MADISON -- The Natural Resources Board on Wednesday, June 26, accepted a 362-acre donation of Door County land that expands recreational opportunities and protects a rare boreal forest along Lake Michigan. The land harbors dozens of rare animals and plants, including several species of wild native orchids.

The donation from The Nature Conservancy expands Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest State Natural Area in Door County from 486 acres, and opens the new parcel to outdoors activities including hiking, bird-watching and hunting. The conservancy used private dollars, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant and funds from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program to acquire the land.

"This is a tremendous gift to Wisconsinites now and in the future," said Drew Feldkirchner, head of the DNR Natural Heritage Conservation program responsible for managing State Natural Areas.

"We are grateful for the generosity and partnership of The Nature Conservancy. Their donation safeguards a truly unique property and expands opportunities for nature-based recreation and appreciation."

Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest and Wetlands is part of an internationally recognized wetland, and is designated as one of roughly 100 critical habitat areas for birds. Its location along the northeastern coast of the Door Peninsula, influenced by the cool waters of Lake Michigan, allows northern plant and animal species and a boreal forest to thrive far south of their normal range.

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The enlarged state natural area will be managed in part with funds made available through a generous endowment from Patricia Stocking and managed by the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin. A 190-acre unit of the Baileys Harbor Boreal Forest State Natural area was designated in 2013 to honor Stocking's late husband, former Natural Resources Board member and chair Jonathan P. Ela, to commemorate his long career and accomplishments as an environmentalist.

The board also approved land donations that will enlarge the Rush Creek State Natural Area in Crawford County to safeguard rare bluff prairie along the Mississippi River and the Ferry Bluff State Natural Area to benefit wintering bald eagles in southern Wisconsin.

"Through their generous gifts, Groundswell Conservancy and Ferry Bluff Eagle Council members have made sure that Ferry Bluff remains an important winter roost site and part of bald eagles' great comeback story,” Feldkirchner said.

“Mycelium LLC has helped assure that rare bluff prairies on the Mississippi River bluff are protected. These lands now belong to all Wisconsinites, and we appreciate their investments in making sure these special places and rare species will be around for future generations to enjoy," Feldkirchner added.

A fourth donation, a 0.2-acre land donation from the Terry J. Tappon and Cathleen M. Tappon Trust, will expand accessibility for anglers and property managers to the Gilbert Creek Fishery Area in Dunn County.