A Timeline of Conservation

There is a remarkable history of conservation across this country, within the state of Wisconsin and closest to home, within Door County. The timeline below captures the arc and sweep of that history in summary form. 

The timeline is inspired by a new, two-part docuseries, Ridge and Swale, that tells the stories of those who fight for the land. 

Ridge and Swale is being released on Earth Day – Saturday, April 22 – with a special public showing at 7 pm at Door Community Auditorium, 3926 Hwy 42 in Fish Creek. Another public showing will take place Sunday, April 23, 3:30 pm, at Crossroads at Big Creek, 2041 Michigan St. in Sturgeon Bay. The docuseries will also be available for viewing online.Produced by Peninsula Filmworks, the series is made possible by its sponsors: the Peninsula Pulse, Destination Door County, The Ridges Sanctuary, Door County Medical Center and The Clearing.

1848: Wisconsin becomes a state

1851, 1861: Door County was created in 1851, and formally organized in 1861

1864: Lincoln preserves land in California
President Abraham Lincoln signed into law a preserve of land in California that eventually became Yosemite National Park.

1872: First national park in the world: Yellowstone National Park
President Ulysses S. Grant signs the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act into law, protecting more than 2 million acres for future generations to enjoy.

1878: Wisconsin’s first state park ends up being in name only
The state legislature voted to save 760 square miles of northern Wisconsin forest from the lumberman’s ax. Unfunded and virtually inaccessible to most of the state’s constituents, The State Park, as it was called, was a park in name only and was eventually sold off to the very interests from which it was intended to be protected.

1885: National attention to land preservation ramps up
The state of New York enacted legislation that created the now-6-million-acre Adirondack State Park and Forest Preserve.

1891: Minnesota acquires lands that eventually become its first state park: Itasca

1891: First land trust formed by the Massachusetts Trustees of Reservations

1900: Wisconsin’s Interstate State Park created at the Dalles of the Saint Croix River 
Although it can claim to be the first in the state, there were still no plans to create a system of state parks as we have today.

1907: Wisconsin State Parks Board created

1909: Peninsula State Park created

1916: National Park Service founded
President Woodrow Wilson signed the Organic Act, creating the National Park Service: a new federal bureau within the Department of the Interior responsible for protecting the 35 national parks and monuments then managed by the department and those yet to be established.

1928: Potawatomi State Park created

1935: Jens Jensen founds The Clearing

1937: The Ridges Sanctuary incorporated, creating Wisconsin’s first land trust
Baileys Harbor residents, including Emma Toft and Olivia Traven, were the founders. Education and advocacy were provided for two years prior by Albert Fuller, then curator of botany at the Milwaukee Public Museum; and Jens Jensen, founder of The Clearing.

1964: Newport State Park created

1967: Whitefish Dunes State Park created

1967: Jens Jensen Convinces Aldo Leopold & Others to Conserve Whitefish Bay – A newspaper article dated May 7, 1967 chronicled how, in the 1940s, Leopold traveled to Door County with the state conservation commission and heard Jens Jensen speak on behalf of the preservation of Whitefish Bay (which was created this year).

1967: Toft Point created

1969: Rock Island State Park created

1969: Door County Environmental Council created

1970-present: April 22 designated as Earth Day

1986: Door County Land Trust created

1989: Climate Change Coalition created

1992: Crossroads at Big Creek created

1998: The Green Fund created at Door County Community Foundation