DNR wants conservation area along river
Move would preserve open space in 3 counties
By DON BEHM
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
June 27, 2002
The state Department of Natural Resources is recommending
establishing a 19,487-acre conservation area along the
North Branch of the Milwaukee River in Ozaukee, Washington
and Sheboygan counties to preserve one of the largest
blocks of open space remaining in southeastern Wisconsin.
Public acquisition of land or deed restrictions on properties
within the project boundaries would help maintain farming
as a dominant land use and preserve a rural landscape
facing increasing development pressure, says a draft feasibility
study and environmental assessment released Tuesday.
"Creating the North Branch Milwaukee River Wildlife and
Farming Heritage Area will set a precedent for how the
department in the future establishes new projects with
agricultural landscapes," DNR regional landscape architect
Therese Gripentrog said. "This project will integrate
working farmlands into our project areas for the long
term, rather than identifying them only as a buffer from
The state Natural Resources Board will be asked to approve
establishing the project at its August meeting in Two
Rivers. The project area is comparable in size to the
Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine State Forest, which
encompasses more than 20,100 acres in Waukesha, Jefferson
and Walworth counties.
A three-year study found significant local public support
for establishing the proposed North Branch Milwaukee River
Wildlife and Farming Heritage Area, Gripentrog said.
Even so, about 1,880 acres was removed from an earlier
proposed project area after landowners south of Highway
H in Ozaukee and Washington counties complained that the
conservation area would become a busy park and create
trespassing problems for them.
The proposed conservation site encompasses a core area
of 16,549 acres of wetlands, woods and upland on the North
Branch of the Milwaukee River and 2,938 acres of shoreline
corridors along five tributary streams - Batavia, Mink,
Stony, Wallace and Silver creeks, said Dale Katsma, a
wildlife biologist with the DNR in Plymouth. The area
includes three lakes: Huiras, Lake Twelve and Spring.
The Ozaukee Washington Land Trust already has bought
acreage on two of the lakes to prevent further development.
The trust owns 12 acres on Lake Twelve in the Town of
Farmington and 103 acres on Huiras Lake in the Town of
The land trust supports the DNR proposal because the
agency buys property only from willing sellers, said Steve
Seyfert, the group's executive director.
"This program will work cooperatively with landowners,"
Seyfert said. "And the DNR makes payments in lieu of taxes
on its properties, so there will be no loss of property
Recreational activities within the proposed project area
probably would be limited to low-impact uses such as hiking,
wildlife watching, hunting, fishing and canoeing, according
to the draft feasibility report.
The DNR intends to develop only trails and small parking
lots to provide access to future public land in the area,
Gripentrog said. Facility construction costs are estimated
The deadline for the public to comment on the study is
4 p.m. July 9. A final report will be published after
DNR staff review the comments.
If the board approves the plan, DNR staff could begin
negotiating land or easement acquisitions with willing
sellers within project boundaries. Purchase of a conservation
easement would restrict property development while allowing
owners to keep living on the land.