By Dennis McCann
Roger Dreher bought his first parcel of land on little Lake Wilipyro near Drummond in 1983 and began building a house on the property two years later, a project that would take “every weekend and day of vacation for the next seven years.”
Last fall an adjacent parcel came up for sale and Dreher bought that, too, reasoning that as long as he owned both there would be no further development or shoreline disruption on the small lake he has come to regard as a special place.
“Then I started thinking, this is fine as long as I’m here,” Dreher said, which raised the obvious question of how long that would be. Not forever, he knew.
“That’s when I became serious about protecting it for the long term.”
Now he has. This fall, Dreher obtained a conservation easement that will protect his roughly 15 acres of mixed conifer and hardwood forests, along with 630 feet of shoreline, into perpetuity. And in working with the Bayfield Regional Conservancy to draft and complete the easement Dreher offered a textbook example of what is meant by practicing what you preach. For the last five years he has served on the board of BRC, whose mission it is to protecting land and water resources in northern Wisconsin, often through just such conservation easements.
“I think if I’m going to be active on the board and believe in their mission and I had a chance to do it myself,” he said, “then (the easement) became important. It was one more chance to eliminate the possibility of (further development) on this lake.”
Dreher said his first step was identifying the conservation values that would be served by such an easement, including shoreline protection, providing habitat for many species of wildlife and birds, along with aquatic birds and animals on a portion that includes a tamarack wetland. Protecting the property also would serve as a buffer from other development in the watershed that would protect the water quality not only of Lake Wilipyro but other waters downstream. Dreher said such protections were in concert with both the Bayfield County Comprehensive Plan and the Town of Drummond Lake Use Plan, which calls for preserving the area’s “northwoods character,” shorelines, wildlife habitat and protecting surface water quality while limiting overdevelopment of shorelines.
The easement was also in keeping with Dreher’s longtime work with inland lake associations. Protecting 15 acres on Lake Wilipyro, which Dreher said “nobody knows anything about, because it’s a real small lake,” is a much smaller project and carries a lower profile than many easements that BRC has taken on, but Dreher said it was important in other ways. Inland lakes can best be protected against water quality degradation and loss of habitat and scenic beauty, he said, when individual owners step up and eliminate the possibility of piecemeal development in the future.
“If we’re going to preserve inland lakeshores for the long term it’s going to be a parcel by parcel by parcel thing,” he said. “One landowner at a time.”
Already, he said, he is working to inform some of his neighbors about his reasons for granting an easement in hopes they will consider the same course. His experience in drafting the easement and getting it approved by BRC could serve as a template for others to follow, he said, perhaps reducing the expense of preparing and approving similar easements.
Dreher noted that the easement, while preventing further development of the property,
is flexible enough for him to continue to use and enjoy his home and even expand the house or
garage if he wishes. BRC, the non-profit regional land trust founded in 1996, will annually
monitor the property to ensure other terms of the easement are met.