Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust: Creation of new Oconto preserve provides opportunities for students, community

For more information contact:
Kari Hopfensperger
Conservation Outreach Manager, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust
Phone: (920) 738-7265
Email: [email protected]

Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust’s new public preserve opens important natural space to the
community, made possible through threatened Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program

Along with important waterways, habitat and wildlife, Oconto-area community members—especially students—will benefit from Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust’s (NEWLT) opening of the new Oconto Preserve, announced today.

The 70-acre preserve is uniquely situated within the City of Oconto’s limits, near the city’s high school and in close proximity to area residents. Unlike many protected natural spaces in far-flung locations, the convenient site of the new preserve opens opportunities for the community to take advantage of the property’s scenic beauty and learn about the importance of conservation.

NEWLT is exploring potential collaborations with school and other local community groups to make the best use of the new preserve. Visitors to the property will have the opportunity to hike, hunt, fish, bird watch, cross-country ski and study nature. NEWLT plans to explore options for trails and parking to increase accessibility.

“We are really excited about this preserve. It continues our effort to preserve some of the most important remaining wetlands and migratory bird habitat along Green Bay’s west shore and in addition this is also a place that the people of Oconto can use for outdoor recreation and student learning,” said Deborah Nett, NEWLT’s executive director. “This project is a win for the environment and a win for the community.”

Oconto’s mayor believes the new preserve will also attract visitors from all across the globe.

“Oconto is very excited to be on the receiving end of turning a property that could possibly be considered unusable, into one utilized for conservation and public recreational purposes; all of this made possible by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program through the grant awarded to Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust,” said Oconto Mayor Victoria Bostedt. “We believe this will benefit Oconto citizens, and attract visitors from all points of the world, due to its uniqueness.”

Creating the new preserve was made possible, in part, by the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which provided 50 percent of the funds necessary to purchase the property. Despite widespread support in Wisconsin for conservation spending, the Wisconsin state budget currently proposed calls for an indefinite freeze of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Without it, many of Wisconsin’s most important waterways, habitats and endangered plants and animals would and will not be protected.

“We could not have preserved this land without the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program. We were able to bring together private donations and other grants to raise 50 percent of the funding we needed to preserve this land; the stewardship grant matched those funds and allowed us to close this deal,” said Nett. “We will proudly go on caring for this land and reaping the benefits for generations to come.”

The Oconto Preserve may be within a city, but it still has extremely important ecological value. Most of the property is a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR)-designated wetland and connects to the WDNR’s Green Bay West Shore Wildlife Area – Oconto Marsh Unit. Fifty percent of Lake Michigan’s remaining wetlands are located on the west shore of Green Bay and 70 percent of these wetlands have been lost. Preservation of this property will help keep the water of Green Bay and Lake Michigan clean.

NEWLT also has three other public nature preserves near Green Bay, which protect Northern Pike spawning grounds and other important habitats.

With the addition of the Oconto Preserve, NEWLT celebrates a huge milestone: the preservation of 50 beautiful and important natural places (covering more than 5,000 acres) throughout its 12-county territory.