SATURDAY, JUNE 2, 2007

Easement to protect Louis' Bluff

By Kay James, Dells Events

The Natural Heritage Land Trust purchased a conservation easement to protect Louis' Bluff this week.

The 133.5-acre property, in the town of Lyndon in Juneau County, includes more than 7,000 feet of undeveloped shoreline on the Wisconsin River, all within the Dells of the Wisconsin River State Natural Area,

Frank and Marianna Weinhold of Madison are the owners of the property.

Frank Weinhold in a telephone interview said they decided to do the conservation easement to ensure the bluff is protected as is. "There's lots to preserve," he said citing fishing, scenery and "beautiful solitude. It's a chance to escape wholesale development."

Jim Welsh, executive director, Natural Heritage Land Trust said the easement protects the sandstone formation known as Louis' Bluff and surrounding lowland forest. "Basically it limits further development of property  to keep it pristine. Our responsibility is to monitor property and future landowners. We were given a public trust to keep undeveloped."

Both sides - the Weinholds and the trust have made a big commitment to preserving the bluff as it is. "It's as rich as anything imagined."

"People from all over Wisconsin and beyond will benefit from the permanent protection of Louis' Bluff. Although still private property, the protected land is visible to all who go boating on the Wisconsin River above the Dells,"

Louis' Bluff is located north of Witches Gulch and Stand Rock on the Upper Dells of the Wisconsin River. Although not owned by the Department of Natural Resources, Weinhold said the DNR is in the partnership with the Natural Heritage Trust.

Weinhold hopes the conservation easement will set a precedent for others in the Dells. He noted that not much has been done with conservation easements or sale of development rights in Adams and Juneau counties or around the Dells. More has been done in the Baraboo Bluffs and around Madison.

The Natural Heritage Land Trust is a nonprofit organization that has been in existence for 24 years. Welsh said its mission is to protect important places. Some of the conservation projects it has been involved in have been to help Merrimac create park, and to help farmers pay for development rights in Dunn and Windsor townships in Dane County. Much of its work has been in Dane County, he said, and added the trust has limited resources.

With the quality of this property, Weinhold said, he hopes that others in the Dells will consider the same option.

Weinhold and the Trust declined to say how much was paid for the conservation easement. "It's not a humongous amount," he said.

The DNR's Stewardship program awarded the Natural Heritage Trust a $52,100 grant this year to be matched by an equal amount under the Stewardship - Nonprofit Conservation Awards Program.

Louis' Bluff is named for early settler Louis Dupless.