Totagatic River in Wisconsin. Photo by Bethany Olmstead, The Conservation Fund
The Totogatic River flows for 70 miles through five counties in northern Wisconsin, forming a wild and pristine stream in the St. Croix River Basin and the Mississippi River watershed. As one of the few remaining wilderness streams in Wisconsin, it earned the state’s designation as a Wild River in 2009—a designation shared with only four other rivers in the state. This status as a Wild River ensures the Totogatic’s long-term protection from development.
The Fund’s Efforts
Although the Totogatic is protected from development, some of the land along the river is still in private ownership and therefore not open to the public. We’ve worked with state and local groups to purchase land along the river and provide public access for popular recreation activities such as hunting, fishing, trapping, canoeing/kayaking and hiking.
Our most recent effort, in 2013, protected nearly 260 acres in the Town of Chicog, which includes 2.5 miles of river shoreline. 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 Washburn County Lakes and Rivers Association (WCLRA) to discuss the permanent conservation of the land.
In order to preserve this high priority riverfront land, WCLRA asked the Fund to help facilitate and secure grant funding for the conservation purchase. The land was officially donated to the Department of Natural Resources in April, and will be managed as public land for wildlife habitat, forestry, watershed protection and recreation.
This conservation success compliments and connects nearby lands protected by the Fund and the Department of Natural Resources in 2010. That effort facilitated the purchase by the DNR of 2,100 acres along the river from Wausau Paper. The property includes 12 miles of river frontage and provides habitat for more than 20 Species of Greatest Conservation Need identified in the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan.