August 9, 2004

Van Vliet Lake Association

Letter to DNR and BCPL on Van Vliet Hemlocks


Subject: “Van Vliet Hemlocks”

Presque Isle, Wisconsin

I am writing to you on behalf of the Van Vliet Lake Association Board of Directors. Our Association is extremely interested in the continued preservation of a parcel owned by the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands located in Presque Isle Township. The parcel is known, in BCPL materials, as “Van Vliet Hemlocks”. It is an absolutely fantastic parcel and deserves to be preserved and protected into the future.

This parcel has been described in various documents as 250 to 400 acres. It has undeveloped lakeshore on two lakes of the three-lake Presque Isle chain (on Averill Lake and Van Vliet Lake). This lakeshore is more than 1 ½ miles on these two lakes. In addition, it contains lakeshore on 3 more smaller lakes inside the parcel – all of which are currently undeveloped.

This parcel also contains species which are important to preserve in Wisconsin’s northwoods. It has a substantial stand of mixed old growth hemlock and yellow birch along the Winegar moraine. The BCPL staff has identified this parcel as an “NA-1” for purposes of preservation. It has been preserved from any logging for about 2 decades. This stewardship by BCPL is to be commended.

In addition to its importance for the old growth hemlocks, it contains shoreline important to the watershed of the Presque Isle chain and the Presque Isle River. Van Vliet Lake and Presque Isle Lake are substantially developed (essentially all lots available on Van Vliet have been sold and built upon and nearly all on Presque Isle). Several lots on Averill Lake have been developed including most of what is amenable to development. As a headwaters for the Presque Isle River, it is important to maintain this watershed without significant additional development or use.

Currently, there are logging trails in this parcel. In the recent past, the Van Vliet Lake Association, in cooperation with BCPL staff, has had two naturalist hikes through the parcel. They have been outstanding educational opportunities. Other organizations in the area have shown interest in utilizing this parcel for public education. In addition to its value for its unusual biotic community, it can become an important educational parcel. At the same time, it needs to be protected from over use.

The Van Vliet Lake Association urges the BCPL and the DNR to collaborate to provide protection and preservation for this outstanding parcel. It would appear to be an excellent candidate for inclusion in the State Natural Areas program.

The Van Vliet Lake Association is a small association with limited resources. However, it has an enthusiastic membership which is doing a lot to preserve and protect Van Vliet Lake. It has organized a “Friends of the Van Vliet Hemlocks” committee as part of our association. This committee stands ready to work closely with BCPL and DNR to preserve, protect and promote the use of Van Vliet Hemlocks as a scientific and educational natural area.

Please view the Association website at to see some pictures from our trips into “the Hemlocks” (and to see our other activities).

I have also included a few comments from other interested parties:

Matt Dallman, The Nature Conservancy's, Director of Conservation in Northern Wisconsin states:

“TheVan Vliet Lake Hemlocks lie within the headwaters of the Presque Isle River, a priority conservation landscape for The Nature Conservancy. This property contains a relatively large old-growth remnant of hemlock-hardwood forest. Once dominate in Wisconsin, now this age structure of hemlock-hardwoods only comprises less than1/4 of one percent of today's forests. Protecting these forest remnants will allow forest managers to measure the health of working forests by comparing them to these benchmark stands.

In addition, protecting the over 1.5 miles of undeveloped shoreline will serve an important role in maintaining species diversity as well as preserving an important reason tourists visit the Northwoods - to get away from it all.As for maintaining the species diversity in the north, a WDNR report published in 1996 on the status of lakes and shoreline in the north, states that of the known endangered, threatened or special concern species in the north, approximately 80% are found in shoreline areas during all or part of their life.

The Nature Conservancy continues to be active in the headwaters region of the Presque Isle river watershed, exemplified by our Catherine Wolter Wilderness preserve. However we realize that it takes great means, strong partnerships and innovative ideas to protect properties like the Wolter Wilderness and the Van Vliet Hemlocks. I is our sincerehopethat a solutioncan be found that will ensure the Van Vliet Hemlocks area is protected, forever.”

According to Dennis Breitholtz, Executive Director of The North Lakeland Discovery Center:

“The North Lakeland Discovery Center would be very interested in working with the Van Vliet Lake Association in its desire to preserve this parcel of land. We currently are providing environmental studies to local elementary and high schools year round. This piece of property would allow us to expand field studies for students locally and state wide, as well as expand environmental education experiences for adults living and recreating in the North Lakeland Area.
Environmental education and preservation of our natural resources are core elements in the Discovery Center’s mission and programs ( Two of our staff naturalists have compiled a list of possible activities we would be interested in developing and facilitating on this parcel:
• Old growth forest ecology study
• Expansion of current “Woods and Water” research projects (see attachment)
• Develop nature trails and interpretive trail system with displays
• Birding hikes and bird banding programs
• Spring wildflower hikes
• Vernal forest pool study
• Spring aquatic invertebrates study
• Snowshoe winter ecology hike
• North Lakeland Elementary “outdoor ed” guided class trips and workshops
• Rare plant surveys
• Build a nature classroom (possible voyager hut replication)
• Owl calling programs
• Tracking surveys and carnivore tracking
• Ways of the watershed – comparative studies i.e. shore land development vs. undeveloped shores
• Frozen lake studies
• Night hikes – astronomy/minimal light pollution
• Comparative ecosystem investigations – old vs. new growth, etc
• Snow science and physics of snow formation, snow pack analysis, winter weather and habitat investigation
• Osprey/eagle search and monitoring”

According to Steve McComas, President of Blue Water Science, and consultant to the Van Vliet Lake Association in completing its lake management grant from the DNR:

“The potential to preserve and protect a natural shoreline area is a huge benefit to the lake environment from a water quality, wildlife and aesthetic perspective. In addition, when the dominant vegetation is a rare and unique assemblage, it makes the preservation even more valuable and a high priority. With this hemlock dominated parcel preserved and protected, the long term benefits to the lake and to the region would be significant. This "project" ranks as a high priority within the lake management plan as well.”

As you can see, we are not alone in our view of the importance of this parcel. We would be delighted to work with both the BCPL and the DNR to achieve the preservation of the Van Vliet Hemlocks. Once again, we wish to commend BCPL for its outstanding stewardship of this parcel and urge that this stewardship be continued forever.

Very truly yours,

Thomas O. Olson

Letter sent to:

Hon. Douglas LaFollette
Secretary of State
Commissioner, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
125 S. Webster Street
Madison, WI 53703

Hon. Peg Lautenschlager
Attorney General
Commissioner, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
125 S. Webster Street
Madison, WI 53703

Hon. Jack C. Voight
State Treasurer
Commissioner, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
125 S. Webster Street
Madison, WI 53703

Hon. Dan Wisniewski
Executive Secretary, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands
125 S. Webster Street
Madison, WI 53703

Hon. Scott Hassett,
Secretary, Department of Natural Resources
101 S. Webster Street
Madison, WI 53703

CC: The Nature Conservancy
North Lakeland Discovery Center
Blue Water Science
Natural Resources Foundation
Van Vliet Lake Association Board of Directors