Over the past few decades, much of Wisconsin’s industrial forestland has been converted to non-forest uses and subdivided for development, specifically for residential and second homes. This conversion ultimately harms the forest’s ecological integrity.

Fortunately, The Conservation Fund was able to secure the largest privately-owned, unprotected block of forest remaining in Wisconsin with a loan from the Richard King Mellon Foundation and proceeds from our green bonds. We are working to permanently conserve this forest to support the local timber economy, safeguard wildlife habitat and water quality, and provide public recreational access. 


Since our founding, The Conservation Fund has protected over 113,000 acres in Wisconsin, including thousands of acres of working forests and farmlands. In October 2021, we purchased 70,000 acres from The Forestland Group, a Timberland Investment Management Organization, to safeguard this large, forested landscape.

Our purchase and interim ownership of these lands, now referred to as Pelican River Forest, provides time to develop permanent conservation strategies that will preserve the forest, safeguard jobs, and provide public recreational access like hunting and fishing year-round. As part of our strategy, we ensure the land remains privately owned and on local tax rolls while it is managed to provide timber to local mills, safeguard water quality and protect wildlife habitat.

This project is part of our Working Forest Fund® — an innovative program dedicated to mitigating climate change, strengthening rural economies and protecting natural ecosystems through the permanent conservation of at-risk working forests across America.


Ensuring the permanent conservation and sustainable management of our existing forests is one of the most effective strategies we have right now to combat climate change. Forests not only store carbon, they also absorb more CO2 as the trees grow. Pelican River Forest plays an important role in this fight, storing approximately 19 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent, which is comparable to the emissions from 4.1 million passenger vehicles over the course of a year. Over the next 5 years, the forest is estimated to remove an additional 240,000-640,000 MT CO2e from the atmosphere.

Photo credit: Jay Brittain

Well-managed forests, particularly in upper watersheds, are critical sources of clean water. The 68 miles of streams, 27,000 acres of forested wetlands and dozens of ponds within Pelican River Forest support good water quality in both the upper Great Lakes and Mississippi River watersheds, so important to the health of the communities nearby. Water-based recreation, like boating and angling contributes a significant amount of the nearly $8 billion annually economic impact of outdoor recreation throughout Wisconsin.

In addition, our efforts to ensure this large landscape remains forested and continues to be sustainably managed as working timberland will support Wisconsin’s forest products industry, which provides more than 63,500 full and part-time jobs and generates nearly $25 billion annually in economic output.