29 Jan 2020

Just over ten years ago, John and JoAnn Henningsen gave a heartfelt letter and a key to each of their three adult children. The letter begins, “Use this key to escape to the great outdoors,” and continues on, urging each of them to embrace nature’s gifts on the approximately 400 acres in Barron County where they have a family cabin. At the end of 2019, they placed a conservation easement on the property with Landmark Conservancy. The conservation easement ensures protection of the land and its conservation values by prohibiting future subdivision, commercial and industrial use.

Over the years, John has implemented a variety of land management practices including sustainable timber harvest and almost complete control of European buckthorn, an invasive exotic species. He accessed state and federal grants, including a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to plant a 4.5-acre pollinator field with 25 different flowers and pollinator plants, and funds through the State of Wisconsin to support invasive species control.

Three generations of the Henningsen family plant pines on their now conserved property.Three generations of the Henningsen family plant pines on their now conserved property.


​The Henningsen’s thoughtful stewardship of their land is centered on their conservation values as well as the belief that the land is a unifying base for strengthening their family.

“One of the problems in society today is the fact that families are no longer in the same community – at times they are all over the world – and with that, there is a loss of the family circle,” said John. He shared that their decision to protect their property has as much to do with their care for each other as it does for the land, and that the land serves as a unifying, common base for strengthening their family unit.

JoAnn said they feel fortunate that their children and grandchildren have developed an affinity for the land and are involved in its caretaking, through annual spring planting and clean-up, a fall pre-hunting weekend, and annual holiday gatherings at the cabin, which they lovingly call their ‘cottage.’ In the letter to their children, they put forth that “the task is to be diligent in our care of the land and to each other.”

​“The Henningsen’s sound stewardship of their land and the thoughtful manner in which they explored its permanent protection serves as an example for all landowners”, said Rick Remington, Landmark’s Conservation Director. “Their protected property contains significant forested and wetland ecological communities and provides resilient habitat for species to shift and adapt in order to meet the challenges of climate change.”