Stewardship Funding Targeted for Two Door County Projects

Two Door County projects have been targeted for Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Grants for conservation and public recreational purposes. The notification went to the Door County Board of Supervisors via a letter from Jeremy Holtz, grant-project manager with the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). 

State law requires the DNR to inform the county board of the potential funding. The board may then adopt a nonbinding resolution in support of, or in opposition to, land acquisition funded by the stewardship program. There’s no obligation for the county board to do so, however, and although the notification letters were included in board members’ April 18 meeting packet, the board did not take action.

Neither are the awards a done deal. 

“The stewardship acquisition program has a lot of layers, and the acquisitions are selected by the DNR secretary’s office in the stage that we just passed,” Holtz told the Peninsula Pulse

If the awards are less than $250,000 – as both are – the DNR secretary’s office makes decisions on the projects that will be funded. Project requests of more than that must also go through the Joint Finance Committee. 

The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program was created in 1989 and has, to date, invested $30,829,500 in 260 projects in Door County. To get a detailed look at these projects, visit

Up to $249,000 has been earmarked for the Door County Land Trust project and $22,000 for The Nature Conservancy project, Holtz said.

The grants cover half of the acquisition expenses and half of the acquisition costs up to the land’s appraised value. Because of this, actual grant awards aren’t known until the deal is done. Until then, the DNR’s award is considered tentative.

“‘Tentatively awarded’ simply means there is an exhaustive process in place to review and approve the acquisition” to ensure clear title and a property free of environmental or archaeological issues, Holtz said. “If any one of many possible problems arises, the deal might fall through, and the funds would no longer be set aside for the project. So right now I have the funds enough to cover what was approved, and hopefully in the coming months, we will have the acquisition complete, and the rest of the details can be shared.”

The Tentative Projects 

The Door County Land Trust (DCLT) project involves acquiring roughly 36 acres in the Town of Union. 

“If the Land Trust is successful in acquiring this property, it will be open to the public for nature-based recreational activities, including hunting and hiking,” said Carrie Ehrfurth, DCLT land-protection specialist.

The deal is not finished, with negotiations still taking place. More specific details would be available once the Land Trust successfully purchases the property. 

The DCLT is partnering with state and federal agencies to protect what Ehrfurth referred to as a “high-quality habitat.” 

“The tract we’re seeking to protect includes a mature northern dry-mesic forest, and the property is part of the Green Bay watershed,” she said. “This forest serves as important migratory stopover habitat for birds during both spring and fall migration.”

The DCLT has stopped asking for more than $250,000 in Knowles-Nelson funding because it no longer wants to risk a project holdup by the Joint Finance Committee, which can deny projects anonymously without explaining why.

“We still have a significant amount of the funding for the project that must be raised from donors and the community, too,” said Cinnamon Rossman, DCLT director of charitable giving. “Grant funding can be applied to the purchase price and some associated costs, and donor funding is needed to ensure the long-term management and permanence of our conservation work.” 

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) project involves acquiring more than 12 acres of contiguous, high-quality northern wet-mesic forest in the Town of Baileys Harbor that provides excellent coastal forest habitat for migratory and breeding birds that’s close to North Bay and Mud Lake. 

“Protecting this parcel will also contribute widely to maintaining the quality of the surface water and groundwater flowing from this area to other wetlands extending toward North Bay,” said Michele Kille, TNC strategic partnerships manager. “Native and uncommon species have been recorded in significant numbers in similar nearby habitats and will likely benefit from the addition of this parcel to TNC’s North Bay Preserve. This parcel adjoins TNC-owned lands and will enhance public nature-based outdoor recreation opportunities at the preserve.”

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