Land on Lake Owen Added to Ntl. Forest (WI)

Drummond, WI, 4/29/03 – The USDA Forest Service and The Trust for Public Land (TPL) announced today the protection of land that once served as a summer boys camp known as Camp Shewahmegon on Lake Owen. The 23.5-acre property includes more than 1,000 feet of lakeshore on this beautiful northern Wisconsin lake and will be incorporated in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forests in Bayfield County.

The protection of lakeshore property has been a priority of the Forest Service and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR). According to a Wisconsin DNR report, the average number of dwellings on privately owned lakes have more than doubled in the last 30 years. Estimates show that northern Wisconsin’s lakes will be fully developed by 2015 if current trends continue.

TPL secured the property using its Northwoods Land Protection Fund, a capital revolving fund established to support high-priority conservation projects. The Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest then purchased the property through an appropriation from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, with strong support of the Wisconsin Congressional delegation, especially Rep. David R. Obey (WI-7) and Senators Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold.

“Wisconsin is losing lakefront properties like this at a considerable rate,” notes Shaun Hamilton, TPL’s Northwoods Initiative Director. “Thanks to the leadership of Rep. Obey, Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, Senator Kohl, a member of the Senate appropriations committee and Senator Feingold, TPL was able to move quickly to protect this shoreline for the public.”

“Investing in outdoor recreation and shoreline conservation is important to people who fish and hike Lake Owen — and enjoy the Forest throughout the Northwoods,” said Rep. Obey.

Every summer since 1934, young boys from throughout the upper Midwest came to the shores of Wisconsin’s Lake Owen to experience the great Northwoods of Wisconsin. The promotional brochures for Camp Shewahmegon promised a summer “free of hurry, strain, worry and envy.” As the popularity of Wisconsin shoreline property exploded in recent decades, the shoreline of Camp Shewahmegon became an increasingly valuable property to developers and second-home buyers. With the cost of operating a summer camp becoming prohibitive, Gerry and Bill Will and family, camp owners since 1947, decided to close the camp. Choosing conservation over development, the Will’s contacted TPL to protect the land from the rapid lakefront development occurring throughout the region. Following its transfer to the U.S. Forest Service, the property will be in a period of transition to public use while the current owners relocate and the camp structures are removed.

Located near the Northern Great Divide that separates the Great Lakes from the Mississippi River watershed, 7-mile-long Lake Owen was used by Native Americans as the starting point of the continental waterway passage leading from Lake Superior to the Gulf of Mexico. The North Country National Scenic Trail passes immediately to the north of this property along the northern great divide. Through this protection effort, the very shoreline that Native Americans may have used to begin a cross-continental journey, and where countless Midwestern boys experienced “the joy of being alive” will remain natural and undeveloped, a place future generations can return to experience the essence of the Northwoods experience.

The Trust for Public Land (TPL), established in 1972, is a national nonprofit land conservation organization specializing in conservation real estate, applying its expertise in negotiations, public finance, and law, to conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, gardens, and natural areas, ensuring livable communities for generations to come. Across the nation, TPL has helped protect more than 1.6 million acres. Through its Northwoods Initiative, a regional conservation program focused on northern Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, TPL is assisting communities and public agencies in identifying and protecting sensitive and threatened lands. The Trust for Public Land depends on the support and generosity of individuals, foundations, and businesses to achieve our land for people mission.