Conservation easement recorded on 547 acres of forest and wetland habitat
Jan and Rick Neville grew up with an appreciation for woods and water. Jan’s parents purchased a lake home on Round Lake in Sawyer County in 1990, and the couple has been coming to the Hayward area with their children and now grandchildren for over 30 years. When a large tract of cutover forestland recently became available, the Nevilles recognized the ecological potential and pursued a purchase. “While some people might shy away from a cutover property, we understood the value of mixed forest age classes and species diversity,” said Rick.
The property holds the headwaters of Hay Creek, a Class II trout stream. The springs bubble from the aquifer beneath and extend across eight acres, with pools of water up to eight feet deep in some areas. “This source of clean, clear water is a special, almost sacred thing…a gift from Mother Earth,” said Jan. “To swim in the water and feel the freezing cold water rush against your body is thrilling.”
The cutover portion is bordered by mature forest and wetland on two sides, and on the east by the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest. Following their purchase, Rick planted white oak seedlings and understory shrubs from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The Nevilles are encouraged by seeing significant oak and maple regeneration from cut stumps.
The young forest holds a healthy ruffed grouse population, and Rick enjoys hunting with their young Drahthaar pointer, Dirk. “Ruffed grouse is a bellwether species and needs a young diverse forest biome that also supports many migrating neotropical warblers,” Rick said.
On the headwaters, they see numerous otters, beavers, and waterfowl including nesting trumpeter swans. Sandhill cranes use the ten acres of open grassland, which they plan to enhance with native pollinator plantings. There are signs of active timber wolf activity along with white-tailed deer and bobcat. The property is also in the Clam Lake elk herd range. “Five bulls have been seen just west of our land,” noted Rick. “I hope they will someday take up residence here.”
In addition to their own private use of the land, the Nevilles are eager to make the property available for educational experiences in partnership with a local non-profit, SCOPE (Sawyer County Outdoor Projects and Education) and Northern Waters Environmental School (a Hayward K-12 charter school). SCOPE has a goal of “no kid left inside” and supports conservation and environmental education for youth, including hunter safety, camping, canoeing, and fishing activities, said Rick. “We feel fortunate to have these area resources for young people and look forward to supporting their good work around conservation education.”
The Nevilles are proud to be members of the Landmark Legacy Circle and are grateful for the land trust’s commitment to permanent protection through its mission of ‘conserving Wisconsin’s natural legacy for everyone, forever.’ They stated, “The word ‘forever’ is frequently used in a rhetorical way, but in the case of land conservation it is reality and not rhetoric. A legacy estate gift fits our personal values when you consider the forever timeline of the protection and Landmark’s commitment to stewardship of the land.”