Koepsels Care for Wetlands

Land is a family affair.

Farmers are known for their relentless practice to keep their soil fertile, so that it will be more fertile than when they left it for their children to till. But land stewardship does not end at those who turn a profit from the land they keep.

Don and Donna Koepsel have understood the importance of their wetlands for three generations of their family. Caring for natural land is as important to them as the rest of the county they have called home for their entire life.

“I do as much as I can,” said Don Koepsel. “Seeing ducks and listening to geese at daybreak is an awesome part of owning wetlands. This land will be passed on to my kids and their kids.”

But maintenance on a natural land is a bit of a paradox.

“You want to be careful not to pollute it with sprays and fertilizers and things like that, but otherwise it pretty much maintains itself,” said Koepsel. “One thing they like to see is to keep invasive species out and in some cases that’s difficult to do.”

To ensure the prosperity of the Koepsel wetlands for generations, it comes down to education. They visit workshops for wetland landowners and spend time walking through their own property.

“We were interested in seeing what other landowners were doing,” Don said. “My grandson’s parents work on the weekends so we have him with us on Saturdays and thought this would be an interesting outing to bring him to. It was a chance for all of us to learn more about wetlands.”

Tracy Hames from the Wisconsin Wetlands Association has walked the property with the Koepsels, pointing out the unique geography that is rare outside of the Door County peninsula.

Private landowners own 75 percent of wetlands, giving landowners a vital role in caring for wetlands. This is especially true in Door County. Due to its location and geography, the county is a wetland-rich area of Wisconsin and wetlands make up 18 percent of the county.

By caring for the land around the wetlands and by protecting the health of the wetlands with good management, Koepsel has ensured their wetlands are good habitat for wildlife.

Their land is host to otter, eagles, muskrat, deer, turkeys, coyotes, and the endangered Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly.

“Without these wetlands, they would no longer be,” said Koepsel.

Growing up on a farm, Koepsel always found time to explore the wetlands. It is something his children and grandchildren enjoy doing today. Koepsel’s grandsons especially enjoy seeing the suckers in the creek during spring, something Don had done with his grandfather and father when he was young.

Over Koepsel’s life and the lives of his ancestors, the land has supported them by hosting dairy cows and Holstein cattle. Koepsel’s parents raised mink on the land before the global market pushed them out. Since the 1950s, Koepsel’s Farm Market, now owned by Don’s youngest sister Karrie Oram, has continued to support the family and their land.

For Koepsel, even though the mink and the cows are gone and he begins looking ahead to future generations, his stewardship of the land still rewards him.

“We’re only here for a short time. We’re only caretakers of this land for a little while.”


The Door County Festival of Nature on May 26-29 will feature keynote speakers and field trips to natural areas throughout the county and will feature a special series of field trips for people interested in learning about wetlands, including the Koepsels’ property. Early registration is encouraged. For information on field trip registration and other events, visit


If you’re a wetland landowner and want to know more about how you can care for your wetlands, contact Katie Beilfuss, Outreach Programs Manager at Wisconsin Wetlands Association, at [email protected].

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