After years of complaints, controversy, and activism, a final draft management plan for Pewit’s Nest State Natural area HAS BEEN APPROVED*. The new plan, among other things, will close access to the cliffs while adding a clear trail, a staircase, fencing and viewing areas. Some signs have already gone up within the SNA in anticipation of the coming changes.
* This proposal was approved by the Natural Resources Board on June 27th, 2017. Press Release.
What is the Purpose of A State Natural Area?
“The purpose of the SNA Program is to protect outstanding examples of Wisconsin’s native landscape of natural communities, significant geological formations and archeological sites. Natural areas are valuable for research and educational use, the preservation of genetic and biological diversity, and for providing ecological benchmarks for determining the impact of use on managed lands. They also provide habitat for numerous rare plants and animals.” – Pewit’s Nest SNA Draft Management Plan 2017
According to Thomas Meyer, Conservation Biologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, “The DNR will place a wooden “fence” at the top and establish a closed area that parallels the top of the gorge.” It will allow visitors a couple of vantage points to see into the gorge bottom, but will not allow them to access the cliff edges or cliff faces… There will also be a wooden staircase constructed to facilitate access to the gorge-top viewpoints and to help prevent more gully erosion. There will be signs posted that clearly define the closed area and state that climbing on rock faces, cliff jumping, food, beverage, fires, etc. are not permitted. “
Pewit’s Nest will also become a “fee area”.
The part of the plan that isn’t obvious at first glance, is that the only access into the gorge itself will be from the **west end through the deepest pools. It is currently popular for folks to walk across the top of the gorge and then enter on the east end and walk west through the shallow end. This access will be closed. If effective, the new restriction will keep all but the most adventurous hikers out of the bottom of the gorge.
We fully support the new draft plan for Pewit’s Nest and have to add, “Halleluja & It’s about time!” Pewit’s Nest has been overrun for a decade and has not been cared for by the folks entrusted to care for it. I hope this is a sign of real interest and change by the powers that be. Without regular supervision and enforcement, many of these changes will simply be a waste of money and an exercise in futility.
State Natural Areas were never intended to be parks or recreation areas. They are not “swimming holes”. They are research or preservation areas. At the same time, they are collectively our research and preservation areas. So, WE, the public, should always be allowed to visit them and have a good look around. That said, we also need to respect them as we would a museum, there are restrictions to protect valuable areas and items. The new plan addresses the goals of preserving the natural area’s plant and animal communities including rare & endangered species. (Basically, preventing all life in the SNA from being crushed to death.) It’s also aims to slow down the erosion of the sandstone and preserve the beauty of the area for years to come. AND doing this while keeping publicly owned land, as public as possible for everyone to enjoy. In that sense, the plan addresses tourism and our local economy as well.
Again, I want to personally express my gratitude and say that I know a lot of folks care about this issue and many with within the DNR are honestly trying to make real changes in a challenging environment. So let’s give them support to preserve Pewits….
(Then we can talk about Parfrey’s Glen….)
***Obligatory Disclaimer: This website is NOT associated with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. The views expressed in this blog are mine and do not represent the views of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.
** Correction. Inverted my “west” and “east” mistake.
* Update: This proposal has passed and the article has been updated to reflect the change