/ Articles / Northwoods Land Trust acquires Hemlock Island in Presque Isle

Northwoods Land Trust acquires Hemlock Island in Presque Isle

April 19, 2020

On Feb. 27, Richard and Carol Phillips of Seguin, Texas and Presque Isle, donated a conservation easement to the Northwoods Land Trust (NWLT). This conservation easement will protect forever all of Hemlock Island on Wildcat Lake in Presque Isle in Vilas County.

Conservation easements are voluntary agreements between a landowner and a land trust to permanently protect privately-owned property. Landowners continue to pay taxes, enjoy the property, and may pass it down to heirs. Conservation easements also benefit the public by protecting natural lakeshore, forests and wildlife habitat, and providing clean water and air and scenic beauty.

Carol Phillips vacationed at Wildcat Lodge Resort on Wildcat Lake with her family as a child, and after marrying Richard, continued annual vacations at Wildcat Lake. Eventually, the Phillips bought a cabin on Wildcat Lake.

In 2017, Richard Phillips discovered the largest island, Hemlock Island, was privately owned and facing tax delinquency, so started the three-year path to acquire the property and protect it from development. The island was completely wild, and the Phillips were anxious that it remain so. The challenge in protecting the island was it had been passed by inheritance to 12 separate owners.

The Phillips patiently worked through the process of contacting all 12 of the property owners. All agreed to sell their interest, as they didn’t have a personal connection to the region and supported the Phillips’ plan to protect the island. After purchasing all shares of the island with the support of the Northwoods Land Trust, the Phillips, as sole owners, donated a conservation easement to the land trust.

“Ever since I vacationed at Wildcat Lodge as a kid, my favorite thing about Wildcat Lake was its extensive natural shoreline and the wildlife it attracted,” Carol Phillips said. “It means a great deal to me to be able to forever protect beautiful Hemlock Island and the wildlife it nurtures.”

Hemlock Island is approximately 4.5 acres in size with 2,252 feet of natural shoreline, and is in the Border Lakes region of Vilas County, an area boasting extensive forests, wetlands, lakes, and streams along Wisconsin’s northern boundary with Michigan. The Border Lakes region contains more than 100 lakes connected by a complex network of high-quality wetlands and streams, supporting a diversity of native fish and other wildlife.

Although the island is not open to the public, it provides many public benefits including wildlife habitat for nesting birds and spawning fish, scenic value to residents and visitors to Wildcat Lake, protection of water quality by limiting runoff into Wildcat Lake, and complimenting protective efforts of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The state owns the lake’s four other islands and the Northern Highland-American Legion State Forest is on the south end of Wildcat Lake.

“The Northwoods Land Trust is grateful to Richard and Carol for their determination to protect Hemlock Island for the health of Wildcat Lake, and the benefit of the fish, wildlife and people that enjoy the lake,” NWLT land protection coordinator Kari Kirschbaum said. “Because of their tenacity and generosity, the island will remain wild and scenic forever.”

The Northwoods Land Trust is a member and volunteer supported non-profit conservation organization. With an office in downtown Eagle River, NWLT works with private landowners who wish to permanently conserve their natural shoreland, woodland and wetland habitats in Vilas, Oneida, Forest, Florence, Iron, Price and northern Langlade counties. Today NWLT permanently protects over 13,600 acres of land and 72 miles of natural lake and river shoreline, including properties owned and managed by NWLT that are open to the public for hiking, snowshoeing, skiing, hunting, fishing and trapping.

For more information, call NWLT at 715-479-2490, see the website at www.northwoodslandtrust.org, or visit the office at 519 E. Wall St. in Eagle River.

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