Discovering Common Ground in Land Protection


Mike Schmitz and Ginny Bolger on Schmitz’s conservation easement.
Photo by Kay McKinley


Mike Schmitz took a date to the Land Trust’s 2022 Annual Gathering and ended up with a conservation easement. At the Gathering, he discovered that his date, Ginny Bolger, shared a passion for conservation equal to his own. Bolger influenced Schmitz’s timing for entering into a conservation easement agreement with the Land Trust this past December.


“It’s wonderful that Ginny believes as I do—and I wanted to do a conservation easement at some point—but she urged me to get it done,” Schmitz said. “It’s giving me wonderful satisfaction to know that I’m leaving a legacy that will live on for generations after me.”


Schmitz has supported the Land Trust for over 20 years. It was at the Gathering that Bolger revealed to him that she was a charter member of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust and had been its board president.


“The conversation in the car going home was all about conservation easements,” Bolger recalled.


The discussion included the parcel that Schmitz was considering for an easement. Since its completion in December, the conservation easement agreement ensures that the property, with 589 feet of rocky shoreline and mature cedar forest, remains protected forever. A short distance to Ellison Bay Bluff County Park and Grandview Scenic Overlook and Park, the property is also part of a wildlife corridor that caters to migratory songbirds and shorebirds and is buffered by the Niagara Escarpment.


Schmitz and Bolger each had a life experience that inspired them to become conservationists. For Bolger, it was fighting a housing project that replaced an abandoned golf course her neighbors treated as a nature preserve. In his 20s, Schmitz witnessed the rural landscape around his boyhood home become subdivided. His father made an impression on him by planting 5,000 trees rather than selling his land.


“When you live here, it doesn’t take long to appreciate what a wonderful thing we have on the Door peninsula,” Schmitz said. “We must do everything we can to preserve it.”


Schmitz sees people’s role in land protection as guardianship rather than ownership. “We have an obligation to pass as much of this beauty and naturalness on to the next generation as we can,” he said. “I’m not against development, but I am against development that offends nature, that destroys genuine beauty. There’s a time for everything in life and the time to protect land is now.”
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