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John Muir’s Legacy in Wisconsin Permanently Protected

“Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!” -- John Muir


It was an opportunity that doesn’t come along very often – the chance to permanently protect part of the boyhood farm of John Muir, the father of our National Park System.

On September 5, 2014, we completed negotiations with a conservation-minded landowner family to permanently protect part of the original John Muir family farm located seven miles south of Montello in Marquette County in central Wisconsin. This acquisition (map) includes 38 acres of the land settled by John’s father Daniel in the spring of 1849 when Daniel and his sons John and David and daughter Sarah emigrated from Scotland. The rest of the family followed that fall. It was in the beautiful landscape around Ennis Lake (called Fountain Lake by the Muirs) where a young John Muir, the future father of our National Park System, explored the natural world. Here he learned to love the abundance and beauty of wilderness and started down the path to becoming the vital voice in the movement to protect it.

The landowner and family have deep roots in Marquette County and a heritage that goes back to the earliest settlers in this area, among them, the Muirs and other Scotch, Irish and Yankee families. The family’s love of the land and strong commitment to conservation is what made this conservation success possible. 

We need your help to ensure a healthy future for this land. Your donation will pay for transaction costs, construction of a memorial wall and kiosk, and restoration of the natural wildlife habitat of the property and the surrounding conservation lands.

The 198-acre farm we acquired is on the north side of John Muir Memorial Park. This farm includes 38 acres of the original 320-acre farm settled by Daniel Muir. About 60 acres of the Muir farm is already permanently protected at the county park and the associated Muir Park State Natural Area. The property will become part of a 1,400-acre protected landscape, which includes the John Muir Memorial Park/Muir State Natural Area and the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge.  The property we have acquired will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching. In the next few years, we will donate the 120 acres west of County Highway F to the US Fish and Wildlife Service as an addition to the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. And we will donate the eastern 78 acres to the Ice Age Trail Alliance. A segment of the Ice Age Trail circles Ennis Lake at the county park and may continue north across the property we acquired.

To learn more about John Muir and his time in Wisconsin, visit the Wisconsin Historical Society and the Wisconsin Friends of John Muir. John Muir was a founder of the Sierra Club and is widely regarded as the father of our National Park System, which is turning 100 years old in 2016.

Natural Heritage Land Trust is honored to have led the negotiations with the landowner to acquire and permanently protect the property. Founded in 1983 to protect a piece of woods on the Lake Mendota shoreline in Madison Wisconsin, we have a strong track record protecting cherished land and water in southcentral Wisconsin at places like Cherokee Marsh, the Wisconsin River, Avon Bottoms, Black Earth Creek, and the Sugar River. We also help keep our region’s high-quality farmland available for farming. In all, Natural Heritage Land Trust has permanently protected 9,700 acres of land and water since 1983.

Funding to purchase the property came from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship ProgramNatural Resources Damage Assessment Program, The Conservation Fund, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, The Wisconsin Land Fund of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, and many generous members of Natural Heritage Land Trust, Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, and John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club.

The conservation of cherished places like the John Muir family farm doesn’t happen by accident. Our strong partners in this endeavor are the landowner, Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, Ice Age Trail Alliance, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, US Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service Ice Age National Scenic Trail, and the John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club.

If you would like an invitation to the dedication ceremony at the property this spring, please make sure we have your email address on file. You can send it to heidi@nhlt.org.

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