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Rhinelander’s Holmboe Conifer Forest inducted into Old-Growth Forest Network

Tucked behind a nursing home and water treatment plant, the 32-acre Holmboe Conifer Forest State Natural Area meanders alongside the Pelican River in Rhinelander.

“This is just gloriously beautiful,” says John Bates, as he leads a hiking group through the forest. “It is spectacular, I think.”

The interpretative hike is in celebration of the area’s induction to the Old-Growth Forest Network, a program to identify and protect publicly accessible old-growth forests throughout the country.

“These are amazing places to study and visit because they tell such a unique story about the history of life on our planet,” says Nick Sanchez, the Midwest regional manager for the Old-Growth Forest Network. “Not to mention, the big trees, all the different critters that live here are nowhere else. So, we want people to get out and see these places because they are so important.”

Sanchez says old-growth forests are rare. Only about 1 percent remain in the eastern U.S. and that’s why these preservation efforts are critical.

The Old-Growth Forest Network hopes to create a list of more than 2,700 old-growth forests throughout the country. That’s one for every county in the U.S.

So far, the Holmboe Conifer Forest is the 177th forest to be included. It’s the 4th in Wisconsin.

Ted Anchor, the executive director of the Northwoods Land Trust, which manages the Holmboe Conifer Forest, says the induction is an honor.

“But just as important,” he says, “it’s recognition of the conservation of a resource like this, that’s here for the benefit of the entire community for perpetuity.”

Erin Gottsacker worked at WXPR as a Morning Edition host and reporter from December 2020 to January 2023. During her time at the station, Erin reported on the issues that matter most in the Northwoods.
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