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Land Acquisition Ensures Protection of Northwoods and Survival of Birkie Ski Race

Courier Newsroom’s Up North News reports that a recent 218-acre land purchase by the nonprofit Landmark Conservancy will ensure the preservation of areas of the Northwoods around Mount Telemark in northern Wisconsin. 

The preserved area is home to wildlife habitats as well as important ecological features like the Namekagon River watershed and the St. Croix River. The purchase will also guarantee the future of one of the nation’s most popular skiing events, the American Birkebeiner ski race, which takes place each February in the Northwoods. 

Landmark announced in April that their efforts to purchase the property had been fully funded. The acquisition will add to nearly 600 acres of land already protected around Mt. Telemark, making this deal a win for environmentalists, skiing enthusiasts, and community members.  

A Ski Race Saved 

The nonprofit land trust Landmark Conservancy acquired the land from the American Birkebeiner Ski Foundation (ABSF) in a mutually beneficial deal. The ABSF has organized the ski race for years but had recently faced financial troubles trying to ensure the future of the event and maintain the land and facilities that host it. Aging infrastructure and overgrown trails posed significant challenges, as did a dilapidated lodge that was recently torn down. 

With the funds raised from selling the land, ABSF will have the funds to maintain the race and rejuvenate its property at Telemark Village, a conservancy and recreation center dedicated to year-round recreational activities.

Grassroots Environmentalism  

The deal to preserve 218 acres of land was not initiated by Landmark Conservancy or the ABSF. Instead, the proposal came from local community members and environmentalists.

According to Up North News, a publication of Courier Newsroom, locals had been growing increasingly worried about overdevelopment in the area and the consequences it would have on its ecological features. Community members approached Landmark Conservancy in 2021 and proposed the purchase. In just one year, Landmark and the community raised $678,000 to purchase the land from ABSF. 

Kristin Thompson, Landmark’s Advancement Director, acknowledged the vital role that community members played in the acquisition. 

“We are so grateful for the individuals who approached Landmark about protecting this special land just one year ago. Their leadership and steadfast support of our organization were essential to this project taking shape and garnering the funds for permanent protection.” 

An Expanding Conservancy 

Landmark Conservancy will name its newly acquired land the Telemark Forest Preserve, as reported by Courier Newsroom’s publication Up North News. The entire area will be open to the public year-round for low-impact activities like hiking, birdwatching, and cross-country skiing. The land will continue to host the American Birkebeiner ski race long into the future, and the deal will also protect local waterways and wildlife habitats. 

Praising the deal, ABSF Development Director Andrew Wall said, “We are thrilled to advance healthy outdoor activities for individuals and our community through being good stewards of the land in partnership with Landmark.”

Thanks to a conservation easement held by Landmark on the newly purchased land and the adjacent Mt. Telemark Conservancy, over 500 acres of Northwoods forest will be protected forever. 

This story originally appeared in Up North News, a publication owned by Courier Newsroom.