August 18, 2015

SOLON SPRINGS, Wis.—The Conservation Fund and The Lyme Timber Company hosted U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin, U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment Butch Blazer, the Office of U.S. Representative Sean Duffy, Wisconsin State Senator Janet Bewley, Wisconsin State Representative Nick Milroy and other federal, state, local and private partners at an event today to celebrate the completion of the largest land conservation effort in Wisconsin history.  The Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest success is due in large part to funding from Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the U.S. Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program, through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)—the only federal program dedicated to the continued conservation and protection of America’s irreplaceable natural, historic, cultural and outdoor landmarks, which will expire in 44 days under the current authorization.  

At today’s event, U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin remarked: “The Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest delivers on our shared goals of environmental protection and sustainable economic growth and is an excellent example of why the Land and Water Conservation Fund is so important for Wisconsin. LWCF investments in the Badger State have served as engines of growth for local economies that face economic challenges that require long-term solutions. That is why I’m proud to cosponsor legislation to fund and permanently authorize the LWCF—strengthening one of the world’s most successful conservation programs, and ensuring our nation’s long lasting commitment to stewardship.”

The recently completed second and final phase ensures that the entire Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest—67,205 acres of globally significant pine barrens in Bayfield, Burnett, Douglas and Washburn Counties—is now protected under a working forest conservation easement, preserving important natural resources, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities while maintaining sustainable timber operations that support local economies in Northwest Wisconsin. 

USDA Deputy Under Secretary Butch Blazer remarked: “The Forest Legacy Program is helping protect a way of life in Wisconsin. But there are new opportunities provided by permanently protecting these lands, especially for jobs in forestry and tourism. Congress needs to reauthorize the Land and Water Conservation Fund and make those funds permanent, otherwise communities such as this, rich in natural resources, lose a critical tool to keep healthy forests and waters part of a twenty-first century economy.

“The Brule St-Croix Legacy Forest project demonstrates that Wisconsin again has it right: sustainable stewardship of forestland and a healthy environment support local jobs and provide outdoor enjoyment,” said The Conservation Fund’s Vice President, Midwest Region Tom Duffus. “This project epitomizes the best of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and we appreciate the leadership of our federal and state elected leaders who had the vision to accomplish this win-win.”

“The Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest supports a diverse number of wildlife species as well as working forest lands that help sustain northern Wisconsin communities economically,” said DNR Secretary Cathy Stepp. “DNR is proud to be a partner in this effort to make sure future generations will be able to enjoy recreational opportunities in the forest while maintaining a healthy wildlife habitat and supporting one of our state’s most important industries.”

“The Lyme Timber Company wants to acknowledge and thank the multitude of partners that helped make this working forest investment a success, including The Conservation Fund; the Wisconsin DNR, who were especially helpful and responsive; and the Wisconsin State legislature for approving funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, thereby leveraging the Forest Legacy grant allowing DNR to purchase the conservation easement on the remaining acreage,” said Peter R. Stein, Managing Director at The Lyme Timber Company. “We are very happy to have conserved an important regional economic resource with the help of our consulting foresters from the Steigerwaldt Company, the many local and regional wood product manufacturers and the logging and trucking contractors.”

This significant conservation effort was made possible with public and private funding, including $3.75 million in federal funding from the LWCF through the Forest Legacy Program; a $1.86 million grant from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in 2015 and $11.79 million in 2012/2013; and key support from the Richard King Mellon Foundation, McKnight Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Enbridge’s Neutral Footprint Fund and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation through Walmart’s Acres for America Program. LWCF is a bipartisan, federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties—not taxpayer dollars. LWCF and the Forest Legacy Program are annually funded by the U.S. Congress, including Wisconsin’s U.S. delegation representing the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest: U.S. Senator Baldwin, U.S. Senator Ron Johnson and U.S. Representative Sean Duffy.

U.S. Representative Sean Duffy commented: “Simply put, healthy forests grow strong trees. We know the best way to sustain our great Wisconsin forests is through a strong commitment from organizations at all levels and in both the public and private sectors. The Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest is a perfect example of the right people coming together for this very important effort. I was glad to take part in this process, and commend all involved for their steadfast commitment to ensuring the health and longevity of our great outdoors."

The Conservation Fund and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recently finished the second and final phase, securing a conservation easement on 21,189 acres owned and managed by Lyme St. Croix Forest Company. Together with 44,618 acres conserved in 2012 and 1,398 acres preserved at Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area in 2013, the entire Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest:

·         protects 47 miles of hiking, skiing, snowmobile and ATV trails, including a section of the North Country National Scenic Trail;

·         preserves 83 lakes and 14 miles of tributaries and trout streams that support the headwaters of the St. Croix and Bois-Brule rivers and provide drinking water to nearby communities; and

·         safeguards the livelihoods of more than 1,500 foresters, logging contractors, truckers and workers at local processing mills and other supporting industries in the region.

“Words like extraordinary and momentous are often used carelessly, but not today. The completion of the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest is a major achievement, one that bodes well for Northern Wisconsin’s future,” said Wisconsin State Senator Janet Bewley. “The working forest conservation easement is great news for our economy and our environment, and it is proof that we can work together to protect jobs, wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities.  A big thank you to all the hard working individuals and organizations that made this happen, including but not limited to the folks at the U.S. Forest Service that provided funding through its Forest Legacy Program and the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources that provided funding via the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, and The Conservation Fund.”

“The conservation of public lands sustains our way of life here in northern Wisconsin, said Wisconsin State Representative Nick Milroy. “From recreation and tourism to forestry, we depend on public investment to protect the last of these large tract wildlands. All too rapidly wild areas are disappearing from our landscape and fewer and fewer parcels are open to the public. We are at a critical juncture where decision makers are losing sight of the importance of these investments. Funding of Wisconsin's Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program was recently slashed by the Governor and the future of this program and the federal Forest Legacy Program are in jeopardy. The Brule-St. Croix purchase is timely because, unfortunately, it's likely this purchase would not have been possible in today's political climate. These opportunities often come up once in a lifetime and are likely to pass us by in the future without a recommitment to conservation programs.”

About The Conservation Fund
At The Conservation Fund, we make conservation work for America. By creating solutions that make environmental and economic sense, we are re-defining conservation to demonstrate its essential role in our future prosperity. Top-ranked for efficiency and effectiveness, we have worked in all 50 states to protect more than 7.5 million acres of land since 1985. 
About the Forest Legacy Program
Funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the USDA Forest Service’s Forest Legacy Program supports voluntary partnerships between states, forest landowners, conservation organizations and others to help conserve environmentally important forests from conversion to non-forest uses. The main tool used for protecting these important forests is conservation easements to provide for jobs, water quality, wildlife, recreation and a host of other public benefits.   Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the program has protected 2.4 million acres across the nation.

About the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF)
Established by Congress in 1965, LWCF is a visionary and bipartisan federal program that uses a percentage of proceeds from offshore oil and gas royalties for the protection of irreplaceable lands and improvement of outdoor recreation opportunities across the nation. . No taxpayer dollars are used to support LWCF. The program has permanently protected nearly five million acres of public lands including forests, natural resources, state and local parks and recreation areas.

In this 50th year of the LWCF, President Obama has called for full, permanent funding in his proposed budget, recognizing that LWCF is one of the nation’s most effective tools for conserving natural landscapes for public outdoor recreation use and enjoyment across the country; preserving and protecting rivers, lakes and other water resources; and expanding the interpretation of historic and cultural sites. This August marks 50 calendar days and just 10 legislative days until the current authorization for the Land and Water Conservation Fund expires, but there are efforts in the U.S. Congress—such as S. 890—to reauthorize the program and fully fund it at its authorized amount of $900 million. Failure to reauthorize LWCF or weakening this landmark conservation law would have devastating consequences and unravel decades of progress protecting America’s irreplaceable natural, historic and cultural resources.

About the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program
The Wisconsin Legislature created the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in 1989 to preserve valuable natural areas and wildlife habitat, protect water quality and fisheries and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation.

The conservation and recreation goals of the Stewardship Program are achieved through acquisition of land and easements and development of recreational facilities, both by the DNR and grant partners statewide.

Release Contact

Ann Simonelli | The Conservation Fund | 703-908-5809 |