July 31, 2013

Juneau County, Wis. — The meandering waters of the Yellow River in Southwest Wisconsin play a critical role in one of only a few remaining bottomland hardwood forest ecosystems in the Midwest. Now a sizable portion of this important watershed is conserved, thanks to the efforts of The Conservation Fund and Juneau County.

The newly-protected 876-acre property, located in the towns of Finley and Armenia, borders nearly 2,000 acres of Juneau County Forest near Necedah National Wildlife Refuge. The County partnered with The Conservation Fund to negotiate the acquisition and secure a grant from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, Wisconsin’s land conservation account, for this conservation effort. The County will designate the land as a Special Use Area in order to maintain and enhance its ecological resources, while sustainably managing the forest for high quality timber products.

”The purchase of the Yellow River property in northern Juneau County is a plus to the County and the Forestry program as it ‘blocked’ in other County-owned land adjacent to it,” said Ed Wafle, Land, Forestry and Parks Committee Chair.  “The newly-acquired land will provide for future forestry benefits, numerous types of recreational activities and habitat for various threatened species as well as more common ones.”

Juneau County Forestry Department’s management goals for the property will focus on protecting and improving wildlife habitat and water quality as well as providing public recreational opportunities. During the next few years, the Department intends to construct a parking area and connect the adjacent Juneau County Forest trails to a soon-to-be expanded network of trails on the 876 acres, enabling public access for hunting, fishing, hiking, cross-country skiing and trapping.

“The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program fulfills a critical need across Wisconsin by providing state and local governments and land trusts the funding they need to conserve the natural resources upon which communities depend.” said Tom Duffus, Vice President of the Midwest region for The Conservation Fund. “This effort demonstrates that the State and County embrace the notion that the best conservation strategies for wildlife and nearby communities must meet both environmental and economic goals. It’s smart conservation.”

 “It’s very satisfying when Stewardship grants can be the catalyst for a project like this one,” says Steve Miller, Bureau Director for Facilities and Lands for Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “In this case, a landowner, county forest management and the nonprofit community saw an opportunity to keep more than four miles of river and floodplain available for public recreation. We are pleased that the Stewardship grant could help make it happen.”

The twisting path of the Yellow River naturally forms oxbow lakes, marshes and numerous small ponds that create an environment rich in wildlife diversity. These waters and the surrounding floodplain forest provide habitat for many Species of Greatest Conservation Need identified in the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan, including Blanding’s turtle, red-shouldered hawk, cerulean warbler and acadian flycatcher.

Michael Strigel, Executive Director of Gathering Waters Conservancy added: “The Stewardship Program works best when it works like it did here; a true partnership between the state, county officials, private organizations like The Conservation Fund, and local citizens.  This way multiple goals are achieved as efficiently as possible.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we combine a passion for conservation with an entrepreneurial spirit to protect your favorite places before they become just a memory. A hallmark of our work is our deep, unwavering understanding that for conservation solutions to last, they need to make economic sense. Top-ranked, we have protected more than 7 million acres across America.

About the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program
The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funds state purchases of land for outdoor recreation and resource protection. A portion of the program provides grants to local governments and land trusts to help purchase lands and conservation easements. Since the Stewardship Program was created in 1989, it has helped protect more than 500,000 acres.

Press Release Contacts
Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 | asimonelli@conservationfund.org
Brian Loyd | Juneau County | (608) 847-9390 | pfadm@co.juneau.wi.us