In 2005, the Conservancy, in partnership with the Wisconsin DNR and the Ashwabay Outdoor Education Foundation (AOEF) helped to protect the sugarbush property, located on the north face of Mt. Ashwabay. The Bayfield Regional Conservancy helped to write grant proposals to federal and state programs, which AOEF received to purchase the property. The property was then donated to State of Wisconsin and established as the Nourse Sugarbush State Natural Area.
In addition to its quality habitat for migratory song birds, gray wolf, and black bear and its old growth maple and hemlock forests, the Nourse Sugarbush has cultural and historical significance to the region. For hundreds of years, the sugarbush was a spring destination for Ojibwe people, who were the first to tap those maple trees for producing maple syrup. Slash marks from those days are still evident on the oldest trees. The Nourse family has continued the tradition since the 1920’s. A small cabin (c. 1920) and tin storage shed used for maple syrup production still exist on the property and are used for annual sugaring operations by the Nourse Family who retained lifetime rights to harvest syrup.
One of Mt. Ashwabay’s most scenic cross country ski trails passes through this area.