The Ridges Sanctuary

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Martins to Be Inducted into Conservation Hall of Fame

Posted on Feb 13, 2023 by Jackie Rath   No Comments Yet | Posted in Articles · In the News

Published by Door County Pulse, Craig Sterrett – February 8th, 2023

Martins to Be Inducted into Conservation Hall of Fame

“Probably not since Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom, inducted in 1996, has a couple done so much for wild places and wild things in Wisconsin.”— Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame about Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin: inductees who have helped to protect thousands of acres throughout Door County

When a Columbia County couple is inducted into the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame in April, much of the ceremony will focus on their protection and enhancement of a critical natural area north of the capital. Yet Mark Martin and Susan Foote-Martin, through their careers with the Department of Natural Resources and their volunteerism after retirement, have helped to protect thousands of acres of sensitive habitat throughout Door County.

“Probably not since Frederick and Frances Hamerstrom, inducted in 1996, has a couple done so much for wild places and wild things in Wisconsin,” a WCHF induction paper read, also lauding their stewardship of Goose Pond, an Audubon Society nature sanctuary in Columbia County, where they’ve resided since 1979 and restored and managed mesic prairie, one of the rarest types of ecosystems in North America.

They’ve also dedicated much of their time to natural areas in Door County. Martin serves on the boards of both The Ridges Sanctuary and the Door County Land Trust, and he also helped The Nature Conservancy in protecting Baileys Harbor boreal forest and wetlands.

“Mark Martin and Sue Foote-Martin have left an incredible legacy of protected lands in Door County,” said Terrie Cooper, senior land protection manager of the Door County Land Trust. “They have been leaders in helping Door County’s conservation organizations secure millions of state and federal grant funds to protect thousands of acres of ecologically significant lands. Their passion for conservation and education in Door County and throughout Wisconsin have been legendary.”

Ed Miller, a Ridges volunteer and former board member, met Martin when he took electronic listening equipment to The Ridges for a bat-monitoring program. Miller often welcomes the Martins to his home for visits and nature-business meetings, and he said Mark had a deep knowledge about land-acquisition processes and how to acquire Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund grants and many other types of funding.

Statewide, Martin had developed friendly relationships that also came in handy, such as when he reached out to the owners of a former buffalo farm and Spikehorn Campground to help The Nature Conservancy preserve and restore those lands near Cana Island.

“He’s a real treasure for getting things done,” Miller said. “He’s a good adviser.”

For instance, some people seemed alarmed when The Ridges recently was reminded of a U.S. Lighthouse Service requirement to maintain a tree-free corridor between the Upper and Lower Range Light near Highway Q.

“The woods were kind of encroaching on the boardwalk,” Miller said. “People might complain that we’re going to cut trees. Mark knows about wildflowers and things, and the advantage of opening that up is you encourage other wildflowers to grow again – things like wood lilies, dwarf lake iris and French gentian.”

That maintenance work on the range-light boardwalk will take place soon, Martin said, with the tree cutting done by hand and debris hauled out while the ground is frozen.

“There’s a lot of wooded land in The Ridges,” Martin said. “A lot of the orchids like more sunlight. It will be better if it’s 50 feet wide than if it’s 25 feet wide. By having that, you’ll have more rare plants in this area.”

In recent years, Martin helped with the acquisition of The Ridges South property near Logan Creek and Clark Lake. About nine years ago, he played a role in The Ridges acquiring the Family Discovery Trail west of Highway 57 and northwest of The Ridges’ visitor center. He said The Ridges requires visitors to stay on trails and boardwalks to protect rare plants on most of its properties, but he’s glad that The Ridges has a place where people of all ages can freely explore all of the woodland and sandy clearings in the Discovery Trail area.

Sandy Miller, The Ridges’ board secretary and a volunteer, said many Door County residents and visitors have met the Martins, who lead The Ridges’ Festival of Nature hikes, typically held Memorial Day weekend.

During her DNR career, Susan Foote-Martin worked at MacKenzie Environmental Education as well as the Bureau of Endangered Resources, where she created the Great Wisconsin Birding and Nature Trail. She also spent two years creating the Bird City Wisconsin program. Since its introduction in 2005, the program has helped almost 100 communities establish protocols for being more bird-friendly places.

“Their whole lives have been devoted to environmental protection and protection of lands that are critical for habitat and biodiversity,” Sandy Miller said. “They’re always busy doing that type of work, and they’re always willing to share their knowledge.”

Much of Martin’s work with Door County came as part of his job working in the DNR central office to establish State Natural Areas. Just a few sites where he helped to secure funding include Big Marsh and Little Lake on Washington Island and Three Springs Creek near North Bay. He and a DNR colleague also helped to write a grant for $800,000 many years ago to help eradicate large stands of phragmites grasses that were starting to take over Door County shoreline habitats.

No matter who helped to make it happen, Martin said he takes pride that today – with the exception of a couple of farm fields – there’s a lengthy corridor of wild, protected and mostly public land spanning from north of the Baileys Harbor business district to the north end of Newport Beach State Park.

Other new Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame inductees include Michael Dombeck, the first person to lead both the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service; and the late Byron Herbert-Shaw, who is widely known as the first scientist in Wisconsin to recognize that pesticides used on farm fields could leach through the soil to contaminate the groundwater. Anyone may watch the virtual induction ceremony, set for April 25. Learn how to tune in at

Established in 1982, the Wisconsin Conservation Hall of Fame has inductees with worldwide fame, such as Aldo Leopold and famed park designer Jens Jensen, as well as members with Door County significance, such as Jensen (founder of The Clearing Folk School in Ellison Bay) and naturalists and photographers Roy and Charlotte Lukes.

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