This is new for me, this writing of President’s letters. I am used to my Fourth of July Parade articles being buried somewhere back of page 5 or thereabouts, and this feels different. But Tom Kromroy, after 7 years of impeccable leadership, has passed on the baton to yours truly, and I would be speaking for everyone associated with the MIWP when I say thank you, Tom, for a job beautifully done. Tom will remain on the board and focus on land issues.

Since the inauguration of the Buckthorn Task Force in 2007, an ongoing project has been the attempt to eradicate common buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica) from the island. For anyone who has experienced the dense monospecific buckthorn thickets that make up way too much of the understory from New England to Saskatchewan, total eradication is an enviable and necessary goal. And, in the case of Madeline and almost nowhere else, a POSSIBLE one. This year the MIWP joined forces with the town to bring a group of Americorps workers to the island to do buckthorn and barberry cutting. We provided food and lodging for all of them in the weeks that they were able to be on the island and, although the group had to cut short its visit because of emergencies elsewhere, I think there was a sense that we made progress. The MIWP remains committed to building on this progress with the ultimate goal of buckthorn-free forests islandwide. That would be a remarkable achievement.

In 2011, the Wilderness Preserve purchased two parcels of land, both small and both adjacent to our own landholdings. The first is a five-acre piece on the north end, and the second is four acres off middle road. Both were bank-owned at the time of the sale. Both are consistent with MIWP land acquisition criteria: inland land that contributes to an undivided forest, or lands of unusual ecological significance.

There have been some big changes on the MIWP board. I mention this not so much because it will change the day to day functioning of the organization, but really to say thank-you to some wonderful, hard-working people. And hello and good luck to some new faces! The board has accepted, with regrets, the resignation of past president Bob Benjamin. Bob served as the fourth MIWP president and has a particular interest in\ conservation easements and other non-ownership methods of land preservation. Bob, we will miss you. Bob’s presence on the board has been so large that he is being replaced by two people, Ned Hancock and Adam Haecker.

As I mentioned earlier, we have had a major change in officers, with Tom Kromroy stepping down as President, leaving me, Victoria Erhart, to try to fill his exceedingly large shoes (metaphorically speaking). Laurel Lein, who has been a superb Vice-President for about as long as I can remember, is being replaced by Fred Koerschner, and Pixie Martin will take over Fred’s place as Secretary. Steve Mueller continues as Treasurer.

Since August, I have been fortunate to be able to visit Madeline Island almost every two weeks. Every time I come back, I re-remember the incredible richness that is Madeline in all seasons: the starkness of naked trees in November; over-wintering eagles; the quiet during snowstorms. In the 34 years I have been coming to Madeline, I have never lost that sense of wonder. It is the reason I joined the MIWP board 23 years ago, and it is the reason I agreed to become president of the MIWP board this year (a little arm-twisting didn’t hurt, either).

I believe in the Wilderness Preserve’s mission: preservation, education, and advocacy. I believe in the necessity of open spaces. I believe that with your help we have made and will continue to make a difference in the life of an island.

My thanks to all of you.