I like to use this President’s letter as a kind of forum to think out loud about the MIWP—who we are, what we have done, where we are going. It’s easy to get caught up in the minutia of running an organization (who’s bringing the tablecloths?) and lose sight of the big stuff. Are we doing things that have value? Are we working on issues that no one else is addressing? Is the island a better place to live, walk, hunt, ski, watch birds because of the MIWP? Let’s look.
Clearly the MIWP’s biggest initiative for 2013 was invasive species work. I’ve written a lot about buckthorn and barberry, and how, if left unchecked, they will inevitably and quickly overrun the island’s understory. I won’t repeat all of that here, but this is an issue that the MIWP has targeted for a number of years. In our largest effort yet, in 2013 the MIWP donated $25,000 ($10,000 as an outright gift and $15,000 as a Wisconsin DNR grant ably managed by the indefatigable Bonnie Matuseski) to the town of La Pointe for hiring two invasive species interns. For this effort we got lots of property owner outreach, acres of cut buckthorn and barberry, a network of relationships with local environmental groups, and a comprehensive five year plan. From the town, “we appreciate your contribution to this positive initiative and care for Madeline Island, and look forward to working with you again in the future”. The future is now, and in 2014 we are working with the town again: another $10,000 outright donation and a $13,000 DNR grant. The two interns, Blake Romenesko and Hayley Weyers, are already hired and plan to work for three months starting June 1. Please welcome them as they help us take on this important problem.
For the sake of wildlife, one of our goals is maximizing a mid-island corridor of uninterrupted forest. In the last twelve months, the MIWP has purchased a twenty acre parcel just west of Benjamin Boulevard, and we have a signed purchase agreement for thirty acres contiguous to our Capser trail lands near downtown. Many thanks to Tom Kromroy whose nose for real estate continues to amaze.
The board of the MIWP has had to accept the resignations of two board members this year – John Humphrey, who worked to find articles for the Gazette, and Laurel Lein, a wonderful big hearted woman who acted as Vice-President for many years. We will miss them both. But we are very excited about our two new board members, both of whom have long-term island connections and a passion for the environment: Tom Atmore, a Twin Cities resident and attorney, and Jane Howard, director of philanthropy for the Minnesota Chapter of the Nature Conservancy. We look forward to working with them for years to come.
I want to return to the question I raised earlier about value. I still hear occasional rumbles about the MIWP not paying property taxes, not pulling its monetary weight. Yes I have a bias, but it is very clear to me that we give more than we take, some of it quantifiable ($48,000 to the Town of La Pointe in the last two years!) and some of it not. If you walk on the Capser trail, what is that worth to you? Most of the Capser trail is built on land owned by the MIWP. Were you one of the more than 400 people, many from the mainland, who saw an incredibly cool presentation by the Raptor Center last summer? Brought to you by the MIWP (and the ferry line and the museum, thanks!). Did you ski this winter on those beautiful MIWP North End ski trails (thanks to Keith Sowl for the gorgeous grooming)? All these things, and more, bring richness and complexity to the community.
As I look ahead, and in response to some requests from the community, one of the next big things we hope to take on is making those North End trails more accessible in the summer. This is a huge job, really: more than 8 miles of trails, many of them wet and barely passable. But think how wonderful it could be! If you don’t know these trails, we are offering three hikes at different times throughout the summer to introduce them. And if you already know the trails, come anyway; there is no such thing as spending too much time in the woods!
Thanks for supporting the MIWP. And may 2014 treat you well!