All of this beautiful snow here in Madison reminds me of a winter trip I took to northern Wisconsin, when I had the opportunity to explore a new place: Germain Hemlocks State Natural Area in Oneida County. The SNA is named after Clifford E. Germain, the first ecologist and coordinator of Wisconsin’s State Natural Areas Program, who helped protect many places during his career with the Department of Natural Resources. Nestled between three lakes, this beautiful natural area protects old-growth northern mesic forest, featuring super-canopy white and red pines, yellow birch, sugar and red maple, and red oak. But of course, its most incredible feature is its’ namesake: the eastern hemlocks, old-growth relicts that survived the region’s logging days.

Hemlocks were cut heavily during Wisconsin’s cutover, largely to support the leather tanning industry, as hemlock bark is rich in tannin. The hemlocks here at Germain Hemlocks vary in age, but the oldest ones are 200 years old, probably even older. My tour guide, Carly Lapin – an ecologist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources – points out a stand of old-growth hemlocks, and young regeneration. She notes that diversity in age groups is good when managing for old growth, but factors like deer browse are having a big impact on the regeneration of younger trees. Management through the DNR’s State Natural Areas Program helps ensure places like this continue to protect the unique natural communities and wildlife that are found here.

Germain Hemlocks is a haven for bird species, including scarlet tanagers, pileated woodpeckers, red-eyed vireos, and black-and-white, blackburnian, pine, yellow-rumped, and black-throated green warblers. It is a beautiful place to explore, and a nice trail and signage makes it accessible to visit next time you’re in the area – any time of the year.

To learn more about our support for Wisconsin’s public lands, visit https://wisconservation.org/impact/lands-waters/

Written by Caitlin Williamson, Director of Conservation Programs

2024-2027 Strategic Plan

The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin’s staff and board of directors are proud to announce our new strategic plan. Thank you for being a part of this important work!

Bringing Wild Rice Back to Spur Lake

A group of conservation partners have come together to bring manoomin (wild rice), back to Spur Lake in Wisconsin.

Welcome to Wisconsin Fat Bird Week

Fat Bird Week is here! Vote for your favorite chonky bird every day from Friday, April 19th to Friday, April 26th.

Wing it with these tips for new birdwatchers

Wing it with these tips for new birdwatchers from Kim Kreitinger, our resident bird expert (and NRF’s Field Trips Coordinator)!

2023 Photo Contest Winners

Every year you send us your best photos that capture incredible moments in nature. Take a look at our 10th annual Photo Contest winners!

(Un)Lovable Wisconsin Wildlife

Here’s some of the most lovable “unlovable” Wisconsin wildlife, in honor of Valentine’s Day. These stereotypical “pests” are so much more.

Welcome to the Foundation, Tee!

We’re thrilled to welcome our new volunteer, Tee Karki!

Explore, Love, Protect: NRF’s 2023 Grants for Conservation and Environmental Education

In 2023, NRF invested over $940,000 in grants for conservation and environmental education projects across the state.

From PlayStation to Potawatomi State Park: How Camping Transformed My Life

Escuela Verde senior, Jonathan, led a three-day camping trip at Potawatomi State Park for 12 students thanks to a Go Outside Fund grant.

Watershed Health and Outdoor Fun on the Namekagon River

Thanks to a 2023 Go Outside Fund grant, 46 students canoe the Namekagon River for hands-on learning about watersheds.