The Pelican River Forest will be protected in perpetuity, Gov. Tony Evers announced on January 23, 2024, during his 2024 State of the State address and in a press release. Approval of a conservation easement plan covering nearly 55,000 acres of the Pelican River Forest completes one of the largest conservation projects in Wisconsin history.
In Governor Evers’ own words: “This is a big deal, folks.”
Adding to about 12,000 acres of forestland previously protected, the conservation easements on the property will safeguard over 67,000 acres in total, ensuring the Pelican River Forest will remain open to the public in perpetuity for outdoor recreation activities such as fishing, hunting, skiing, trapping, and hiking.
The Pelican River Forest plays a critical role in supporting water quality and wildlife habitation, along with Wisconsin’s forest products and outdoor recreation industries. The property was the largest remaining unprotected block of privately owned forest in Wisconsin, reported the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The project gained widespread support from local governments, outdoor advocacy groups, local businesses, and thousands of individual Wisconsinites. Despite attempts to block the project from receiving funds through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the Evers Administration continued working to complete the conservation easement and secure the protection of these lands.
“This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to protect nearly 70,000 acres of forestland provides greater access to nature, strengthens local economies, and enhances climate resiliency,” said Clint Miller, central Midwest regional director at The Conservation Fund.
Featured image by Warren LeMay, 2022.