By J.J. King, Ice Age Trail Hiker and Proud Thousand-Miler
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.
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.
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.”
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.
This success is thanks to YOU! Along with the help of conservation-minded donors in the Dane County Chapter of the Ice Age Trail Alliance and local business owner, Mary Devitt, of the Crossroads Coffeehouse, we were able to raise private funds to supplement funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the Dane County Conservation Fund.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance has worked tirelessly toward completion of a contiguous Trail through Wisconsin. The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been indispensable to that effort, investing more than $14.5M in permanently protecting the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
These LWCF investments are critical funding to fill in gaps, extend the Trail and protect a continuous corridor, and have also served as the catalyst for leveraging federal investment with State, city, county, and private dollars at a rate of 2.5 to 1. Continue reading
169 years ago John Muir’s family settled in central Wisconsin near Fountain Lake. While the name of the water has changed to Ennis Lake, the landscape that helped shape John Muir’s land ethic remains. Today the Ice Age National Scenic Trail circles around Ennis Lake and through John Muir County Park, allowing hikers to walk a short distance in the footsteps of the Father of our National Parks. With your support, we can expand John Muir County Park and the Ice Age Trail in Marquette County. Continue reading
If you’re NOT a fan of this idea then help the Wisconsin DNR shape their plans!
Otherwise, Ice Age Trail users, like you, will frequently encounter bikes, ATVs and other less-compatible forms of recreation while out and about in your favorite outdoor natural area, park, or trail.
Though there are plenty of places where these motorized uses may occur on state lands, certain properties should be held for quiet recreation, such as trail hiking. Continue reading
A gem lay camouflaged, hidden between large brick buildings in a 1.38-acre piece of commercial property. The purchase of the Marth property, by the Ice Age Trail Alliance, brought the potential of this piece of land out of hiding and into focus. Now, a picturesque wetland, with sweetly named Silver Creek, is permanently protected and will someday host the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Continue reading
The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program is at risk. It is the number one source of funding for land purchases that protect and expand the Ice Age Trail. Funding from this program, in 2016, extended the Trail in the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest in Sheboygan County, as well as, in the Straight Lake State Park in Polk County.
Please call your representatives TODAY. Assembly Bill 338 (AB338) has been introduced and it could be voted on any day now. Please urge your Assembly representative not to vote for AB338.
Talking Points for Your Call: Continue reading
The landscape of Wisconsin is a world renowned resource for understanding the impact continental glaciation had on our planet. Learning about the last major climate shift is imperative to understanding our past as well as preparing for our future. These lands are also as a medium for personal rejuvenation, exploration, physical and mental health, and an educational foundation for over 1.25 million annual Ice Age Trail users. Since 1986, the Ice Age Trail Alliance has acquired lands to protect this valuable resource in perpetuity.
During the fall 2015 through this week, the Alliance experienced a flurry of land protection activity capped by a 136-acre property donation in Manitowoc County. This acquisition protects some of the best examples of glaciation in the state and pushed the number of acres protected by the Alliance over the 5,000 mark. Indeed, since 1986 the Alliance has permanently protected 5,156 acres via 141 separate transactions.
The Alliance works with a wide variety of partners to determine the best ownership of each property. As such, the Alliance has transferred properties to state, county and other partners. The remaining 3,423 acres is managed and monitored by the Alliance, including 55 easements and 42 properties held in fee.
As an accredited land trust, the Ice Age Trail Alliance achieves a high standard for land protection, monitoring and improvement. Thanks to this designation by the Land Trust Alliance, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is adding protected lands and trail miles, at an impressive rate. Since September of 2015 the Ice Age Trail Alliance has acquired 10 properties totaling 279 acres, protecting an estimated 2.75 miles of yet to be constructed Ice Age Trail. Of these 10 properties, 7 were donated with a total donation value of more than $2.5 million. There is no question that the high standard the Alliance maintains helps landowners feel confident that the land they cherish so deeply will be protected for generations to come.
For more information about the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s land protection work, please visit https://www.iceagetrail.org/land-protection-management/.
Your help is needed to protect future segments of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Recently, Ice Age Trail supporters successfully advocated for the Wisconsin state legislature to continue Stewardship Program funding for the Ice Age Trail.
Today, we ask you to do the same for federal funding.
The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has recently expired. For the past 50 years, LWCF funds — collected from off-shore oil and gas royalties — have protected land in every state, supporting more than 41,000 state and local park projects. Closer to home, LWCF funds have helped protect more than 50 Ice Age Trail properties, including portions of the popular Devil’s Lake and St. Croix Falls segments.
LWCF must be permanently reauthorized and fully funded before the end of the current legislative session, which means it must be included in the FY 2016 Appropriations package.
Our request is simple: Please ask your representative to urge House Speaker Paul Ryan to include LWCF re-authorization in the FY 2016 Omnibus Appropriations Bill.
Thank you for your support of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.
Updated April 16, 2015
We introduced in a previous post the severe impact the governor’s proposed state budget would have on protection for and development of the Ice Age Trail. Since then, we have learned more about the proposed budget and further negative impacts it would have on the Trail if the budget does not change.
The major hit would come from a 13-year freeze on land acquisition funding through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, affecting both direct acquisition by the state and grants to the Alliance. This would limit the collective effort of the DNR and the Alliance to protect land for the Ice Age Trail.
The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has had a significant role in making protection of the Trail possible:
The further threat comes from the elimination of state funding to support the Ice Age Trail, which has directly benefited the Trail for nearly 20 years. Its elimination would inhibit the Alliance’s ability to maintain and support the 650 miles of existing Trail that more than a million people enjoy each year.
The state’s historically reliable funding source has contributed to the success of the Ice Age Trail and Ice Age Trail Alliance:
These cuts would severely impact current and future development of the Ice Age Trail. We need your action to help make the dream of a thousand-mile footpath a reality.
Contact your local representatives and ask them to support the Ice Age Trail by saving the Stewardship Program. Tell them that the Ice Age Trail is important to you, your family, your community and the state of Wisconsin.
Along with the talking points above, we’ve developed the following to help you shape your message:
Though these talking points will help you support your message, don’t be afraid to tell your representatives about your personal story. Your experience is important and makes the best impression.
It is vital that your representatives hear from you. Ask them to support the Ice Age Trail and the Stewardship Program and to share their support with their colleagues who are on the Joint Finance Committee. Please consider sharing with us any responses you receive.
If you have not already done so, sign up for our Advocacy Alerts. We will provide periodic updates and may request additional assistance, asking those of you who sign up to take additional steps, such as meeting with your legislators.
You probably heard the recent news regarding the proposed Wisconsin state budget and freeze on the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. Land protection and state funding for the Trail could be at a standstill. The future of the Ice Age Trail is threatened.
Read links for background information:
The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program makes significant land protection possible on the Ice Age Trail. Since 1991, the Ice Age Trail Alliance has used the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program 55 times to protect more than 3,300 acres for the Ice Age Trail. Each one of these Stewardship purchases was leveraged with private, county or other funds. Also, the DNR has acquired Ice Age Trail rights on more than 100 properties using Stewardship funds. The importance of the Stewardship Program to the Ice Age Trail cannot be overstated.The Stewardship program contributes to the 650 miles of Trail open for your use. With approximately 500 miles of future Ice Age Trail left to protect, the Trail needs you today.
Please contact your state legislators. Share with them why the Ice Age Trail is important to you and that the Stewardship Program is important for the Trail.
Will you continue to be an advocate for the Ice Age Trail? Sign up today to receive advocacy alerts.
The Ice Age Trail Alliance continues to examine the details of the proposed budget. Working with conservation partners around the state, we will strategize over the next few weeks how to best mitigate this threat to the future of the Ice Age Trail. You will hear from us!