Last fall, I received a call from a longtime member who asked what the Preserve was doing with the funds they donate each year, and whether or not we continue to need their financial support. I quickly responded with a strong yes and proceeded to review the annual program that our organization completes each year. I think my response was what the member was looking for because a few weeks later we received their donation. The question was a good one and it made me sit back and take a look at what our organization actually accomplishes each year, and how we communicate those accomplishments to our membership.
Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve was formally established in 1987 by a handful of Island residents with environmental foresight and a common goal of preserving the natural beauty of the Island for the benefit of future generations. The Preserve was organized as a non-profit Land Trust, with corporate By Laws that require the business of the organization be managed by a volunteer Board of Directors for the benefit of the membership.
Our organization currently has over 400 active members and an annual operating budget of $26,000. Since The Preserve is not for profit, all member donations are 100% tax deductible. Through the efforts of our members, and our investment in conservation on Madeline Island, we have been able to permanently protect over 2,500 acres of beautiful natural areas. This year we were fortunate to receive two land donations, one five-acre parcel near the Marina and a forty-acre parcel north of Middle Road. Both parcels contain wetland and have natural elements that complement our landholdings. We are thankful for these very generous contributions.
What do we do with the money? Lots! First and foremost we work to continue the non-profit status of the organization, while overseeing and maintaining our land holdings. We have developed and managed a trail system for hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter. This year our Trails Committee collaborated with year-round residents to establish an Island-wide trails program. This group worked hard to make improvements to the Capser Trail, including a new parking area off Middle Road and a wooden foot bridge to help ford the stream without getting wet. As always, our lands are open to the public at no charge, and in the fall they are open for hunting.
The MIWP Board continues to monitor the Island real estate market, identifying parcels that may fit well with our current holdings. Our philosophy is to concentrate on environmentally significant parcels that are close, or adjacent, to our existing land. By doing this we preserve large tracts of natural habitat and prevent the negative effects of landscape fragmentation. Our annual operating budget is modest; it does not include funds for land purchases. When a parcel is identified that fits our profile, we make a specific fund-raising appeal to our membership. We also apply for government grants--matching funds that are available for the purchase of environmentally-significant lands. We are fortunate to have a very generous membership, and all of the land the Preserve owns is owned outright and without debt.
We undertake special projects as the need arises. For example, this past year the Wilderness Preserve completed the development of a GIS (Geographic Information System) database mapping system for Madeline Island. This system can layer different maps of the Island showing roads, buildings, aerial photos, plat maps, vegetation cover, slope and contour, and wetlands. We presented this system to the Town of La Point and the County of Ashland for their use in land management and Smart Growth Planning efforts.
MIWP sponsors a series of lectures and hikes during the summer season to benefit of Island residents and visitors. These are offered free of charge. Every Memorial Day weekend we sponsor The Spring Luncheon and Annual Meeting at the MIMC Clubhouse. We invite MIWP members and friends, for a nominal charge, to share in a gourmet meal and hear a fascinating lecture on the natural history of the Lake Superior region by a guest speaker. Once a year we publish this newsletter, and we are in the process of upgrading our website to better serve our members. Just for fun, we enter the annual Fourth of July parade, and have won first and second place in two of the last three years! All are welcome to parade with us!
As you can see, the MIWP does a lot with your contributions. We don’t have a paid staff, so our twelve-member, all-volunteer Board of Directors is busy all year. Our Board is loyal, dedicated and committed but, yes, we do need your continued support so together we can preserve the natural beauty of Madeline Island for generations to come.