Wisconsin DNR accepts wild river land donation for preservationWashburn County Lakes and Rivers Association and the Conservation Fund celebrated Monday the completion of a collaborative effort to protect a 259-acre property along the Totogatic Wild River.
Washburn County Lakes and Rivers Association and the Conservation Fund celebrated Monday the completion of a collaborative effort to protect a 259-acre property along the Totogatic Wild River.
During a dedication ceremony held on the property, the land was formally donated to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
The forested parcel is in Washburn County in the town of Chicog and includes 2.5 miles of shoreline on the Totogatic River — one of the few remaining near-wilderness waterways in the area. The land was officially donated to the DNR in April, and will be managed as public land for wildlife habitat, forestry, watershed protection and recreation.
The lakes and rivers association was a key partner in championing the state wild river designation for the Totogatic, which was signed into law by former Gov. Jim Doyle in July 2009. Even before the designation, the group began working on additional watershed protection through land conservation measures.
When the opportunity to preserve this high priority riverfront land arose, the association asked the Conservation Fund to help facilitate and secure grant funding for the conservation purchase.
Grant funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund was made available for the acquisition with support from state legislators, including Sen. Robert Jauch, D-Poplar, Rep. Nick Milroy, D-South Range, Rep. Steven Smith, D-Shell Lake and former Republican Rep. Roger Rivard of Rice Lake. The Four Cedars Foundation, St. Croix Valley Foundation and McKnight Foundation provided additional funding for this effort. An extensive grass-roots fundraising campaign, led by lakes and rivers association, united citizens, civic groups, local government, fisher folk, paddlers, lake and river stewards, environmentalists, high school students and anonymous individuals to raise nearly $93,000 to bridge the financial gap and complete the project.
“The public’s response has been tremendous and enabled us to do what at first seemed impossible,” said Wayne Sabatke, WCLRA’s project leader.
“The wild Totogatic is recognized by the state for being a truly unique gem, and we are pleased to be able to help WCLRA complete this conservation effort,” said Tom Duffus, vice president of the Midwest region for the Conservation Fund. “The protection of this site not only secures a critical section of the river, it also compliments and connects nearby lands protected by the Fund and the Department of Natural Resources in 2010.”
The property’s former owners, Craig Solum and Terry Larsen of Solar Land Company, LLC, acquired the land from Ralph Mortier, a highly regarded state forester who had sustainably managed the property for the enhancement of its forest resources, wildlife habitat and scenic qualities. Recognizing the natural beauty of the property and its significance as part of a larger landscape of critical wildlife habitat and natural watershed quality, Solum and Larsen approached WCLRA, to discuss the permanent conservation of the land.
“Both Terry and I were born and raised near the Totogatic River property,” Solum said. “We grew up being able to enjoy many properties that offered the peace and solitude that the Totogatic River property does. Today such an opportunity is indeed rare. Being able to provide this pristine piece of river paradise in its undeveloped form for future generations to enjoy, as we have, is truly a privilege.”
Paul Bruggink, North Region Lands Leader, for the Department of Natural Resources said in 1965, Rep. David Martin co-authored the Wild Rivers legislation enacted with the intent to “preserve some rivers in a free-flowing condition and to protect them from development.”
“Mr. Martin was definitely a forward thinker,” Buggink said. “It is through his effort and our partners in conservation that we are able to preserve and protect the wild nature of the Totogatic Wild River. With this generous donation, 259 acres and 2.5 miles of river frontage, managed by the Department of Natural Resources, will be preserved in perpetuity for everyone to enjoy. This aims at the heart of the Wild Rivers Legislation, meets the intent of the law and preserves the unique wild character of this special river.”