Background The Bayfield Regional Conservancy is a local non-profit land trust whose mission is to protect the natural lands, waters, forests, farms, and places of scenic, historic, and spiritual value in Northwestern Wisconsin. Since its founding in 1996, the Conservancy has protected almost 5,000 acres of land, through conservation easements with private landowners and purchasing land. The Conservancy currently owns and manages two community forests in the region. In the fall of 2024, the owners of the WRL LLC property contacted the Bayfield Regional Conservancy about protecting their family’s 590 acre property in some way. Since this time, the Conservancy has been working closely with the landowners to explore land protection options as well as future ownership and management. In April 2024, the Conservancy pursued a competitive grant with Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to acquire and protect the property with public access. The Conservancy plans to pursue a matching grant from the USFS Community Forest Program in early 2024. Additionally, the Conservancy has received a grant from the state and local chapters of Trout Unlimited to help work on this project.
About the Property Located in the North Central Forest Ecological Landscape, the Tyler Forks Watershed drains approximately 78 square miles of land and the land is primarily forested, with wetlands as the other sizeable land use. While much of the land is in county ownership, private landowner choices are very important for the long-term health of the watershed. Tyler Forks and its tributary Scott Taylor Creek are classified by the State of Wisconsin as Class II trout streams. Due to its cold water properties and fish community characteristics, Scott Taylor Creek functions as a nursery stream for juvenile brook trout and a cold thermal refuge during summer month for adult brook trout, especially near its confluence with Tyler Forks. Tyler Forks and its surrounding watershed are outstanding natural resources and provide important habitat for fish and wildlife. The lower watershed near Copper Falls State Park has long been recognized both locally and throughout the region for the river, its waterfalls, and topography.
The WRL LLC property is approximately 590 acres, located in Ashland County in the Town of Morse. The property is located within one mile of the Bad River Conservation Opportunity Area, recognized as Globally Significant by the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan. The Property encompasses approximately 4,200 linear feet of the Tyler Forks River. It also includes shoreline on two tributaries to Tyler Forks – Scott Taylor Creek and an un-named tributary. All three streams support trout populations and have intact riparian corridors that provide important habitat to various wildlife. The Property has very diverse topography in the form of steep ravines, uplands, and forested wetlands. A few primitive trails exist on the property.
Proposal The landowners and the Conservancy would like to permanently protect the property’s conservation values/resources while allowing public access to the property. Per grant requirements, this would be non-motorized access in the form of cross-country skiing/snowshoeing, fishing, hunting, hiking, and trapping. Acquisition of this land would provide additional recreational opportunities to local and regional people. As the future owner, the Conservancy may choose to build limited infrastructure with the grantors’ permission to enhance access. Additionally, while the property is not currently enrolled in Wisconsin’s Managed Forest Law Program (MFL), the Conservancy may choose to sustainably manage forested areas of the property while still protecting natural resource values possibly through MFL.