Conservation History Museum

Take a Tour With Us

The WCHF and Schmeeckle Visitor Center houses an interpretive display museum illustrating the full story of conservation in Wisconsin.

Wisconsin has been home to humans for thousands of years. Lifestyles evolved in harmony with the seasonal abundance of the Wisconsin landscape.

Wisconsin Lumberjacks
The wealth of the Wisconsin white pine lured men who dreamed of fortunes. Within a lifetime they left behind fire-scarred cutover.

They were gone in a lifetime.
They Were Gone In a Lifetime

It was gone within a lifetime. Wisconsin lumber built the midwestern cities and sheltered homesteaders on the Great Plains. The pines were gone in less than 60 years.

The plow follows the axe.
The Plow Follows the Axe

When the pines were gone, hardwoods like oak were cut. Too heavy to float, these logs were hauled by railroads or milled nearby. Many winter lumberjacks were summer farmers. “Cutover” lands were sold for farms by lumber companies or were government homesteads.

Wisconsin settlers.
Wisconsin Settlers

We dreamed of owning our own farms. Immigrants from Northern Europe flooded into Wisconsin where the Handbook for the Homeseeker promised energetic workers bountiful land. Three-fourths of northern Wisconsin became farmland. Most of these farms failed within a few years doomed by short growing seasons and sterile soils.


“And the wild ducks when they rise, made a noise like thunder.” (Peter Pond, 1808 fur trader in Columbia County). Market hunters harvested hundreds of waterfowl with blasts of shrapnel from cannon-like “punt” guns. Barrels of salted birds were sent by railroad to eastern cities.

The first wardens were fish wardens to protect the dwindling commercial fishery on Lake Michigan, 1879.

Passenger Pigeons
“A mighty river in the sky.” (John Muir’s description of passenger pigeons in 1848). A large nesting of passenger pigeons covered 850 square miles and contained an estimated 136 million breeding birds in Central Wisconsin in 1871. In 1882, 75 barrels each filled with 500 birds were shipped daily to Milwaukee. In six weeks, 15 million birds had been processed.

The demand for men’s hats in Europe nearly exhausted the North American beaver. European beavers had already fallen due to these fashion fads.

Wolf pelts.
Wolf Pelts

We felt they were killing our deer and livestock. For a century, bounties were seen as a way to rid Wisconsin of competing predators like wolves. In the 1940s people like wildlife professor Aldo Leopold questioned the wisdom of species extermination. In 1960, over a quarter million dollars of bounties were paid and many citizens believed the practice was wasteful and outdated.

Law enforcement.
Law Enforcement

Laws mean nothing without enforcement. Wisconsin wardens date back to 189. The early officers were frustrated by lenient courts and weak fines. By the 1920s 30 game laws were enforced, and violators prosecuted.

Deer Wars
I thought that because fewer wolves meant more deer, that no wolves would mean hunter’s praised. But often seeing the green fire die in the wolf’s eyes. I sense that neither wolf nor the mountain agreed with such a view. Aldo Leopold. Deer management has always been controversial in Wisconsin. Debate boiled over in the 1940s when the population peaked and deer over-browsed their habitat. Leopold and others called for drastic reductions to curb mass starvation and habitat destruction. He was ridiculed by many hunters and targeted by sports clubs and tourist agents in Northern Newsletter. His views on conservation values were tempered during these trying years.

Waters of Wisconsin
Since the last glacier, the Horicon Marsh has supplied people with plentiful resources. But in 1910, the marsh was drained in the mistaken belief that it could be farmed. Concerned citizens such as Louis “Curley” Radke and Izaak Walton League members, launched a campaign to restore the Horicon Marsh. The battle concluded with the Horicon Marsh protected and the state wildlife refuge in 1929.

What Will We Value Tomorrow?
What will we value tomorrow?

We are planning a new online tour. Please come back soon.

Our location

2419 North Point Drive
Stevens Point, Wisconsin 54481
We are part of the Schmeeckle Reserve located on the University of Stevens Point (UWSP) campus.

We are open seven days a week, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For more information, call (715) 346-4992.