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Conservation Conversations: What the Door County Pledge Means to Our Land Stewards


Pristine shorelines, perfectly groomed trails, and stunning landscapes are yours to explore in Door County because people care. At the top of that list are the men and women who make it their life’s work to protect and serve our natural environments. We invite you to learn more about Door County’s professionals who are on the front lines, caring for our open spaces and treasured landscapes. 

From being mindful of your personal impact on nature spaces to embracing an overall ethos of “leave it better,” the Door County Leave No Trace 7 Principles should always be on your mind when you explore the outdoors. Find out what the Door County Pledge means to our guardians of the green and what they love most about their treasured professions and the places and people they serve. 

Eric Hyde

Peninsula Unit Superintendent
Peninsula State Park, Newport State Park, and Rock Island State Park

Since November 2020, Eric Hyde has been a steward and supervisor for Peninsula, Newport, and Rock Island State Parks. He says if you ask any land manager what the biggest challenge is in this role, it’s balancing significant operation priorities on a limited budget, often weighing land stewardship against failing infrastructure, public safety, cleaning restrooms, and other necessary daily tasks.

“I’m fortunate to be part of a great team of staff, partners, and volunteers that care for these amazing public spaces,” said Hyde. “Combined, over 1.6 million annual visitors explore our 25 miles of protected public shoreline on Lake Michigan, 7,000 acres of wilderness with a plethora of recreational opportunities, 80 miles of recreational trails, and 529 campsites.”

According to Hyde, thinking outside the box and building community partnerships are crucial for reaching the common goal of caring for the land. Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership (LNRP ) and Stantec Consulting partnerships help him acquire grants for invasive species control and reforestation, effectively leveraging resources to make a stronger impact on improving these fragile ecosystems — something he is very passionate about. When helping visitors appreciate these ecosystems, he turns to outreach like  Care for Door County.

Q. What does the Door County Pledge mean to you?
A. To me, the pledge is about protecting our open spaces for future generations. More specifically, it’s about advocating for open spaces, introducing ethical land stewardship to younger generations, keeping outdoor recreation relevant, and introducing open spaces and recreational opportunities to people of all diverse backgrounds. If people’s connection to nature decreases, the protection of nature will decrease, too.  

Q. Which of the Door County "Leave No Trace" 7 principles resonates the most with you and why?
A. Leave it as you Found it resonates with me quite a bit. The opportunity to lose oneself in nature is vital to being human, and when you’re kayaking, hiking, or boating, encountering trash, defaced trees, or signs of other people takes away from that experience. The essence of visiting the park is the ability to hike up Eagle Tower or walk through a beech forest without being reminded that “Dave hearts Sally” and that they visited in 2022.

Q. What is your #1 go-to tip to help a traveler be sustainable when they visit Door County?
A. Be patient and nice. Take time to immerse yourself in nature and appreciate the unique geology and natural spaces. Respect other users and try to leave natural places in a better condition for the next person.

Q. Why should visitors learn about Care for Door County, and why should they sign the pledge?
A. Visitors are part of this community and part of the balance that makes it so enjoyable to live here. This pledge reflects the community’s ethics and culture, so it’s important for visitors to know that and embrace it. Visitors can pitch in so many ways by donating to friends groups and non-profits or just picking up someone else’s trash.

Q. What do you love most about Door County?
A. There’s so much to love, but what hooked me a year before taking this job and moving here was just how many publicly accessible open spaces there are. I was up here with my now wife, who is in the conservation field as well (we met at a pollinator habitat workshop, if that’s not being a nature nerd, what is), for only the second time in my life because I always thought Door County was just an overrun tourist destination. We visited three state parks, three county parks, and the Mink River Estuary in that one weekend and a year later, it was home. We’ve met so many passionate, like-minded locals and transplants like us; it’s been inspiring to be a part of this community and give back.

Q. What is your favorite Door County outdoor location or activity?
A. Simple! Exploring new open spaces and hikes with my wife and dog and then treating ourselves to a beverage while enjoying the amazing sunsets over the Bay of Green Bay.

Katie Krouse

Executive Director
The Ridges Sanctuary

Katie Krouse has been with The Ridges Sanctuary since 2015, rising to executive director in June 2023. She leads The Ridges in its mission to inspire the preservation of nature, a vision she passionately upholds.

"I am proud to be involved with an organization that holds an important vision to inspire the conservation of nature,” said Krouse. "Our role as an organization is to ensure that the incredible biodiversity and natural communities we protect are preserved for future generations.”

Every day, her team diligently works to protect and preserve the area's unique biodiversity through impactful educational experiences, land management and protection, and ecological research. In collaboration with a community of inspired conservationists, they tackle challenges such as invasive species management, forest condition assessments, and the perpetual protection of natural ecosystems. Her vision extends beyond the present, with a steadfast commitment to ensuring that the ecological wonders under her care endure for many years to come. 

Q. What does the Door County Pledge mean to you?
A. The Door County Pledge speaks eloquently of my personal values and sense of curiosity. As a proud Door County resident, environmental steward, and nature enthusiast, I seek to learn, explore, and engage with communities and environments thoughtfully and intentionally. The pledge provides a sense of grounding and an opportunity to respect the wild, unique, and special spaces found within Door County and beyond. 

Q. Which of the Door County "Leave No Trace" 7 principles resonates the most with you and why?
A. Gosh, it depends on the day! Today, I think #4, Leave It as you Found It, resonates the most. There is so much unique biodiversity to explore in Door County. Baileys Harbor, in particular, has more threatened and endangered species than any other county in the state of Wisconsin. Although our wild ecosystems sometimes need a helping hand due to the introduction of invasive species, they need all of us to love and care for them tenderly so that they can continue to thrive for many generations to come. 

Q. What is your #1 go-to tip to help a traveler be sustainable when they visit Door County?
A. Limit your driving! Choose a place to stay that is connected to the simple amenities that you wish to have access to. All of our towns are perfectly walkable and provide so many opportunities for you to spend the day in one place. 

Q. Why should visitors learn about Care for Door County, and why should they sign the pledge?
A. There are so many ways to experience the incredible communities within Door County. One of the best ways is through the lens of Care for Door County. Care for Door County provides a true sense of place and suggests impactful ways to explore, learn, and engage. Door County is a place to be adored for many generations to come, and by signing the pledge, you will help this special place continue to thrive! 

Q. What do you love most about Door County?
A. Door County has some of the most spectacular biodiversity that cannot be found anywhere else in the entire Midwest. Conservation has been a priority since the early 1900s, and it is obvious that this continues to be a priority in our community. I adore being a part of the conservation of nature and having the opportunity to share it with so many people every single year. We have a unique opportunity to make waves and create real global change with our work in Door County. 

Q. What is your favorite Door County outdoor location or activity?
A. This may sound a little biased, but one of the most spectacular forests in Door County is at The Ridges Sanctuary's Logan Creek Preserve in Jacksonport. The most magical upland maple-beech forest is met with a beautiful lowland cedar-hemlock forest! Any moment spent exploring the Logan Creek Preserve is inspirational. The trees are tall and seem to truly tell a story of their own!

Brian Forest

Land Protection Manager
Door County Land Trust

Brian Forest brings over two decades of experience in conservation to his role as the Land Protection Manager at Door County Land Trust. His deep roots in preserving Door County's natural beauty began 25 years ago. He spent 20 years as a Conservationist at the Door County Soil and Water Conservation Department and three years as the Land Manager at The Ridges Sanctuary before beginning his new role in January 2023. His extensive experience and wealth of knowledge are key to the ongoing efforts to protect the region's environment.

“My work involves the identification of unique and significant habitats in Door County and developing a strategy to forever protect the land that they exist on,” said Forest.

The Land Trust protects properties in many ways, from purchasing land to creating a conservation easement agreement with a private landowner. Most are usually geared towards reducing the continuation of more intensive land use practices or property development that encompasses unique, sensitive, or critical habitats vital to Door County’s natural resources. His land management plan ensures that future land management actions protect and benefit important species and habitats in perpetuity. Examples include restoring habitat through conversion of previous land use (e.g., tree planting or establishment of a prairie) or monitoring and controlling invasive species to prevent degradation of native habitat. He also relies on visitors to do their part to Care for Door County.

Q. What does the Door County Pledge mean to you?
A. The Door County Pledge is crucial to raising awareness of the beauty and vulnerability of Door County’s natural resources. To me, it is a reminder of how beautiful this place we call home is, its fragility, and the need to make residents and visitors aware that education is key to preventing this wonderful place from being loved to death.

Q, Which of the Door County "Leave No Trace" 7 principles resonates the most with you and why?
A. I feel very strongly about all the principles listed, but if I pick one that truly resonates, I would say it is Leave It as You Found It. This mantra is effective at incorporating many of the other principles. To me, this means leaving nothing behind, whether garbage, graffiti or invasives in any form. It means not taking or adding anything, leaving habitats intact with no human influence. It means staying on existing trails and not forging new paths. It means being respectful of all wildlife species, large or small, and the habitats that they depend on. I want to see our natural and wild areas free of human impacts. Some of the most amazing places I have seen have left me saddened because I wished that I, or any other human, had never seen them.

Q. What is your #1 go-to tip to help a traveler be sustainable when they visit Door County?
A. The number one bit of advice is to know the rules and the expectations for the spot that you are visiting. Most of the time, these rules and expectations are similar or verbatim to the Leave No Trace principles. I would tell someone to try to view their visit through the eyes of others who are trying to enjoy the area for many of the same reasons that they likely are. Visitors do not want to see trash, stacked rocks, trampled wetlands or any other indelible signs that humans were there. Being respectful to others who visit the property will, in turn, demonstrate respect for the wildlife that thrives there and the habitats that they depend on.

Q. Why should visitors learn about Care for Door County, and why should they sign the pledge?
A. Education of our visitors to the importance and sensitivity of Door County’s diverse resources is crucial. Care for Door County and the pledge do exactly that. They bring awareness to those things and help people understand the importance of respect for Door County’s natural resources, its culture, and its future. Professionally, this is vital to the conservation ethic I have followed my entire life here and in my career. Personally, this is important to me because I grew up here and am raising my kids here. I want to see these places protected forever.

Q. What do you love most about Door County?
A. I love the mix of natural beauty and cultural history in Door County. I love that I can walk out the door or take a short drive to most places and quickly be immersed in nature, and if I pick the right spots, I am completely alone with no human trace. I also love the culture of this place, its history, and the way it is interwoven with the natural setting. Like many places, the physical setting has shaped life on the peninsula. I want to ensure that those things can continue to coexist.

Q. What is your favorite Door County outdoor location or activity?
A. My favorite outdoor activities are hiking and kayaking, and ideally, I can do both in a “surf and turf” setting. I love paddling the creeks and rivers of the county and finding a place to get out and hike the surrounding landscape. A few of my favorites for paddling are Kangaroo Lake, Logan Creek/Clark Lake, and Geisel Creek/Dunes Lake.

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