The Northwoods Land Trust is a volunteer and member supported non-profit organization that conserves land through holding conservation easements, owning and managing donated land, acquiring land or easements, or any combination of these. The Trust functions in Vilas, Oneida, Forest, Florence, Iron, Price and northern Langlade counties.
Thanks to a Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Lake Protection program project, owners of large stretches of natural shorelines on lakes and flowages in Iron County are now being encouraged to consider lasting, voluntary protection of their lake properties. According to Northwoods Land Trust (NWLT) executive director Bryan Pierce, the lake project is based on highly-successful private lake shoreland protection projects conducted over the last ten years by NWLT in Vilas, Oneida, Forest, Florence and Price Counties.
“The DNR’s Wisconsin Lakes publication indicates that there are a total of 494 lakes in Iron County,” said Pierce. “These include 217 named and 277 unnamed lakes. The grant project is utilizing NWLT’s geographic information system (GIS) computer technology to identify all remaining privately-owned lake parcels with a minimum of about 500 feet of natural shoreline frontage.” Pierce explained that the project uses tax parcel maps and other data developed through the Iron County GIS Office. Digital parcel maps and aerial orthophotos are overlaid where needed to determine the extent of natural versus developed frontage.
“The selected lake parcels have now been mapped on the GIS system for each town,” said Pierce. “Within those maps we have identified a total of 572 lake and flowage parcels with 500 feet or more of natural shoreline remaining on privately-owned land. These parcels are owned by 274 private landowners. The parcels are then linked with the Iron County tax roll database to generate a mailing list of these landowners,” Pierce stated. “Copies of NWLT’s Landowner’s Conservation Guide will be mailed this spring to each of these identified lake property owners. As with our previous projects, volunteers are assisting us with assembling all of the landowner packets to prepare them for bulk mailing.”
Pierce noted that the lake protection project runs through the end of 2020. NWLT provides on-site technical assistance to any of those lake property owners who wish to permanently protect their land along these natural shorelines.
“We have already been successful in completing six conservation easement donations with interested property owners in Iron County. Those projects have included permanent protection of over 27,000 feet (5 miles) of natural lake, river and stream shorelines and 680 acres of shoreland, woodland and wetland habitats. These successful projects have already leveraged well over $1 million of charitable contribution values through those conservation easement donations. With a conservation easement, the natural shorelines are protected in perpetuity, but the land remains privately owned and managed and it is still subject to property taxes,” said Pierce. “The lands can be sold or passed on to heirs, but whoever owns the land in the future must retain its conservation values. Any access to the property for outdoor recreation is still up to the consent of the individual property owners.”
The Northwoods Land Trust also purchased the 38-acre Interstate Falls property just west of the intersection of U.S. Highways 2 and 51. That scenic property was then gifted to the Town of Kimball to remain a valuable scenic tourism attraction and conservation area in perpetuity.
The Northwoods Land Trust is a volunteer and member-supported nonprofit conservation organization. For more information on the Iron County lakes project, contact the NWLT office at (715) 479-2490.