Conservation Easement a Gift to Southern Door Water Quality


Water quality in Southern Door has been handed a rare gift through a conservation easement agreement recently donated to Door County Land Trust. Owned by Patricia A. Nell, of Sturgeon Bay, the 158-acre property contains a portion of the headwaters of the Ahnapee River and surrounding wetlands that slow down water runoff and filter sediments and nutrients before entering the river.

According to conservation easement program manager, Drew Reinke, the easement agreement protects the land and water while benefiting future generations. “The headwaters will be protected in perpetuity, keeping water quality protection as a top conservation focus for the Land Trust in Southern Door,” he said.

Along with the Land Trust, water quality has another ally in resident conservationist Pat Nell. She explains the importance of being vigilant. “I’ll be keeping an eye on how high my wetlands get,” she said. “If water is pumped from the nearby quarry the wrong way, it goes into everybody’s yards and my wetlands will dry out.”

The Nell conservation easement property is also abundant with wildlife, providing a habitat for red fox, white-tailed deer, turkeys, and ruffed grouse, among others. Thanks to the conservation easement agreement, these species’ habitat will be protected forever through stewardship by the Land Trust.

Patricia and her late husband, Lewis Gibson, M.D., purchased the property in 1990 from Algoma Lumber. As conservationists and hunters, the property was attractive to the couple for deer and bird hunting and to train their dogs for field trials. Pat’s concern that the piece could one day be developed led her to contact the Land Trust.

“I don’t want my land chopped up into 10-acre plots,” she said. “I want to protect land and hunting—the things that make Door County unique.”

Door County Land Trust continues to pursue new land protection projects in Southern Door as part of its effort to protect lands which impact local groundwater and surface waters that flow into Green Bay and Lake Michigan. The new conservation easement adds to Southern Door County conservation efforts where in 2021 Door County Land Trust completed a historic land acquisition project that permanently preserved a half-mile stretch of Stony Creek close to where it flows into Lake Michigan.

While conservation easement lands remain privately owned, the Land Trust’s efforts to enforce and maintain these permanent land protection agreements are supported by contributions from members and the community. In 2023, the Land Trust expects to complete the protection of a new 120-acre natural area near Brussels.

Join the effort to protect Door County’s vital lands and waters by making a contribution online at


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