Weinert Family Donates 222 Acres to Conservation
(Excerpt from Landmark Conservancy / Zaria Whitacre / May 12, 2023) landmarkwi.org
Longtime SCLA members and supporters Jim and Kate Weinert have generously donated 222 acres of forested land in the Spider Lake watershed to Landmark Conservancy. The watershed was named a high priority for protection in 2021 in the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) statewide Healthy Watersheds, High-Quality Waters initiative. Permanent conservation of this land helps protect the Spider Lake Chain. The donated property has high biodiversity and resilience to climate change as well as connectivity with Sawyer County Forest and the Lake Helane State Natural Area.
“Aside from the biodiversity this area harbors, this corner of western Wisconsin is highly sought after because of its aesthetics, proximity to Hayward, nearby lakes, and endless recreational opportunities. It is treasured and coveted by residents and landowners and can be challenging to instill the permanent protection we all desire,” said Interim Executive Director Rick Remington. “Landmark is thrilled to secure this property following decades of stewardship under the Weinerts’ care.”
The property is primarily forested, consisting of mixed age classes and several distinct forest communities.
“We are delighted to make this contribution to Landmark Conservancy and help support their goal to protect natural Wisconsin,” said the Weinerts. They first learned about Landmark from Michael O’Sullivan, Past President of the Spider Chain of Lakes Association (SCLA), whose mission is to preserve and protect the Spider Chain of Lakes. In 2014 Michael helped launch the SCLA “Protect and Preserve Campaign” to establish an endowment fund and emergency reserve fund to help protect the lakes and watershed for future generations.
“We extend special recognition to the O’Sullivan family. They have been our neighbors on Big Spider for 30 years. In 2016, Margaret and Michael O’Sullivan established conservancy protection for their lake property. We are delighted to follow their example with our donation. We thank the O’Sullivans for their inspirational leadership and hope others will be inspired to help preserve our environment,” said Jim.
Landmark is grateful to Jim and Kate Weinert for their foresight in deciding to protect this special land through a donation to the Conservancy. Landmark’s Conservation Team will be evaluating forestry requirements and future access opportunities and creating a long-term management plan to guide care of the land and its resources.
Jim Weinert and Landmark Conservancy Interim Executive Director Rick Remington
In the Fall of 2016 Michael and Margaret O'Sullivan donated a conservation easement to protect their property against further development. The easement is designed to preserve their land as wildlife habitat and to help protect the water quality of Spider Lake and surrounding waters. The O'Sullivans worked with Bayfield Regional Conservancy, a land trust that works with property owners to protect habitat in four counties of Northwest Wisconsin. In May 2017 the O'Sullivan family announced their donation to their neighbors and fellow SCLA members. The family hopes that their gift will inspire other property owners on the Spider Chain of Lakes to consider the benefit of conservation easements. When you have an opportunity, thank the O'Sullivans for their inspirational leadership!
Below is the article on this conservation easement, reprinted with permission from the Bayfield Regional Conservancy (BRC). The BRC has now merged with the West Wisconsin Land Trust to form the Landmark Conservancy (www.landmarkwi.org).
“BRC Conserves Spider Lake Waterfront” November 23, 2016 (from BRCLAND.org)
Michael and Margaret O’Sullivan bought their first property on Spider Lake near Hayward in Sawyer County in 1975 and, as Michael put it, “over the years, our whole family has come to absolutely treasure our little corner of the Northwoods.” So much so that now they have taken steps to protect some of it forever. The O’Sullivans have donated a conservation easement on eight acres of mostly forested land that abuts their lakeside home, guaranteeing it will never be developed. In addition to keeping the protected property as a buffer against development, the easement is meant to preserve the land as wildlife habitat and help protect the water quality of Spider Lake and surrounding waters.
And, as the first conservation easement established on the Spider Chain of Lakes, Michael O’Sullivan said, it may inspire other owners to consider the benefits of such permanent protections for their own property. While his neighbors are not yet aware of the easement, he expects they will be receptive to the O’Sullivans’ efforts to protect against increased development. “God willing, we plan to have all of our neighbors over sometime next summer and make the announcement personally to them. My hope is that they will all be as enthusiastic as we are,” says O’Sullivan.
The easement will be held by the Bayfield Regional Conservancy, a land trust that works with property owners to protect air, water and land within 4 counties of Northwestern Wisconsin. Conservation easements are perpetual legal agreements between property owners and land trusts or similar bodies in which the owner places restrictions to protect the natural values of the land. Restrictions can vary, allowing uses desired by the owner while prohibiting unwanted development. The owner retains all rights of ownership while the land trust monitors compliance with the restrictions going forward.
O’Sullivan said he and his wife began considering the benefits of conservation a few years ago after learning about its benefits from a friend on their local lake association. Having watched the value of lake property increase so dramatically in recent years, O’Sullivan had concluded that the next push for development would come on backlots such as his, which had already been subdivided into 4 lots by the previous owner, each with its own legal access to Spider Lake. “It seemed a shame to us that it could be crowded with new development,” he said. “Protecting this land was important to us. Margaret and I talked about it a lot before we decided this is what we wanted to do.”
The easement will prohibit development by the O’Sullivans and any future owners of the property, but does allow owners to continue to use the property for any purposes consistent with protecting the land’s conservation values. O’Sullivan said the financial investment in obtaining the easement will be easily offset by the permanent benefits of protecting the property. And if their decision inspires neighbors to take similar actions, he said, it will have been even more worth the effort.
“It’s small,” he said. “It’s a small easement, but strategically it’s significant.” Erika Lang, the conservation director for Bayfield Regional Conservancy, agrees: “Hopefully, Michael and Margaret’s vision acts as a catalyst among other area landowners, and results in more landowners making good stewardship decisions for their properties and surrounding areas. Shoreland protection is especially important to protect wildlife habitat and water quality, and property values. Setting up conservation easements is one of the best tools to protect these values that we all cherish.”
Reprinted With Permission From Bayfield Regional Conservancy website (http://www.brcland.org/brc-in-the-news), now Landmark Conservancy (http://www.landmarkwi.org).