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UW-Green Bay Natural Areas

The Cofrin Center for Biodiversity manages over 1600 acres across six natural areas located in Brown, Door, and Manitowoc Counties.

Cofrin Memorial Arboretum

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Kingfisher Farm

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Peninsula Sanctuary

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Au Sable

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Wequiock Creek

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We are on native land.

We acknowledge that the natural areas we care for are native lands. We are on a journey to learn about and identify the concrete ways we can support Indigenous communities now and into the future. Some first steps include supporting indigenous led organizations, such as: UWGB First Nations Studies, UWGB InterTribal Student Council, Waking Women Healing Institute, Native Justice Coalition, and more.

What is a Natural Area?

The designation of natural area is given to protected lands that are set aside as an important example of an representative, unique or rare landscape feature or natural community. They may contain unique or important examples of plant or animal communities, geology, or sometimes archeological sites and are managed specifically to protect these features.

Habitat destruction is one of the greatest causes of the continuing loss of global biodiversity. Natural areas are those areas that remain as valuable habitat that provide refuges for our native flora and fauna.

Some natural areas are relatively pristine examples of an area's native landscapes, providing examples of unique geological formation or harboring rare and endangered species. These areas, including the UW Green Bay Natural Areas, are valuable for research and educational use, the preservation of genetic and biological diversity, and for providing benchmarks for determining the impact of use on managed lands. Although some natural areas, like the Cofrin Arboretum and Toft Point, have trails, they are not intended for intensive recreation.

The Cofrin Memorial Arboretum and the other UW-Green Bay natural areas were established to protect the unique flora, fauna, and ecosystems in northeastern Wisconsin and to provide outdoor recreational opportunities for students, faculty, and the community. The natural areas also serve as a “living lab” for student and faculty research and other educational activities. However, there are restrictions on the types of activities and research that can occur and all activities must be conducted in a way that minimizes impacts to the ecosystem. Our natural areas and an associated granting program provide an outstanding educational and scientific opportunity as "living laboratories" where our students and faculty can conduct original ecological and policy based research.

History of UW-Green Bay Natural Areas

Our Natural Areas program began in 1971 when UW-Green Bay faculty and staff recommended the development of a park-like arboretum and trail system around the periphery of campus. In 1975 the children and grandchildren of Dr. Austin Cofrin Austin Cofrin created an endowment in Austin Cofrin's memory that allowed the university to develop a system of trails, plantings, purchase of additional property, and to continue to improve the botanical offerings of the arboretum. At the time their generous gift was made, the donation from the Cofrin children was the largest donation ever given to a University of Wisconsin institution outside of the Madison campus.

UW-Green Bay acquired its first off-campus natural area property in 1968 when conservationist Emma Toft donated her family lake-front property, Toft Point, to The Nature Conservancy who then turned the property over to UW-Green Bay. Since then, UW-Green Bay acquired an additional 3 properties and extensive additions to the original arboretum property as gifts or by purchase. Each property features at least one unique natural community, including hardwood and conifer forest, inland or shorelines, dune ridge and swale, Lake Michigan cobble and dune shoreline, prairie, oak savanna, and Niagara escarpment .

The natural areas are supervised by Natural Areas Ecologist, Bobbie Webster and Conservation Biologist, Andrew LaPlant. If you have questions or suggestions please contact them at and

If you are interested in volunteering with our natural areas program, you may contact Bobbie or Andrew.

Most of our natural areas are open to the public, but not all are easily accessible. We ask that you respect our neighbors' properties and be conscientious as you enjoy these unique areas. Do not remove anything from these areas and stay on the trails. Dogs, horses, and vehicles of any kind are not permitted in the natural areas. Hunting is allowed with permission on some properties. Limited access for bird watching and nature viewing is allowed with permission on some properties that lack trails. Visit our Hunting page for more information.

Research Permits

For permission to conduct research, including  individual, multi-investigator, and/or class research projects, please complete this form for approval from the Director of the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity (CCB). In most cases, we ask that you agree to provide a summary of your research findings to the CCB Senior Research Specialist (Erin Giese) for archiving and possible use in future land management decisions. In addition, you are expected to remove all materials from the natural area that were used for your work at the completion of the project. Do not begin your project until this form has been completed and you have received permission to continue from the Biodiversity Center staff. You will receive a confirmation email and a decision will be made regarding your request within 2 weeks.

Completing the research application form is very helpful to the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity. We can help make sure restoration work or other research projects do not conflict with your research and track the many ways our natural areas are used for education. Also, we might be able to assist you with equipment, navigation, or funding.

If you have questions about research permits or conducting research on our natural areas please contact the biodiversity center( 

  • Interim Director of the Cofrin Center for Biodiversity: Erin Giese (
  • Conservation Biologist: Andew LaPlant ( is responsible for land management and assisting with student research on the campus arboretum and university owned natural areas.
  • Natural Areas Ecologist: Bobbie Webster ( is responsible for the land management and assisting with student research on the campus arboretum and university owned natural areas.
  • Senior Research Specialist: Erin Giese ( Oversees data collection and archiving of research conducted on the campus arboretum and university owned natural areas.
As Emma Toft reminds us, "Touch as much as you wish with your eyes, but do not see with your fingers."