Passage of ‘Great American Outdoors Act’ Bolsters the Alliance

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Table Bluff Segment, Rudbeckia, Black-eyed Susasn, Bloom, Summer
Black-eyed Susans in full bloom along the Table Bluff Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. The Land and Water Conservation Fund contributes to native prairie restoration projects, such as the prairie pictured above. Photo by Gary Hegeman.

On Wednesday, June 17, 2020, the United States Senate voted 73-25 to pass the Great American Outdoors Act to permanently and fully fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and make a substantial investment in addressing the deferred maintenance backlog on our public lands.

The passage of this bill will help address priority repairs in our national parks and on other public lands by directing up to $9.5 billion over five years to address maintenance needs within the National Park System and other public land agencies. It will also fully and permanently dedicate $900 million per year already being deposited into the LWCF, our nation’s most important conservation program for land, water, and recreation areas for all Americans.

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Critical Connection Complete!

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Trail Easement, Mammoth's Back Preserve
Overlooking the land between County Highway P and Mammoth's Back Preserve where two recently acquired trail easements will extend the Ice Age Trail to Mammoth's Back Preserve. Photo by Kevin Thusius.
Just outside of Cross Plains is a newly minted 81 acre preserve with with an iconic shape. The distinct ridge-line on the property is reminiscent of the double-mounded back of a woolly mammoth, which inspired its name: “Mammoth’s Back Preserve.” See Celebrating Mammoth’s Back Preserve!

Mammoth’s Back Preserve was previously unattached to the Cross Plains Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail to its west. However, this past May, the Alliance acquired two trail easements that will eventually connect the southern extent of the Cross Plains Segment to the existing Preserve.

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While Our Volunteers Serve Others, The Trail Gives Back

By Tricia Baker, Volunteer Writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Volunteers, COVID Response
We were curious about the many Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers who have professions directly serving those who have been affected by COVID-19. While the Safer-At-Home order suspended maintenance along the Ice Age National Scenic Trail until June, our hard-working volunteers certainly didn’t stop working on behalf of others. Whether working directly with COVID-19 patients in an Intensive Care Unit, or working indirectly, by making and delivering meals through the Meals on Wheels program, our Trail volunteers and “frontline” professionals have made us very proud.

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The Rusch Preserve: Where Five Trails Meet

By Bob Rusch, volunteer writer and long-time supporter of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Rusch Preserve, Rib Lake Segment, Land Donation, Land Conservation
Bob and Ann Rusch, all smiles after their donation of 120 acres in 2019. Photo by Kevin Thusius.

It all began with an unexpected phone call.

In 1983, a stranger telephoned Bob Rusch on behalf of the Ice Age Park & Trail Foundation (which eventually became the Ice Age Trail Alliance). He said he had heard Bob was an environmentalist and described the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. After several minutes, the caller asked two questions and got quick answers:

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Tending the Trail: Volunteers Lead the Way

By Christi Lee Ehler, Volunteer Writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Reconnect, Mobile Skills Crew events
Volunteers building new trail on the Ringle Segment of the Ice Age Trail near Wausau. Photo by Cameron Gillie.
Ice Age National Scenic Trail users are human — and unfortunately our ingrained negativity bias ensures a particular kind of reactivity to trail conditions: This sock-snagging span of brambles sure is annoying! Yet maybe you’re inclined to take for granted the previous and subsequent miles of bramble-free trail?

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Preventing Tick-borne Illnesses

May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month!

With warm weather enticing hikers into Wisconsin’s wild spaces, it’s a good time to consider how to prevent tick-borne illnesses while recreating outdoors. Tick-borne illnesses typically first cause flu-like symptoms and usually can be treated with antibiotics if caught early. Untreated, they may cause serious health problems, including death in rare cases. Information on tick-borne illnesses and tips to prevent tick exposure can be found below.

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Bringing Together Landowners and Butterflies

By Kevin Thusius, Director of Land Conservation
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Karner Blue Butterfly
An Endangered Female Karner Blue Butterfly, Waushara County, Wisconsin. Photo by Steve Apps Photography.
One-inch wing-span. Brilliant blue on top. Orange dots under wings. Size of a nickel.

This description is of a rather rare insect that resides in central Wisconsin – the Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis). Its existence is so threatened it was placed on the federal endangered species list in 1992.

Its tiny size makes it easy to miss as it flits between grasses and wildflowers, and because it doesn’t attract a lot of attention, it’s disappearance from our Midwest landscape might not seem like such a big deal. Yet, each and every species, like the Karner blue butterfly, plays a valuable ecological role in nature. Each loss destabilizes this fragile balance. As the folks at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service point out, “experience has proven that many plants and animals have properties which will prove beneficial to humans as sources of food and medicine. With the loss of each species, we lose a potential resource for improving the quality of life for all humanity.”

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Where Ecology Meets People’s Experience

By Christi Lee Ehler, Volunteer Writer for the Ice Age Trail Alliance
Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, Trail Corridor, Prairie, Land Conservation
With White Penstemon in full bloom along the Trail corridor, Gary Werner (left) emphasizes the magnitude of the conservation work that’s been done on the Holmes Preserve as he and Tom Wise (right) walk-and-talk with Christi Ehler (center). Photo by Kevin Thusius.
“The Ice Age National Scenic Trail is where ecology meets people’s experience,” says Kevin Thusius, the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s (IATA) Director of Land Conservation. Managing Ice Age Trail lands for plant and wildlife habitat and managing them for aesthetics go hand-in-hand, because the more biodiverse a landscape is, the more it contains what people go into nature to see, hear, and feel.

A growing number of people, it seems, are particularly drawn to places where they might witness evidence of our ability to repair past environmental damage and create a healthier future for the earth. Ice Age Trail (IAT) segments where there are ongoing, large-scale efforts to rebuild ecological diversity are becoming some of the Trail’s most popular hikes.

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Ice Age Trail Inspired Limerick Sequence by The Portly Bard

Try the trail of the Ice Age today,
nature’s glacial destruction display.
Hike the terminal path
of the cold weather wrath
where Wisconsin held fast in the way.

From the Sturgeon Bay calm of its shore
to the Falls of St. Croix and their roar,
it’s history’s trail
through nature’s travail
that would alter forever earth’s lore.

It’s adventure that fits to a “tee”
spirits yearning for splendor to see
— whether done end to end,
or by segment, or bend —
time remembered as all it can be…

…amid features of rock to exalt
in the bluffs and the cliffs by default
now natural beauty
derived from the duty
of becoming a mineral vault.

Ice Age Trail Alliance, Ice Age National Scenic Trail, hiker in the fall
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