Shoreline Property Becomes Land Trust Conservation Easement 

The Schmitz conservation easement. Kay McKinley photo

Shoreline property on the bay of Green Bay owned by Michael Schmitz, of Ellison Bay, was recently protected by a conservation easement with Door County Land Trust. The agreement ensures that the four-acre property, which includes 589 feet of rocky shoreline, will remain undeveloped forever. The easement’s size belies the number of wildlife habitats it contains, including a rocky lakeshore and a mature cedar forest that provide breeding grounds for migratory songbirds and shorebirds.

“It is not every day we get the opportunity to protect undeveloped Door County shoreline.” said Conservation Easement Program Manager Drew Reinke. “This is a rare addition to the Land Trust’s conservation easement portfolio. 

Schmitz purchased two lots at the end of Porcupine Bay Road in 1999. He built a home on the northernmost lot and reserved the adjacent parcel for its natural beauty and conservation value. “It’s important to me that it stays the way it is,” he said. “I’ve done nothing to it in the 25 years I’ve owned it. I decided that I want it to be preserved after I’m gone.”   

Schmitz’s interest in conservation goes back to a lesson he learned from his father that stayed with him throughout his life. Raised in Germantown, Wisconsin, in a historic home surrounded by 10 acres of farmland, Schmitz witnessed his family’s rural lifestyle quickly diminish. “During the 1960s, when I was in my 20s, there was a movement with people leaving Milwaukee to live in the suburbs,” Schmitz said. “Most of our neighbors subdivided their property for development. My father taught me the value of conservation—he wouldn’t subdivide. At the time, the DNR had a program offering trees that could be planted on farmland at a nominal price. My father planted 5,000 trees.”  

­­­A conservation easement agreement is a legally binding agreement that allows a property owner to retain ownership of the land while Door County Land Trust ensures the property’s conservation values are protected in perpetuity. According to Executive Director Emily Wood, the importance of conservation easements as a part of the Land Trust’s overall land protection strategy cannot be overstated. “Partnerships with landowners and private conservation easements are an essential tool for protecting the lands between our state and county parks and nature preserves,” she said. “Door County’s wildlife benefit enormously from these protected corridors, and our community benefits from the clean air and healthy water too.” 

Schmitz said his grandsons “grew up exploring, loving and respecting the property.” It is gratifying to him that as adults they share his views on preserving the parcel. “The Door peninsula is so special with its natural resources and treasures, we should do everything we can to preserve it,” Schmitz said.  

Door County Land Trust thanks Michael Schmitz and family for permanently protecting the land through conservation easement and for generously underwriting the project. 

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