The Yawkey Lumber Company: Winner of the 2019 Land Legacy Award

A scenic lake with clear blue water surrounded by trees just starting to change color in autumn.

The Yawkey Lumber Company of Oneida County made an incredible gift in 2018. Company shareholders, donated 431 acres to Northwoods Land Trust, including woodlands, wetlands, islands, wildlife habitat, and 4.4 miles of natural shoreline on a highly scenic, clear water lake in the town of Hazelhurst. The total appraised value of the property was over $12 million at the time of the donation, resulting in one of the most valuable and sizable outright gifts of land to a land trust in Wisconsin. This property’s natural shorelines and old-growth forests will now be protected and available for all of us to view, explore, and enjoy, forever. As a way to acknowledge this incredible contribution, the Yawkey Lumber Company was honored with the 2019 Land Legacy Award, presented by Gathering Waters.

The Yawkey Lumber Company shareholders — all great-grandchildren of C.C. Yawkey, a lumberman who founded the company 125 years ago — wanted to preserve the last remaining undeveloped shoreline on the 590-acre lake, and keep its scenic beauty intact for future generations. They spent nearly four years working with Northwoods Land Trust on the details of the land donation. 

This included enrollment of the property’s forestland into the state’s Managed Forest Law Program, which means the forest will continue to provide high quality timber, using sustainable forest stewardship management best practices. It also means a natural vegetated buffer will be protected around the lake shorelines and large stands of trees will be preserved to promote old growth forest habitat. 

The arrangement also included special consideration of a few particularly sensitive areas of the property that will remain closed to public, for wildlife habitat protection. The remaining majority of the property is now open for non-motorized public outdoor recreation, including hiking, birding, snowshoeing, hunting and fishing. It will also continue to be enjoyed from afar, as northbound families view it from U.S. Highway 51 and folks utilizing the Bearskin State Recreational Trail are greeted with magnificent views.

Ultimately, the family agreed to wrap up this package of 23 separate parcels into one donation to the land trust, in order to preserve the whole and to allow for a relatively simple deed signing. Now, because of the extraordinary generosity of these shareholders, the natural shorelines and old-growth forests of the Yawkey Forest Reserve will be protected forever. 

The Yawkey Lumber Company will receive the 2019 Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award at Gathering Waters’ Land Conservation Leadership Award Celebration at the Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin on September 26, 2019.