Land Trust Protects 40 Acres with Easement Agreement

The Door County Land Trust has announced the protection of 40 acres in Baileys Harbor owned by Tom and Cynthia Wolfe through a perpetual conservation easement agreement. It will protect the property from future development and add to protected lands within an important nearby Northern Door wildlife corridor.

The Wolfes purchased the property in 1981 and set out to rebuild a native forest. The land had been part of a 160-acre dairy farm before being used for crops and then left fallow. In 1981, after the family purchased the 40 acres, the Wolfes began to remove invasive species and replace them with native trees and shrubs. 

Since then, they have planted hundreds of trees annually and will continue to expand the forest by planting tamarack and white willow trees this year. As the forest matures and grows, it provides habitat for native wildlife and improves both water and air quality. The Wolfes want to protect and reforest their land to help combat development and climate change. 

“With climate change accelerating, conservation of nature must also accelerate to try to mitigate its deleterious effects,” Tom Wolfe said. “To quote fellow Wisconsinite John Muir, ‘Anything that is dollarable is not safe’ – meaning not safe from development.”

The property’s location on the western edge of the Ephraim-Baileys Harbor Swamp corridor means that one corner of it connects to the Ramsar-designated Door Peninsula Coastal Wetlands, an extensive wetland complex of regional and global importance. The Wolfe conservation easement will help to maintain the rural character of Baileys Harbor by preserving open space and wildlife habitat while protecting the ecological integrity of the connected landscapes.

Conservation easements are legal agreements that forever protect land and wildlife habitat but allow the land to remain in private ownership and on the tax rolls. Drew Reinke, Door County Land Trust conservation easement program manager, began working with the Wolfe family in early 2019.

“Private land conservation is becoming increasingly important in and around Door County, especially in ecologically sensitive areas experiencing an increased amount of development pressure,” Reinke said. “The great thing about conservation easements is that they keep the land in private ownership while protecting the conservation values in perpetuity.”

Landowners continue to manage their property in a way that’s consistent with the conservation easement and the long-term ecological health of the property. This conservation easement prohibits future development outside of the property’s home site – called a building envelope – which will protect the property’s ecological value for future generations.

The Wolfe conservation easement is an important step for land-protection efforts in Door County because the protected property is less than one mile from four existing conservation easement properties and about a mile and a half from the Door County Land Trust’s Kangaroo Lake Nature Preserve. 

Tom and Cynthia Wolfe hope that their conservation easement will spur similar actions in the upper Door watershed to create a larger buffer of private open space, land and habitat reserves.

The Door County Land Trust encourages landowners countywide to consider using conservation easements as a tool to protect their natural areas and farmland from development while maintaining their private ownership. Conservation easement donations may provide tax incentives while protecting the natural and scenic character of Door County. 

To learn more about conservation easements and protecting the ecological values of private land, visit or call 920.746.1359.