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A message from DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole

DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole waterfowl hunting
Photo courtesy of DNR Secretary Preston D. Cole.

As 2020 comes to a close, it is no surprise this year has been unlike any other. Despite the unbelievable changes to our everyday lives, many  of us took the time to slow down, reflect and take stock in what matters to us most.

Millions of you took advantage of Wisconsin’s incredible natural resources, from our famed state parks to serene trails. You camped in our parks, hiked our trails, explored our rivers and lakes knowing it was a safe, enriching activity that is good for both the mind and soul.

One of the reasons Wisconsin has such remarkable outdoor recreational opportunities is because we have invested in our public lands and access to those lands. One of the ways that has been made possible is through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund, which was created in 1989 to preserve important natural resources, protect water quality and fisheries, and expand opportunities for outdoor recreation for all Wisconsinites to enjoy.

As we look toward 2021, we’re seeking out more opportunities focused on accessibility. People of all backgrounds, regardless of ability, socioeconomic status, geographical location, age, race or partner preference, should have the opportunity to hunt, fish and hike in Wisconsin. We don’t want anyone’s circumstances to hinder enjoying what’s truly remarkable about the Badger State: our great outdoors.

This issue is dedicated to keeping the outdoors open for everyone.

In the piece “Outdoors for everyone: Black Men Northwoods Retreat forges adventure and new experiences,” James Edward Mills, journalist and outdoor recreation enthusiast, shares his tales from the woods.

The story highlights the sobering statistic that nationally, Black Americans represent 13% of the population, but make up only around 5% of recreational users. It’s the inclusive work like his that gives people of color a true sense of belonging.

Also contained within these pages is a feature focused on mobility in the outdoors. In the piece “Access no issue for all-season chairs,” we take a look at how powerful wheelchairs are helping hundreds reclaim the outdoors. With more than 500,000 Wisconsinites having a disability, providing the opportunity to get outdoors in a real way is what accessibility is all about.

Wisconsinites may love the long days of summer, but our crisp, sunny, snowy winter days are just as enjoyable. This issue’s cover story spotlights the winter wonderlands awaiting hikers and snowshoers at Wisconsin’s scenic state properties.

Other stories include tips for adding native plants to your home garden, a look at the economics of statewide tourism in the magazine’s new Travel Resources feature, a photo tour of Wisconsin’s beautiful Northwoods, a Wild Rabbit with Cherry Tomatoes  and Polenta recipe from culinary historian and food essayist Kyle Cherek and more.

If you make your way outdoors this winter to a state park or natural area near you, be sure to share your adventures and tag us on social media using the hashtag #WildWisconsin.

In the meantime, as the pandemic continues, the DNR remains committed to providing a safe environment for our visitors, while also protecting the health of our staff. We appreciate your continued patience and are humbled by your support.

Be more than safe and stay healthy out there.