Ridgeway jewel helps public lands by preserving private
“Decisions made from the soul almost always lead to good things,” remarked Susan Trudell as we met over a cup of coffee on a clear and sunny morning. Prior to meeting with Susan, we had recently learned of her 245-acre land bequest to Driftless Area Land Conservancy – a wonderful commitment to conservation and clearly a manifestation of her thinking about decisions that lead to good things. During our conversation, we also learned that Susan’s decision speaks to her faith, her appreciation of the land and to the memory of her late beloved husband, Don Trudell.
Susan and Don first met in college as art students; he was a teaching assistant and she was an inspired undergraduate. They studied and worked together, fell in love and married in 1967. Later that same year they acquired a 245-acre property near Ridgeway. Don, a nature enthusiast from youth, had spent much of his childhood at his aunt and uncle’s cabin in northeastern Wisconsin, where he acquired a love for hunting, fishing and the outdoors. Later in life, as an avid hunter and naturalist, he spent countless hours at the Ridgeway property relishing the recreational opportunities the land provided. However, most of all, he enjoyed the quiet solitude of their beautiful rural property.
After Don’s passing in the spring of 2011, Susan determined to fulfill their commitment to permanently protect their property. While settling the estate and dealing with a multitude of tasks and responsibilities, the concern over what to do with her land stayed in the forefront of Susan’s mind. Her search eventually led her to Driftless Area Land Conservancy. “The more I learned about Driftless Area Land Conservancy and my options, the more I realized it was a good fit.” Ultimately, Susan decided that she wanted to support the Conservancy by donating her and Don’s property.
“I decided to bequeath my land to Driftless because I have a lot of faith in the organization,” explained Susan. “However, most of the women in my family live well into their 90s,” she added with a warm, wry smile (Susan is considerably younger than this). In the meantime, Susan is working with the Conservancy to place a conservation easement on her land. She values and appreciates being part of an organization that brings a community of folks together who share similar goals.
As an active member of her church, Susan believes that participating in an organization builds a social network for fun and healing. She commented, “Longevity is based on physical and mental health, and you get both with Driftless.” Furthermore, social activities and special events provided through Driftless allow members to “take possession of the organization that they wouldn’t by just writing a check.”
This beautiful property contains breathtaking views of undulating hills, rich grasslands and massive sentinel oaks. Lying directly adjacent to two parcels owned by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources within the Love and Strutt Creek Fishery Area, Susan’s land creates a complex of over 655 acres of contiguous permanently protected conservation lands and links these two previously separate conservation parcels. The Property also lies within the Mill, Love and Strutt Creek sub-watersheds, all of which flow into the Lower Wisconsin Riverway, a river of Continental Importance according to the Wisconsin Wildlife Action Plan. According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, Love and Strutt Creeks are both Class 1 brown trout streams and codified as Exceptional Resource Waters (ERW).
Susan believes people are “loaned whatever we are given,” and that life loaned her and Don a beautiful and deeply meaningful piece of land . . . which she is preparing to pass on. Susan realizes that we share in the experience of stewarding land and water, and hopes that her property might provide a location for that connection. She also believes that nature is a link between the past, present and future and is the one constant we can share with our great-great grandparents and great-great grandchildren alike – that the beauty and the diversity of nature bind the ages. Perhaps that’s why so many of us, like Susan, want to protect what we have so as not to break that link with those of the past, and those yet to come.