May-2003 annual bird hike;  MIWP founding member, Bob Coffin, at center

May-2003 annual bird hike; 
MIWP founding member, Bob Coffin, at center

2017 is a special year for the Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve as we celebrate our 30th birthday! This is a significant milestone for the Preserve and a time to look back on our history, how we’ve changed in 30 years and where we’re headed in the future.

From Bob Coffin, Founding Member of the Wilderness Preserve in 2007: 

Twenty years ago, a group of residents from the north end of Madeline Island gathered in the living room of Bob and Norma Schaub. We discussed that, as the lakeshore property of the island was filling up, the pressure of subdivision would move to the interior of the Island. We could lose the very essence of what we all, summer and full-time residents, had come to enjoy the most; the undisturbed wilderness—forest and bog.

Using the example of a citizen-led land conservation effort on Nantucket Island, located off the shore of Massachusetts, we decided it would be prudent to acquire and preserve open natural land while it was still available. David Thomas pointed out that a 200-acre tract, next to the Blueberry Bog at the north end of the Island, was proposed for subdivision and sale. From this fireside chat, came the decision to form a non-profit land conservation organization. The Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve—incorporated on May 30th of 1987.

Five families stepped forward and made the down payment. It was a risky proposition. There was no clear plan for paying off the mortgage. There was no assurance that there would be broad support for the creation of a land trust on Madeline Island.

A Board of Directors was formed and officers were elected. Our first full board included Island luminaries like Bill Wheeler, Nucy Meech, and Chas Bennett.

Within one year more than 100 families had joined the Preserve and we received two challenge grants, one of $40,000 and one of $100,000. Encouraged by such an enthusiastic response, the Board of Directors identified two additional parcels of land, these at the south end of the island, that would ensure that some of the Island’s most sensitive ecosystems are preserved forever…
— Bob Coffin, Founding Member of MIWP

Thirty years later the Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve owns and manages 2600+ acres of wild and natural land on Madeline Island supported by over 300 family memberships. These natural areas are protected and preserved for the enjoyment of everyone.  

The Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve has made some changes in the 30 years since its inception to reflect the changing environment and the interests of our members and our community. The original purpose of our organization was to acquire and preserve open natural land and that is still an objective of MIWP. Additionally, we have expanded our mission to other areas that serve to protect and preserve nature on the island.  

We believe it is important not only for these natural areas to be set aside but also for those living on and visiting the island to be able to experience them. Experiencing these areas of solitude and beauty builds our appreciation for nature and reminds us of the restorative effect of being out in it.  We also offer summer educational programs and guided hikes as an opportunity to expand our knowledge of nature around us. This year we will hold a record nine summer programs and six guided summer hikes. 

Last year we asked for your input on what our organization’s priorities should be going forward. Based on your comments and our mission we have organized our work into four major areas: 

  1. Education
  2. Land Management and Trails
  3. Invasive Species Management
  4. Land Acquisition

In each of these areas we are scoping our work to maximize effectiveness within the constraints of the resources we have. Additionally, we will continue to request input from our members as to other areas we should prioritize. 

Often, we are asked by members what they can do to help. Here is where we need you: 

  1. Experience the Preserve’s protected areas on the Island. Take a hike on one or more of the MIWP trails.
  2. Provide us with your comments, concerns, opinions, input on what our organization is doing and what we should do in the future.
  3. Volunteer to help MIWP. We have a dedicated volunteer board but are always in need of additional assistance.
  4. Please renew your membership in the Preserve. If you have already renewed this year we ask that you consider an additional contribution in 2017. This is especially important now with the current political situation at the Federal and State level.

Our website, is a great place to contact us, make a donation, print trail maps, or find out anything else about MIWP. You can also make a donation using the form included with our annual newsletter.

THANK YOU for your continued support of the Madeline Island Wilderness Preserve. We have accomplished much in our first 30 years and with your help we look forward to preserving and protecting Madeline Island’s natural areas for many years to come.