April 28, 2014

MINONG, Wis.—About 1,400 acres of globally significant habitat, which will benefit public recreation and wildlife, including the flamboyant sharp-tailed grouse, has been preserved thanks to a partnership among the Department of Natural Resources, The Conservation Fund and several regional contributors.

The $1-plus million purchase from the Lyme Timber Company was made possible with grants from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, through Walmart’s Acres for America program, as well as private donations. This is the first Acres for America funded project in Wisconsin.

The addition to the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area will be celebrated May 1 and feature a tour of the unique natural gem in northwest Burnett County.

The Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area is anything but barren. Once common to the Northwest Sands landscape, the increasingly rare but beautiful pine and oak barrens habitat also features diverse prairie plants and brush, which provide ideal homes for significant wildlife species that attract visitors from across the country.  This acquisition allows the DNR to more effectively manage the globally significant barrens, which are fire dependant, with controlled burning to ensure that pine and oak barren-dependent wildlife will endure.  

 The wildlife area – with the addition of about 1,400 acres – will grow to about 6,450 acres, ensuring that this ecologically significant habitat can survive and thrive and sharp-tailed grouse can continue to dance each spring, endangered Kirtland’s warbler can fly and Swallowtail butterflies can continue to flutter. 

“This would not be possible without the efforts of many,” said Scott Gunderson, Wisconsin DNR assistant deputy secretary.  “This partnership secures ecologically significant habitat and will preserve and protect it for future generations to enjoy.”

This collaborative project also supports the region’s tourism industry by providing permanent public recreational access for hiking, hunting, trapping, cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

”The project would not be possible without lead funding from the state’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and Walmart’s Acres for America Program to match significant local funding,” said Tom Duffus, Vice President of the Midwest Region for The Conservation Fund. “The people of Wisconsin are blessed by each of their contributions, which help to advance the state’s rich legacy of premiere wildlife and recreational access as well as benefit the area’s economy.”

This property was recently sold by Wausau Paper Company to a timber investor, Lyme Timber Company. The Conservation Fund negotiated the right to buy the Namekagon Barrens during Wausau’s sale of the property.

Funding for the purchase was provided by the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Fund, $528,408; “Acres for America,” $500,000; and $30,454 from the McKnight Foundation,  Four Cedars Foundation, Lux Foundation and St. Croix River Fund via the St. Croix Valley Foundation. Several community-based groups, including the Friends of Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area and the Wisconsin Sharp-tailed Grouse Society also provided financial support for the acquisition.

“This investment in the Namekagon Barrens Wildlife Area again demonstrates why Acres for America is one of the most effective public-private partnerships in the history of U.S. conservation,” said Jeff Trandahl, Executive Director and CEO of NFWF.  “By enlarging the wildlife area with this initiative, we are ensuring that this rare habitat will be preserved for the wildlife that depends on it and for future generations of visitors to enjoy. “

In partnership with the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Walmart created Acres for America in 2005, a commitment by the retailer to purchase and preserve one acre of wildlife habitat in the U.S. for every area of land it develops.

“The Namekagon Barrens project marks a major milestone for us as it’s the first Wisconsin-based Acres for America project,” said Lisa B. Nelson, Walmart public affairs director. “By supporting Acres for America and helping to protect the vitality of our natural habitats and rural ecosystems, we keep true to our company philosophy of helping our customers live better.” 

The Namekagon Barrens are about 75 miles northeast of the Twin Cities and about 300 miles northwest from Madison.

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 redefining 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 Acres for America
Acres for America is one of the most effective public-private partnerships in the history of U.S. conservation. In 2005, NFWF and Walmart teamed up to establish the Acres for America program to conserve lands of national significance, protect critical fish and wildlife habitat and benefit people and local economies.  Acres for America has permanently conserved more than 854,000 acres and funded 55 projects in 32 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. For more information on Acres for America, visit www.nfwf.org or Walmart's website.

 About The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) protects and restores our nation’s wildlife and habitats.  Chartered by Congress in 1984, NFWF directs public conservation dollars to the most pressing environmental needs and matches those investments with private contributions.  NFWF works with government, nonprofit and corporate partners to find solutions for the most intractable conservation challenges.  Over the last three decades, NFWF has funded more than 4,000 organizations and committed more than $2.1 billion to conservation projects. Learn more at www.nfwf.org.

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.