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The Year In Green 2023

Thousands of trees were planted, more lands were protected, the future of local conservation organizations was plotted and celebrated and light was shed on the numerous environmental issues important to Door County. Meanwhile, a film that chronicles the history of Door County conservation was released in time for Earth Day 2023.

Pulse Celebrates Conservation Volunteers

Our Sustainability Issue 2023 was inspired by the docuseries Ridge and Swale, the Peninsula Filmworks production that tells the story of how Door County has worked, and continues to work, on conserving and maintaining the county’s natural beauty and heritage. From that film, we were led to the people who spend their careers in other walks of life – librarians and lawyers, teachers and business owners – yet devote their free time or their retired life to helping local environmental organizations fulfill their missions to conserve and protect this precious land we call home. These are the conservation volunteers. There is not a single environmental organization in Door County that could survive without them. They are the pieces of the bigger puzzle that, when fit together, draw strength from each other.

Ridges Sanctuary Adopts Master Plan

The Ridges Sanctuary adopted a master plan that charts a course for sustainable and strategic growth for the next 20 years. 

Crossroads Sheds Light on Lead and Arsenic Contamination

Crossroads at Big Creek embarked on a soil reclamation project at the end of the year to remove dirt on areas of its property that were former sites for mixing lead-arsenate pesticide for the orchard industry.. 

Second-Wave Worm Invasion

In the wake of discoveries of a nonnative Asian jumping worm that’s believed to harm trees and some garden plants, the Village of Egg Harbor, City of Sturgeon Bay and Town of Baileys Harbor’s Green Site temporarily stopped allowing residents to drop off brush, yard waste, old mulch or soil. By year’s end and with still not much known about the new invasive worm, they had resumed normal operations.

Shedd Scientist Focuses on Suckers in Local Streams

Karen Murchie from Shedd Aquarium visited monitoring stations in Door County streams including Big Creek. 

“Collecting data on when suckers are showing up to spawn is contributing to really important ecological knowledge for the Great Lakes,” she said.

Suckers contribute substantially to food webs.

A researcher releases a tagged sucker, like those the Shedd Aquarium watches for during the fish’s spawning runs up Big Creek near Sturgeon Bay. Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.

Land Trust Gains Access to Protect Headwaters

The Door County Land Trust (DCLT) had an active year of land-protection, efforts that included a conservation easement on a 157-acre property in the Town of Nasewaupee. Other major additions for DCLT included 150 feet of donated Lake Michigan shoreline in the Town of Clay Banks, and a 75-acre parcel that includes a vital stretch of Bear Creek – with more announcements anticipated before the year’s end.

Pat Nell retains ownership, but she granted Door County Land Trust has a conservation easement to perpetually protect this forest at the headwaters of Ahnapee Creek in the Town of Nasewaupee. Submitted.

Big Plant Gets Some 14,000+ More Trees in the Ground

This year’s Climate Change Coalition’s Big Plant initiative got some 14,000 more trees in the ground – a record-setting amount achieved with some 80 local organizations in addition to private landowners.

The Big Plant 2023. File photo by Rachel Lukas.

Scientists Discuss Water-Quality Research

Door County Environmental Council hosted speakers in a series on the conditions of waters surrounding Door County, including J. Val Klump, a foremost limnologist and biogeochemist, on “The Future of the Bay of Green Bay.” His research explores the presence and dynamics of “dead zones” – places where the oxygen level is too low to support most aquatic life.  

Citizen Scientists Help Organizations

The inaugural Citizen Science Symposium, at The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor allowed citizen scientists and potential volunteers for The Ridges Sanctuary, Door County Land Trust, Climate Change Coalition, and Crossroads at Big Creek to learn about projects and opportunities. 

Expert Connects Climate Change with Soil Loss Crisis

The Climate Change Coalition of Door County turned 10 this year and celebrated with a dinner and program at About Thyme in Baileys Harbor, and with Jo Handelsman, the associate director for science at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy under President Barack Obama, as the featured speaker. Handelsman connected the climate change and the soil-loss crisis in her talk, which is also the subject of her 2023 book, A World Without Soil.

Local Municipalities Look at Banning Coal-Tar-Based Sealants

Some Door County municipalities began considering bans on coal-tar-based sealants that contain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, a class of toxic contaminants that don’t break down in the environment and are known to have harmful impacts on human health and the environment.

The Town of Gibraltar this year became the second municipality – after Sturgeon Bay – in Door County to adopt a ban.

Some Door County municipalities are banning the use of coal tar-based sealants because the state has not enacted a ban of the substances that are harmful to children’s health and to Great Lakes waters and aquatic life when it flakes and runs off. Photo contributed.

New Antenna Network Monitors Migratory Birds 

To track migration timing and changes, Lake Michigan Bird Observatory installed two dozen Motus radio-telemetry stations to detect signals from bands on birds along Lake Michigan – including Washington Island, Ridges’ nature center at Baileys Harbor, Algoma High School, Door County Astronomical Society, to name a few.

Installed below the osprey nesting platform at The Ridges Sanctuary in Baileys Harbor, antennas help North American ornithologists monitor timing and speed of migrations by banded birds of special concern. Photo by Rachel Lukas.