Where Waters Meet: Elk Creek Bottoms Preserve Permanently Protected
Landmark Conservancy celebrates long-awaited preservation in Dunn County
In the midst of billowy trees, smooth rivers, and mosquito bites, summer in Wisconsin has us itching to get outside. As we splash into summer, it’s easy to forget that each beloved bike trail, hiking route, and park would not be there without the support of organizations that protect our natural resources and create opportunities to engage with the outdoors. Here in the Chippewa Valley, Landmark Conservancy, a 501c3 non-profit conservation organization is doing just that.
Landmark Conservancy, which has an area office in Menomonie and another in Bayfield, has been a quiet force in land protection for about 35 years. The organization, born of a merger between Bayfield Regional Conservancy and West Wisconsin Land Trust, has permanently protected over 41,000 acres across the 20 counties they serve in Northwest Wisconsin.
“Everything begins with the land, if it weren’t for land there wouldn’t be people, plants, animals, birds … If you can have healthy land, you have the opportunity for healthy communities,” Rick Remington, Conservation Director and Interim Executive Director at Landmark Conservancy, said.
“Under the threat of development and improper management, poor agriculture practices, and even bigger things like climate change, land is still constantly under threat,” Remington started. “It's our challenge to figure out where to use the right land protection tools, land management tools, and restoration tools to continue to improve … so that it is not only good today, but it continues to last into the future.”
"A LOT OF PEOPLE CLAP THEIR HANDS AND SAY WE'RE DONE ... BUT OUR WORK IS JUST BEGINNING."
CONSERVATION DIRECTOR & INTERIM EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR AT LANDMARK CONSERVANCY
Landmark Conservancy’s mission is to, “Conserve Wisconsin’s natural legacy for everyone, forever.” That mission is in action with their latest land protection project, Elk Creek Bottoms Preserve. Located at the confluence of Elk Creek and the Lower Chippewa River, this 69-acre property has dramatic topography. From wooded trails following the creek to tall grasses leading up to the scenic bluffs, folks will endlessly enjoy the sights and sounds of Elk Creek Bottoms.
The original owners of the land, the Midwest Institute of Scandinavian Culture (MWISC), had intended to build a Nordic Cultural Center on the property over 50 years ago. With a change of plans, the MWISC acknowledged their desire to preserve the land and has been in conversation for several years discussing land protection options.
During this process, Remington came upon the Nordic sentiment of the “freedom to roam.” The freedom to roam is the principle, protected by the law in Nordic countries, that gives all people the right to roam free in nature.
“I thought wow, that is perfect because that is exactly what we want to do,” Remington said. With that sentiment in tow, the partnership between MWISC and Landmark Conservancy flowed like the waters they were working to protect. MWISC conveyed the property to Landmark Conservancy for permanent protection in December of 2022.
Landmark now manages this preserve and is looking forward to upholding the history of MWISC’s stewardship of the land. “A lot of people clap their hands and say we’re done … but our work is just beginning,” Remington said. The area is currently open for public access, but improvements such as maintaining trails, installing signage, and improving parking will be ongoing into 2024.
“Historically, as a land protection organization, permanent land protection has been the primary engine that has driven our work enabling us to be successful. I think that that engine is still chugging strong, but we’re starting to fire on another cylinder, too, which is community engagement and communication,” Remington said proudly.
Across their 20-county service area throughout northwest Wisconsin, Landmark Conservancy has permanently protected over 100 projects with public access where folks can engage with the great outdoors.
Learn more about Landmark Conservancy and their conservation work at landmarkwi.org. Also, find upcoming events and volunteer workdays on their Facebook (@landmarkconservancywi) and Instagram (@landmarkwisconsin).