Camp Amnicon deal preserves Lake Superior shoreline
John Myers, Duluth News Tribune
About 500 forested acres of a youth camp along the South Shore of Lake Superior will be permanently protected from development under a conservation easement deal.
The Western Wisconsin Land Trust will hold the easement on Camp Amnicon, a mostly wild chunk of northern Douglas County forest that also includes a half-mile of Lake Superior shoreline and two miles along the Amnicon River.
“It’s really a rich mix of habitats, with the river and the lakeshore, for birds, wildlife, even fish,’’ Bob Fitzwilliam, executive director of the Western Wisconsin Land Trust, told the News Tribune.
The land is adjacent to an 800-acre tract of private land that’s already in conservation easement, leaving a large area of contiguous forest protected just 20 miles east of the Twin Ports metro area.
The youth ministry camp, started in 1966 and affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, will continue to operate on its present footprint with about 100 acres of the camp where buildings are located and which are not included in the conservation deal. But the remaining 500 acres of the property will remain undeveloped under the legally binding easement.
Camp officials say the conservation easement fits well with the camp’s nearly half-century mission of connecting the ministry of the church “with the care of God’s creation … and commitment to good stewardship of the camp’s lands.”
“Stewardship of the land is a big part of our ministry and philosophy, to preserve the land for generations of youth to come,’’ said Alana Butler, the camp’s executive director.
About 500 youths, many with troubled backgrounds, come through the camp each summer as part of adventure canoe trips on nearby rivers or the Apostle Islands, Butler said. Another 400 or so teens and adults use the camp for retreats in spring, winter and fall.
“We have generations of people who come back and say there is just something about this camp, about this land, and now we know that’s going to keep going for generations to come,’’ Butler said.
As part of the deal, the property will become a migratory bird research area, part of the Wisconsin Stopover Initiative that seeks to define and conserve critical habitat for birds that migrate through the Badger State. Bird experts say the waterfront forest may be an especially important component for neo-tropical migrants that summer in northern forests and winter in South America.
“We don’t know a lot about the needs of the migrant birds that fly through twice each year and use that area for a stopover. This property offers not just a variety of intact habitat for them to use but an opportunity for us to see what their needs are, what their choices are for habitat,’’ said Kim Grveles, avian ecologist for the Natural Heritage Conservation Bureau of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resource.
Under the conservation deal, bird researchers from the DNR and universities will be allowed unfettered access to the property.
While the camp’s operating foundation donated the easement at no cost, a $10,000 gift from Enbridge Energy and a $5,000 gift from a Land Trust member will help pay the trust’s administrative costs, Fitzwilliam said. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also contributed to the effort.