When a Wisconsin Champion Tree falls in the forest it is noted in DNR data bases and where once there was a tree is now filled with sunlight. They leave a sense of loss and celebration, and in the sunlight grows a new forest made better by the champion’s presence. Lowell Klessig, a champion of environmental stewardship in Wisconsin, passed this way on August 8th. He was 69 years young and a BRC member since 2004.
A mentor to many, friends filled his online guest book with memories and condolences. In appreciation they honored an exceptional man with “a bright smile,” who loved to share his love of the environment. “Lowell walked the talk, and contributed so much to the public’s understanding of environmental stewardship,” said Mark Peterson, Director of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute.
“He was a gift – especially to the environmental community and will be sorely missed,” wrote Anne and Larry Graham from Stevens Point.
Lowell wrote hundreds of non-technical publications for citizens interested in natural resources and thousands of short experiential essays. As a Lake District Specialist with UW Extension, he crisscrossed the state to help lake property owners and county boards develop stewardship plans and lake districts.
“Multitudes of Wisconsinites have unknowingly benefitted from his many contributions to enhance our lakes, streams, forests, farms and communities,” commented Steve Menzel from UW Stevens Point.
Lowell has managed forest properties for 43 years in three counties in Wisconsin and particularly valued forests for their scenic beauty. His passion for the land led him to enroll his properties in conservation easements. Just before his death Lowell donated a conservation easement to BRC to forever protect his 80 acre “Un-Hilton, north of the tension zone” property in Highbridge, WI with a conservation easement. It was clear that this was a priority for Lowell who was ill with Creutzfeldt - Jakob disease, a rare disease that affects one in a million people. His wife of 35 years, Christine posted the following description:
“It is comforting to know that this loved and cherished piece of the Wisconsin Northwoods will be protected for future generations,” says Chris who refers to her husband as a “philosophical farmer,” and adds “Lowell sets a good example, doesn’t he?” In his lifetime he has seen a dream come true.
BRC board member Kim Bro was Lowell’s housemate at the UnHilton in 1973. He later was part of Lowell’s and Chris’s wedding celebration and participated in many Fall Color Festivals there. Kim wrote:
“Lowell called the original 1910 Finnish dove-tail corner log homestead “The Un-Hilton” because he enjoyed hosting friends in this unpretentious, natural setting. For several decades, he sent his many friends and family members open invitations to his annual Fall Colors Festival during the last weekend in September. Dozens of people showed up each year with tents, teepees, sleeping bags, and potluck contributions to enjoy Lowell’s hospitality. He tapped a keg and always had plenty of wood for the cast iron cook stove. Just as the original Poppe homesteaders did at the turn of the century, we enjoyed cool, fresh water from the flowing spring uphill from the cabin.” Lowell had purchased the property over 35 years ago just prior to serving as deputy director of the Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute.
Lowell’s conservation values for the easement include protecting the wetlands, intermittent streams, Trout Brook, forests and natural wildlife habitat, “significant in contributing to the viability of local ecological systems.” The easement allows certain agricultural practices on the old farm at the same time that it protects natural habitats and water quality in Lake Superior headwaters.
A fall view from the UnHilton property is the cover photo on the book One Family’s Forest that Alan Haney and Lowell wrote in 2010 about how to keep family properties intact across the generations. “It’s clear that Lowell had the UnHilton in mind when he wrote of the decisions before the fictitious family in the book” Bro says. “Lowell showed the strong connections between people and the places they love.”
“Lowell…an unsung hero,” says Menzel. His full obituary can be found on www.hollyfuneralhome.com/obituaries/Lowell-Klessig/.
Consider the Following
Two challenge grants by two BRC members will mean we can repair water erosion issues on the much used Brownstone Trail and provide a small stipend for a winter intern from Northland College. Please join them with any contribution. Money can be sent to the BRC via our address at P.O. Box 410, Bayfield, WI 54814 or online at brcland.org/donate. Please indicate which challenge grant you are supporting.
Called ” The Brownstone Trail Initiative,” Steve Mosow and Barbara McGraw have graciously offered up to $250 of matched donations to solve the problem of standing water from hillside springs. This summer the trail got wider and muddier as walkers and bikers tried to avoid a couple of problem areas. Fortunately for BRC, two of our members are planning a solution based on their expertise in hydrology and engineering.
Called “The Internship Fund,” Jon Martin, Northland College Assistant Professor of Forestry will match up to $150 to help support an intern that will work with BRC staff this winter. “Interns are invaluable to our program,” says Meghan Dennison, Director. “Not only do they work side by side with staff in the office and field, but they also learn what it takes to run a membership dependent, non-profit land trust. What they pick up here goes well beyond the classroom and remains with them in their subsequent career path.”
Lincoln Community Forest Receives Important Grant
$858.00. Depending on what you are buying, that does not seem like much. Add to it an estimated $1,127.50 in volunteer hours brings the number up to $1,985.54. Consider that it will be spent greeting hundreds of visitors with information on where to walk, how not to spread invasive species and impact natural features, what the BRC and Lincoln Community Forest are, how visitors can get involved and learn more about the forest, where they can leave comments, and lastly have a seat to absorb the surroundings. All for $858, thanks to the Plum Creek Foundation who is funding an attractive wooden kiosk that will replace notices nailed to a tree and in a borrowed displayed case. “The kiosk will help us reach trail users with important and pertinent information,” says Mark Dryer, president of the 164 member Friends of the Lincoln Community Forest who cooperatively manage the land with the BRC who own it. The land is open to many forms of recreation. “The grant will further help us fulfill our role as land stewards of this remarkable 400 acre preserve along the Marengo River,” adds Mark. The “Friends Group” hopes to have the kiosk in place before this winter. The Seattle based Plum Creek Foundation works to improve the quality of life in Plum Creek operation area communities. Their tag line reads “Growing Value from Exceptional Resources.” To date there are 2-1/2 miles of public trail and plans for many more. The Lincoln Community Forest can be found just outside of Lincoln, WI. For more information go to www.friendslcf.com.