Success for the Pelican River Forest

Three men in business suits and one woman in a blue dress celebrating at the Wisconsin State Capitol after the Governor's speech.

The Pelican River Forest will be conserved, forever.

Thanks to a heroic effort by volunteers across Northern Wisconsin, The Conservation Fund, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Governor’s team, nearly 70,000 acres of forests and wetlands will remain wild.

Governor Evers made the announcement in his State of the State address last night:

“Conserving and protecting our natural resources and land continues to be a top priority for my administration. I’m also excited to announce tonight I’m approving the largest forest conservation effort in state history. In partnership with the Biden Administration and the Conservation Fund, we’ve approved the conservation easement for the Pelican River Forest’s remaining acres to protect the forest for generations of future Wisconsinites to use and enjoy. This is a big deal, folks.”

Governor Evers deserves our thanks for being a true conservation champion. The Pelican River Forest would not be protected without the unwavering support and commitment of Governor Evers and his staff. The Governor’s team listened to everyone who spoke up for conservation and then provided the leadership we needed to get the job done. The Governor and his staff worked diligently with the Conservation Fund, the Wisconsin DNR, and the US Forest Service to secure success for the Pelican River Forest. 

Your advocacy made Pelican River Forest a success. When the Legislature’s Joint Finance Committee blocked Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program funding for Pelican River in November 2022, local residents reached out to us and asked what could be done to help and an incredible show of grassroots advocacy followed: A remarkable coalition of supporters quickly organized. Conservationists, ATV riders, hunters, people concerned about water quality and mining threats, silent sports enthusiasts, and more all came together because we want to take care of Wisconsin’s wild places for generations to come.

Supporters attended seemingly endless government meetings and saw to the passage of more than a dozen supportive resolutions from Tribal Nations and local governments. When misinformation appeared in the press, residents responded with factual, impassioned letters and editorials making the case for conservation. And across Wisconsin, you talked with your friends, local business owners, and decision makers. Thousands of people signed a petition supporting the Forest, more than 50 businesses and organizations signed a joint letter calling to conserve the Forest, and you sent almost 15,000 messages to the Capitol calling on legislators to protect our land and water.

The Conservation Fund has shown a remarkable commitment to conserving Wisconsin’s forests. It has taken years to successfully conserve the Pelican River Forest. The Conservation Fund stepped in and purchased this land when it came up for sale, protecting it in a particularly vulnerable moment when the forest could have been fragmented or cleared. The Fund worked with the DNR to secure federal Forest Legacy funding to pay for the conservation easement. And the Conservation Fund team attended so many of those local meetings to answer questions, address concerns, and educate leaders on how private forest conservation works.

We are proud to support The Conservation Fund’s work and can’t thank them enough for the incredible, positive impact they have on land and water conservation in Wisconsin.

Finally, our partners at the DNR deserve a heartfelt thank you. Their staff are professional, friendly, and committed public servants who work tirelessly to care for Wisconsin’s land and water despite significant political turmoil and uncertainty. The DNR has facilitated the successful conservation of hundreds of thousands of acres of land over more than 30 years of administering the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program. That is quite the achievement.

The Pelican River Forest is protected because of a heroic grassroots effort. Learn more at the Friends of the Pelican River Forest website. There is always more work to be done. But, today we celebrate!

Featured image by Gov. Evers’ staff.