Travel Green: Wisconsin's Stewardship Legacy

With 98 well-preserved state parks, forests, trails and recreation areas plus many green accommodations, it’s obvious that when it comes to vacationing, Wisconsin is a natural choice.

Wisconsin’s legacy of environmental responsibility traces back more than a century. It can be attributed to pioneers such Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife management and Baraboo resident. Or, former governor Gaylord Nelson and his early life experiences in Wisconsin that led him to found Earth Day.

But, even before them, the Native Americans put us into a “green” state of mind. They established traditions of preservation, respect and sustainability that have placed Wisconsin in a state of its own. Today, Wisconsin’s Native American tribes continue to work to protect our environment and natural resources. From decommissioning abandoned wells that are a potential source of groundwater contamination to re-planting native grasses throughout the state, the acknowledgment that ‘this land is our land’ is evident.

Recently, it was time for Wisconsin to honor the legacy by continuing stewardship efforts. And what came out of the woodwork was The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund. The fund preserves Wisconsin’s most significant natural resources and recreational opportunities for future generations.

The stewardship fund has protected nearly half a million acres in 71 of 72 of the state’s counties. This includes what is known as "The Great Addition". This 32,000 acre (about 50 square miles) purchase in 1999 of land for conservation purposes has been the fund's largest, and helps to protect thousands of acres of renowned recreation areas like the Turtle-Flambeau Flowage Scenic Waters Area and the Ice Age and Bearskin-Hiawatha Trails. Because of this fund, thousands of people are able to hunt, fish and camp in the same natural resources as Wisconsin’s forefathers.

Not only can you enjoy the great outdoors in Wisconsin, but the great indoors as well. Many green accommodations are popping up all over the state.

The Arbor House in Madison is committed to preserving the environment and utilizing natural resources and is one of many state gems doing so.

“The Arbor House was created in 1994 in response to what we felt was an unmet need in the lodging marketplace,” says Arbor House innkeeper John Imes.

“Our mission is to showcase resource-efficient design, construction, energy and green infrastructure, while providing opportunities for recreation and for learning more about urban ecology,” says Imes.

Since opening what Imes calls an “environmental inn,” customers haven’t stopped visiting or talking about it.

“We’ve been very successful and really wanted to position the Arbor House as the best hospitality in the market we serve,” says Imes. “Not just come and stay because we’re ‘green’, but also show that sustainable tourism can be beautiful, comfortable and even elegant.”

Imes sees Wisconsin as the perfect place to do so.

“Wisconsin has all the assets. Geographic, cultural and natural resource assets. As well as the environmental heritage to be a world leader in providing more sustainable tourism experiences.”

The Arbor House is also one of the first businesses certified in a new initiative called Travel Green Wisconsin. The initiative is a voluntary, affordable program that reviews, certifies and recognizes tourism businesses of all types that have made a commitment to continuously improve their operations in order to reduce their environmental impact. Over 100 businesses have made this commitment so far, with more joining the program all the time.

By following in the footsteps of our forefathers with programs such as The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and Travel Green Wisconsin, Wisconsin is maintaining a commitment to the future, so the beauty you see today will remain tomorrow.

And that’s something to take great pride in.

This entry was posted in Natural Attractions and Parks