Along with many other religious communities, the Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross have signed a conservation easement ensuring the perpetual protection of their land. Pictured at the signing were (from left to right) Dr. Bob Freckmann, North Central Conservancy Trust; Kay Meyer, NCCT president; Sr. Pat Cormack, provincial; Sr. Peggy Jackelen; and Chris Radford, NCCT executive director. (Submitted photo)

The Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross, Merrill, announced the signing of a conservation easement on property they own in the Harrison Hills.

After two years of work with the North Central Conservancy Trust to craft a conservation easement, the easement was signed on Aug. 24. NCCT is a nonprofit organization covering eight counties in central Wisconsin with a mission to conserve the natural heritage of the area through the protection of land. They do this primarily by working with landowners to develop conservation easements. Once an easement is completed to everyone’s satisfaction and filed with the register of deeds, NCCT is legally responsible for ensuring that the conditions of the easement are permanently honored. The sisters remain owners of the property with all ownership rights except those conveyed to NCCT by the easement agreement. The agreement is perpetual, and any future owners of the property will be bound by the easement.

In the fall of 2020, a committee of sisters and associates crafted a land ethic statement that governed the development of the easement:

“As Sisters of Mercy of the Holy Cross, our Franciscan heritage urges us to embrace all of creation and its possibilities for the future. We know that creation, connected from the smallest particle to the most complex, is interdependent for survival. As stewards of the gift of creation known by us as Lake Florentini, we support that this sanctuary remain peace-filled and treated with respect and care.

“Our founder, Fr. Theodosius Florentini, taught us that the need of the time is the will of God. And so, we endeavor to address climate change and care for the earth. We commit to safeguard this land as a healthy and sustainable environment.”

The easement agreement identifies three levels of restrictions on the property that must be guaranteed by owners and which NCCT will evaluate on an annual basis. The lake shore, creek shore, and a wetland on the property are at the highest restriction level, which maintains them as “wild or undisturbed in character.” The buildings and present improvements are in a small section of the property and are considered minimal protection level which allows “accommodation, subject to moderate constraints, for a wider variety of activities, uses and improvements.” The majority of the property is designated as standard protection level and serves “to support open space activities including forestry” as well as “limit future improvements and allow for various land management activities that do not compromise the Conservation values.”

Kay Meyer, president of the NCCT Board of Directors, said, “It has been truly inspiring to observe the sisters’ passion for protecting this place that is so special to them forever.”

“The sisters are committed to stewardship of the earth’s resources and are very happy that the Franciscan values and care for creation are guaranteed on this beautiful property in perpetuity,” commented Sr. Pat Cormack, provincial.