the North Slope is going to be cooler than the south slope, the bottom of the slope, generally moister than the top of the slope. And so if you have all of those in a relatively small area, as the climate changes, if a species needs to get cooler, wetter, drier, what have you, they're able to move in a relatively easy way for a short distance to find their life requirements. And so again, you know, a really flat cornfield, little diversity, little opportunity for variability versus a property that has say exposed rock, different moisture regimes different aspects, and the ability of species to find their niche, even as the climate changes.
Before I go on, I just want to contrast the strategic land protection of ecologically important resources and I want to contrast that with what we call community resources. Because sometimes, you know, we couldn't we could protect the most credit imperiled highly diverse tons of biodiversity landscapes and wherever they be. And maybe not a lot of people will go there. And that's okay, because they're Harbinger's of diversity. But there's also community needs. And we try to balance our worth between conserving those ecologically important resources, but also balance balancing that with the community needs, and community resources across our area. Um, I took a environmental ethics course when I was going to school a long time ago. And one of the take home points that I remember to this day, and this is probably 20, I don't know how many 30 years ago or so, um, was that we had, you know, 1520 students in the class. And we went around and said, where we gained our environmental or conservation, philosophy from or ethics, and nobody gained them and cool places like the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, or Yellowstone, or the vast wilderness areas in the desert southwest. Pretty much everybody in the class gained their conservation ethic by playing in degraded woodlots behind their school, in vacant lots behind their house, in a field across from their parents subdivision in places like that. And here we were all kids going to school pursuing, you know, careers in ecological management and things like that. And so, you know, I think it's an important thing to take home. So as landmark continues to try to stress the importance of protecting ecological areas that we keep an open ear to our constituents and members and donors and communities on needs that are right in our backyard. Is it better to protect 200 acres in the middle of nowhere that's got a ton of biodiversity? Or is it better to protect 20 acres behind the middle school? I think we could debate that. But these are the kinds of questions that we sometimes grapple with. When we look at different community project considerations. And this really is, for all projects, I think that we work on not just community, we're looking at land and acreage, we're looking at the cost and sources of funding, we're looking at our own staff capacity, we're looking at the potential for partners or partnerships, what the community needs might be, what the community impact might be to the property, we're looking at future ownership and management. Obviously, we're looking to kill two birds with one stone, and looking for ecological benefits. And we're looking to see the potential for people in those communities. To gain a connection to that land. I always think we're, I hope we're always going to maintain a balance between what we call the community projects versus the ecological projects. And so far, we've been able to do that. So projects, trickle into our office in a variety of ways. They come via email, they literally sometimes walk in the door. It comes via letter, they come via our website, they come from our project partners, and constituents that are across their area. And it's up to our conservation staff to sort of gather the information. And the first way we do that is typically you know, gathering what information we can online or from the individuals it might include a site visit. And then we vet it as a team. And try to think which projects we should try to advance versus which ones we should try to pass on. After that, it goes to our conservation committee, which is a subset of our board, and then ultimately goes to our full Board of Directors, before we begin to execute. What we're trying to do is just make sure we get the most bang for our buck, and use our resources most effectively. We realize we can't do it all. And so we you know, we recognize that and I think have a hard time sometimes saying no to people. But when a project comes up, that's you know, several acres, and we're faced with, you know, 20 other opportunities that we all agree are much, much better. We just have to tell people No, and try to offer them other things they can do to advance conservation in their own way. I'm going to show you some pretty hopefully pretty pictures of some fun local projects. Some of you probably have visited or maybe are aware of
this little property here we work with the town of union. It's not in Dunn County, it's on the Dunn Eau Claire County Line literally just outside of Eau Claire. And we have a very progressive township over there that owned property and wanted to see permanently protected and also wanted to acquire more property. So we worked with them to create about 120 acre area, which the town now maintains with hiking trails that have purchased sand dunes 200 feet above the Chippewa River, as well as protects some cultural resources that are located on site. 10 Mile Creek wetland management district is just outside New Richmond so not too far from Menominee or Dunn County. And I thought this was a good example of how we worked with the feds with US Fish and Wildlife Service, but also a whole host of local fish and game organizations including the pheasant spread the local Pheasants Forever chapter and three different rod and gun clubs. We acquired 120 acres there over two transactions, and then worked with US Fish and Wildlife to plant prairie on the property before turning the property over to them. This is just north of anonyme between Lake Mahnomen and Taner. This is the red cedar cut off, which I worked on guess about probably about 10 or 12 years ago or so. You can see all the logos on the sign and illustrating all the different local partners that contributed to the acquisition of the red cedar cut off property. In memory of Jim Forrester. Many of you probably remember Jim, as an accounting conservationist back then,
do I see landmark?
Rick Remington 36:34
You see a one of our former organizations West Wisconsin.
Another side added to the list.
Rick Remington 36:44
The Kyle birch Creek Preserve is literally right down the street from the high school just about in town, but it's actually in the township. This is my daughter about I don't know, a long time ago, which has a number of little waterfalls on the property and again was a spectacular community project right here and monotony. A more recent project and I could turn it over to Kathy on the call today to talk about this the Colts the reds, the Colfax, red cedar preserve and recreation area, which was a fantastic outcome of the old Dunn county gravel pit just outside of Colfax with I can't remember how much frontage on the Red Cedar River and about 150 acres. And Kathy Kathy and company are doing a great job in sharing that recreational and ecological resource with the community
as we transition that ownership right yeah, that's the town. Yeah, cool.
Rick Remington 37:41
Um, this colorful slide shows the Russian slew project, orange being state land, yellow being county land. Green being the alliance of Dunn county conservation groups and then red being the last little piece of the puzzle there that landmark acquired a few years ago. Most of it being pretty wet, but a lot of the acreage particularly to the east is much drier. And this is on the red cedar just above Lake tainer downstream from the Colfax Preserve. I don't think there's anybody that hasn't been to the devil's Punchbowl. Um, you know, this is a long time long standing landmark here in the Menominee area. My sister in law was a stealth student 50 years ago or so 49 or 50 years ago, and she went to the devil's Punchbowl back then. So it gets just a tremendous amount of use. We had a campaign last year to raise funds to build the stairway and my coworker Andrew was actually on the phone with our hopeful contractor this morning. In planning for that, the construction of that stairway this summer. I don't think every school group that visits is as large as the one in the bottom here. But if even a fraction of those kids turn out to be environmental advocates and Conservation Voters, and belief in our mission and belief in what we're doing, there's hope because that place gets a tremendous amount of use from all age groups. And I think this is my final slide and probably our most recent project accomplishment, which is the acquisition of the piece of the what people call the Tyrone property in southern Dunn County on the Chippewa River. Obviously, I think if there's local folks on the call today, and I believe there is this was slated to be a nuclear power plant 40 Some years ago, and had its ups and downs over the year as Northern States power made decisions on what to do with the property. The Department of Natural Resources was able to scoop up about 1000 acres of it three to four years ago. And then we worked cooperatively with the department and we're able to acquire about 360 acres just before Christmas a few weeks ago. So we're thrilled to be able to add that piece to the puzzle and what is probably one of the most diverse areas of Wisconsin.
Steve Hogseth 40:19
That rose colored stretches up to 324 acres. You bet,
Rick Remington 40:26
match? No, no, thanks. Now I'm going to talk just a few minutes about protecting private land with conservation easements. And then I'm going to wrap up by having a few words about what folks can do to help this effort, and then turn it over to the group for questions. I think I'm on track here so far. So what a conservation easement is we get a lot of questions on this is a permanent agreement that landowners do with the land trust to place restrictions on the use of their property to protect what's important issues and these are some of the more common ones are forestry, agriculture, the big to residential development subdivision, and then how to protect ecologically significant areas through shoreland buffers, other reserved rights, they may have to recreate and so forth, and whether there's any level of public access. So one conservation easement can differ dramatically from another depending on the land if you have a forested property versus a an agricultural or a wetland property, the terms are going to be dramatically different. The benefits, the biggest one is underlying on the top there is permanent conservation. But it can also be important for the landowners to for income tax incentives. The property can stay in private ownership, they can address various situations and rights that are tailored to the owner and their family members. But again, I always want to say that the most important reason to protect land is for conservation, even though it can help keep peace in the family and help divest property to heirs and so forth. Conservation is number one. And here's just a few things. So what a conservation easement is not it's not a tool to decrease property taxes, we get that question a lot. And if the answer to this was yes, my phone would ring off the hook. But thus far, Wisconsin does not offer a decrease in property taxes because we have what's called a use value assessment. So property is put into buckets by the assessors based on its use, whether it's productive forest, whether it's agricultural, whether it's residential, whether it's wasteland, which I hate to use that term for wetlands. Sheriff good probably being a clerk could probably fill me in on a few more of those categories. Commercial I think is one. And a conservation easement can cover all those things so assessors aren't really sure where to put them so they have to go back to their use value assessment. a conservation easement is not necessarily an exclusion of management properties can be management through in a number of ways restoration, timber harvest agriculture, it doesn't mean they're no touch. It doesn't also mean that there is an allowance for public access or hunting. The vast majority of our easements do not have a public concept of public access component to them. I would say probably about a couple dozen of them do have a public access component, but the majority do not. They're not an exhaustive list of peculiar restrictions, although people have peculiar desires and what they want to see protected and we have to ask ourselves, what's important and do we have the ability to steward it? Lastly, a conservation easement isn't free. It takes dollars to execute and it definitely takes dollars for us to perpetually steward them over the long term. And here's just a couple examples of a couple easements a couple of conservation easements that we did over the last couple years. Here's a large one in northern bear County, a mix of wetland and forest. It's kind of on the cusp of a Bear Lake or of the Bear Lake moraine, which is a name I gave it so you find that hummocky post glacial resources they're kind of like you find in other Chippewa County, such meadows, beavers, ponds and so forth. And then a project that we closed um, just after Christmas about two weeks ago, which is the bacon Coulee conservation easement in Pierce County outside of Spring Valley, which is our largest conservation easement to date, at just over 800 acres, and a mix of prairie grass pasture and forage, but also a really cool steep forest at Cooley and a class to trout stream.
So how do we measure the impact of our work? You know, we have an advancement department that talks about our work to sustain our membership to get folks excited about conservation. And it can be really easy for us even in my seat, as you're looking for opportunities and looking for grants to dwell on the number of projects that you work on, that you accomplish, to dwell on the number of acres, you know, I just mentioned, the largest easement we did. At 800 acres, we can dwell on how much we spend on property, which is sometimes you know, amazing. When you look back at the cumulative, the cumulative effect of our acquisitions and protection efforts in the millions of dollars. You can look at the individual attributes like feet of shoreline, how much public use they get, what natural communities are present, these are all things that we can try to talk about. But the bottom line is, impact of all this protected land over time is priceless. You know, think back to that slide of the devil's Punchbowl a few minutes ago, where you saw 80 or 100 Kids in the bottom of the Punchbowl, having fun, hopefully learning something pokin around causing a little mischief playing in the stream. And having that memory to take with them. Kids come with their families there and do the same thing. And so the degree that these properties are reaching people, and not only just protecting bunnies, and trees and flowers and snails and slugs, and moss and lichens, and you know, I could go on all day and listing them. The cumulative conservation impact of these areas. And land protection in general, is priceless. We try to talk about it, but we sometimes revert back to acres and dollars and projects. But really, the conservation impact is priceless. Um, in closing, you know, every situation is different. Every landowner is different, and every piece of property is different. Obviously, people have goals. We as an organization have goals, there's family matters to take care of there's heirs who have interest or lack thereof. There's folks who want to create an legacy through the ownership of their property or through their resources. Land can create a tremendous amount of attachment people can get so passionate about land, they can get angry about it. They can get happy, they can get sentimental, they can cry over it. But there's a tremendous amount of attachment which partners we might have that are interested. What is the income and wealth of the individual, sometimes they didn't have a land problem or a wealth problem and need to get rid of some of that. It all boils down to decisions. And if there's one course I probably should have taken in college, which they didn't offer Natural Resources majors was a psychology course because I could probably use one. One a lot of the folks that call here with their land problems. How can you support our work? And never miss the opportunity when I have a few folks on a zoom call or in person to say to get involved where you live? To attend an event? To volunteer, consider a membership gift to landmark or consider landmark in your estate planning. I think that is just a few ways you can you can support us, obviously. But also, there's other ways to support conservation. Where do you live? There's innumerable conservation groups and Sportsman's clubs, done County, Fish and Game Pheasants Forever charter limited. The Dunn County Alliance. There's the Sierra Club. There's different conservation programs folks can implement on their own lands, they can create rain gardens, they can plant CRP, there's local initiatives that people should be aware of and support to the degree they can like the farmer led councils and trying to implement sustainable agricultural practices that will help clean up our water quality, and address climate change. shop local, buy local where you can and plant made plant native, and obviously, vote. And I'm not going to go into how to vote. But I've got my opinions. And the fact that people get out and vote and stay informed on these conservation issues is critical. And then just stay informed, which is a good big part of what heat is doing. So I appreciate the opportunity to talk to everybody.
Unknown Speaker 49:56
Rick Remington 50:02
I'm gonna stop my screen share, if that's okay, Cheryl.
He may be off the line.
Rick Remington 50:12
I kept talking to her like she was there and she's gone.
Steve Hogseth 50:16
No Sure. Cheryl had to leave early.
Rick Remington 50:20
Are you in charge? Steve?
Steve Hogseth 50:23
Charge? Brilliant. Well, I'll try to. I'll start off with a question, Jeff. My wife and I often we just hop in the car and we just follow back roads. Yep. to head out. Very we have one of these guys tear maps. And we will. We'll look for county parks, just little remote areas. So I found it quite interesting. You know, would you say 209 properties? I think you said and some of them have infrastructures, trails, etc. Yep. Do you have a map? Yes. Corruption of those because we'd like I'd like to get one.
Rick Remington 51:08
We have on our website, a link to many of the properties that we've protected that have public access on them. Um, I can send you a link, Steve. Sure. Otherwise, landmark wi dot o RG? Yeah.
Steve Hogseth 51:24
Yeah. That's great. The fact that I mean, I guess, of course, the devil's Punchbowl is
Rick Remington 51:35
not enough us.
Steve Hogseth 51:36
There's probably all kinds of Imran he's 20 coneys.
Rick Remington 51:43
Yeah, and quite a few just within within an hour.
Yeah, no. Yeah. And I also would like to share to for folks to be aware that we actually see that there's could be some strategic land protection still occurring here in Dunn County. And when I think Rick brought that up with the climate prioritization, we actually have some really important targeted areas in this region with some important significance. So anyway, I just wanted folks to be aware that we're, you know, we work in 20 counties, 15 counties over feels like all over rec, right. But more importantly, we know you're here loving Dunn County. And if there are some really important places that still need to get protected, were all yours.
Steve Hogseth 52:27
No, you know, your curve that you showed earlier in your slides. You had, I think it was like from 1950 until today, and it looked like it was a pretty much a dry, pretty much a straight line slope of lands. What do you see? What is the projection for the coming? decades? Do you have any ideas that can increase or flatten out or continue as it is?
Rick Remington 52:58
Lindsay, can you share what the land trust Alliance had as a target that they wanted? For us acreage wise? I don't remember there was some there's some initiative, but I can't remember what
Yeah. So there's a national initiative by the Biden administration, the President of the United States, it's called 30 by 30. And what they're basically saying is 30% of land, targeted lands need to be protected in each state that and I think that's kind of now you can go to some less states, and they're all federally protected. So you know, take it all with a grain of salt, but that's what their approach was going to be 30 by 30, and it's by 30, per 30. Sorry, 30 30%. Or is it 30 million, it's either 30 or 30 million by 2030. But I also want to point out that there's no monies attached to any of this. So it was this great national rallying point, with no money. But I do think and the one thing I will say about land protection work, we take the long haul, I think we're gonna you know, critically important lands will be protected over the next 25 years. And the more targeted we are with those protections will be very important moving forward. That's the exciting part of our work, I think, personally, but I know this is a long presentation, and I have to drop off. I have a one o'clock call. So I apologize to Steve, Sue and Kathy, but you three might want to stay on and continue talking about our Monday work if you need to, but I apologize. I've got to go meet with a prospect board member. Thanks, Rick, you did a great job as always.
Steve Hogseth 54:44
We do have a few minutes left. So if there are any other questions, anybody still with us? Go ahead.
Rick Remington 55:01
Yep, and you folks know where I live. So something pops up. Give me a shout. I think the fact that you know, like Lindsay said the fact that our offices in Menominee you know, it's not that we put Dunn county or Menominee over everywhere else, but selfishly, if I get the opportunity who wouldn't want to work close to home, right? I think that Tyrone acquisition is probably and all the years I've worked there, the closest project to my house. So it's kind of exciting. You know, Devil's Punchbowl is probably as the crow flies closer, but I gotta, you know, go round about to get there. So
Steve Hogseth 55:42
very, very educational. Rick, thank you very much for sharing, updating us all on what you're doing. I enjoyed the program. And, sure,
Rick Remington 55:54
there's a lot to talk about. And any one of those things could be broken into another, you know, a couple of hours. So thanks for bearing with me.
Ned Hancock 56:02
This recording this was recorded and we can I came in late. Will this be available on your website to listen to?
Steve Hanson 56:12
It will become available on WisCommuity by the weekend. Okay.
Thank you. And we will send it out to our member or members, you know, to the link to to Rick's presentation.
Rick Remington 56:31
Okay, then. I'm sure we'll put it on our website, too.
Steve Hogseth 56:34
Yeah. Man, I, I see where you are with the Madeline Island wilderness Preserve. And I'm glad you joined us. Thank you very much. But could you just take just a wee wee us used to have,
Ned Hancock 56:50
we used to have more of a relationship with the Bayfield regional Conservancy, we would we would go across the water and have breakfast or lunch with them from time to time and sometimes visit some of their projects. But quite frankly, we've kind of lost touch. It's a good idea for us to know what you all are up to and get some ideas. So I just decided to tap in this morning and listen to what's going on. And you know, as I say, it's not a bad idea to stay in touch with what others are doing in our area. Bayfield regional Conservancy has done a lot on the Bayfield Peninsula.
Rick Remington 57:29
That was lovely Ned, Erica still has an office there. Right in Bayfield. So you know, give her give her a shout go to our website or email addresses on there or just give us a call.
Ned Hancock 57:40
Yeah, we should stop that we should stop in there. At some point.
Steve Hogseth 57:44
You live on the island? No, no, I
Ned Hancock 57:46
live in Minneapolis. I have property on the island. And I'm the treasurer of the wilderness Preserve. And one of the things I liked when I was listening to this talk was when you're going for grants and so on, they really want to know what projects you've been, you've been up to until and we we are we have a list of projects and that helps our membership. Be a part of us and get the island involved, and so on and so forth. So I know it's good to hear what other
Steve Hogseth 58:19
people are doing. Well, thanks. Thanks for joining us. We have meetings we're just we're nothing but a group of volunteers are in gun county here. We've been kind of involved in last little over two years, two and a half maybe. And so you're always welcome to join us. Thank you.
Ned Hancock 58:42
Thank you. Well, I'll, I've got I've linked. I know the link to the website. So check from time to time,
Steve Hogseth 58:49
but thank you.
Unknown Speaker 58:51
Thank you. And thank
Steve Hogseth 58:52
you Rick, for your presentation. Thanks, everybody, and we will see you all soon. Take care everybody.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai