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Keeping Forests Accessible for Timber & Recreation

Wisconsin is a leader in the forest products industry and our timberlands directly support the state’s economy. Funding from the KnowlesNelson Stewardship Program protects this valuable asset by limiting the subdivision of large forest properties and complementing the active management of adjacent public forestlands.

Since the 1990s, Wisconsin has lost more than a quarter of a million acres of industrial forestland—much of which is now in small, parcelized ownerships. The smaller the parcel, the less chance timber will be managed to support local mills. Hunters also lose out as “no trespassing” signs typically follow changing ownership.

Fortunately, through the leadership of land trusts, the Stewardship Program has been instrumental in slowing forest land parcelization. Funding from the program allows land trusts and land owners to find business solutions, ensuring our forests remain accessible for recreation and timber harvest.

Michael Anderson

This Stewardship project supports an economically viable forest, which creates jobs while ensuring access to outdoor recreation. Photo by Michael Anderson

 

In fact, as a nationally recognized leader among land trusts, The Conservation Fund has become a champion of Wisconsin’s northern working forests. Its most recent victory for the state was the permanent protection of the 13,732-acre Twin Lakes Legacy Forest in Iron County.

This Legacy Forest has been a top priority for supporters of working forests because its resources and outdoor recreation opportunities are major drivers of the regional economy. An important aspect of this land deal is providing permanent public access for recreation, including vehicle access on over 10 miles of private-woods roads that enable hunters to continue accessing the interior of the property.

Amy Singh (1)

“These investments in our future are made possible by the Knowles-Nelson State Stewardship Program, helping communities safeguard the state’s habitats and inhabitants.” – Tom Duffus, Vice President – Midwest for The Conservation Fund, Photo by Amy Singh

 

It will also now continue to support jobs and provide a sustainable supply of forest products in perpetuity, ensure and enhance access to outdoor recreation, and protect habitat for important game and non-game species.

Why Stewardship Matters:

  • It supports Wisconsin’s $20 billion forestry industry, including jobs.
  • It provides a sustainable supply of forest products.
  • It ensures that our forests remain and are accessible for recreation, timber, and sport—major drivers of the regional economy.
  • It protects important habitat for game and non-game species.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program! This story is also available as a 3 minute video watch it today!

Community Asset, Local Treasure

When landowners Alex and Mary Erickson decided to sell their 220-acre property nestled between the Pecatonica River and the Village of Argyle, the community was deeply concerned. As local resident John Soper described, “This property came up for sale and I thought, uh oh, are we going to have that access to it that we had before?” Luckily, the Ericksons were on the same page. “Seeing this land protected so that it will inspire kids and the Argyle community has always been our dream,” Mary explains. And because of funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, their local land trust, Driftless Area Land Conservancy (Driftless) was able to purchase the property – forever protecting the land and access for the public.

Photo by Ivan LaBianca

“We couldn’t have done this without the Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant. It paid for fifty percent of the appraised value of the property and that was significant. Without the Stewardship funding the deal wouldn’t have gone through.” – Dave Clutter, Executive Director, Driftless Area Land Conservancy, photo by Ivan LaBianca

 

Since the property became a permanent part of the Argyle community, Driftless and the community have worked together to truly make the most of all it has to offer. As Dave Clutter, Executive Director of Driftless, explains, “The community support for this project has been heartwarming. It is clear that this place has touched the lives of many people already.” The Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin funded a kiosk and boardwalk to facilitate public access to the land, and Driftless has “been working hand-in-hand with the school in developing curriculum and using this property as an outdoor laboratory.” Additionally, an anonymous foundation funded the purchase of binoculars, a computer, and a spotting scope for the school’s environmental education activities.

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Argyle youth now have an incredible outdoor laboratory and classroom while the entire community can rest assured that this treasure will always be theirs, Photo courtesy of Driftless Area Land Conservancy

 

And the students are loving it. “It’s just better to be outside because you get more fresh air and there’s just more to do,” said high school student, Kaylie Berget. Her friend Taylor Mathys added, “During school it kinda feels cooped up and when we get to get outside, it’s like you’re free.”

This special place will continue to enrich the lives of those around it, forever. Echoing the sentiment of fellow community members, local resident Neale Tollakson says “It’s a great comfort to me to know that it’s going to continue to be here for future generations.”

Why Stew Matters:

  • Locals have always felt this land was a part of their community’s identity and now they always will, as they continue to have a place close to home to get outside, explore, and be active year round.
  • Students benefit from the incorporation of an outdoor laboratory and classroom.
  • Living near parks and green spaces has been shown to boost mental well-being and reduce stress

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program! This story is also available as a 3 minute video watch it today!

Conserving Water, Benefitting Birds and Business

For many years, Dr. Noel Cutright envisioned the creation of a bird observatory along Lake Michigan. As a renowned birder and ornithologist, he knew that the western shore was a significant stopover point for birds on their migratory journeys, being part of a major flyway stretching from South America to Alaska. So when a golf course in the town of Belgium went on the market, he saw an opportunity.

photo by Kate Redmond

This is a dream-come-true for the late Dr. Cutright and for over 200 species of migratory birds. It’s good for the economy, water conservation and is truly a special place for all to enjoy. Photo by Kate Redmond

Dr. Cutright encouraged the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) to buy the golf course property, which included frontage on the Lake Michigan shoreline, and transform it into a migratory bird preserve. Skeptical about siting a nature preserve on such a manicured landscape, OWLT did their research while experts devised a plan to create several habitat types favorable to migrating birds. Ultimately, they were convinced of the ecological significance of the land and the viability of Dr. Cutright’s vision and began fundraising for the project.

OWLT secured funding for half of the purchase price through the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program, making this incredible undertaking possible. Then, collaborating with local birding groups, many local contractors, and people at every level of government, ten years of land restoration was accomplished in only eighteen months of intensive work.

photo by Ken Tapp

One of Dr. Cutright’s favorite quotes was this one by Rachel Carson: “There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” Photo by Ken Tapp

Today, this special place is known as the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve. In addition to providing 150 acres of safe cover for birds to rest and feed, it offers a trail system that winds through the property, and is home to the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, another of Dr. Cutright’s visions. It also uses 10-20 million fewer gallons of water per year than its predecessor. The nearby town of Belgium was planning to dig a new well and build a water tower to meet municipal demand, but since the Preserve was created, the town found it no longer needed more water production.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

Sense of Identity & Source of Revenue

Terrie Cooper, a lifelong resident of Door County, considered the view from the top of the bluff in the town of Liberty Grove, saying, “I grew up in Ellison Bay. This is my home. The Grand View property was an iconic view that we had all known and loved. It identified our community. I don’t think anybody ever realized that could change.”

Grand View by Julie Schartner 009a2(1)

This 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Photo by Julie Schartner

 

From this Door County high point, one can see the sparkling waters of Green Bay, islands in the distance, and sheer bluffs topped by hardwood forests. Residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the scenic overlook for many years, often pulling over to the side of the road to snap photos or take in the majestic view. Only when construction of a 44-unit condominium development began on the property did people realize that this signature view could disappear.

Beyond the community concern, an economic threat also loomed. Door County draws over two million visitors every year, most of whom come to enjoy the scenery and outdoor activities. Tourism accounts for almost $300 million in annual revenue in Door County. Though privately owned, the Grand View property was a de facto tourist attraction that drew thousands of visitors each year.

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“My wife Vonnie and I drive into Ellison Bay every day and always slow down to marvel at the remarkable view. This very special place has been naively taken for granted until the past few years when the potential for development became real.” – Dave Callsen, community member, Photo by Door County Community Foundation

 

Concerned citizens approached Door County Land Trust to help find a solution. The land trust responded, marshaling its resources for what would be a five-year-long commitment to forge a path to preservation of the popular and iconic view. Their expertise in conservation and real estate led to successful grant-writing, private fundraising, and land purchase negotiations. They also partnered with the Town of Liberty Grove, which agreed to take eventual ownership of the land and manage it as a public park.

Through persistence and dedication, the land trust was able to secure funding for the overlook property through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the National Scenic Byway Program. The 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Door County, known for its beautiful landscape, can rest assured that this destination spot will always remain.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

Enriching Lives, Providing Livelihoods

Camp Nawakwa, in Chippewa County, is a summer camp that has been run by the Girl Scouts for many years. Located on a glacial lake and surrounded by hardwood forest, the camp offers kids a place to experience the outdoors, to connect with nature through activities like fishing, swimming, or hiking, and learn invaluable skills; all while building lifelong friendships. It has shaped the lives of many.

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Camp Nawakwa will continue to shape the lives of Girl Scouts like Sherry Jasper (above), who has been a part of the organization for years.

Sherry Jasper has been a part of the Girl Scouts for decades, starting as a young camper and later serving on the Board of Directors of a large Wisconsin Girl Scout council. “I grew up in Girl Scouting and the out-of-doors program, so taking care of the land and providing opportunities for others to learn from the land is a very strong value that I carry to this day,” she says. So when a portion of Camp Nawakwa needed to be sold to support other programs and properties, Sherry and the Girl Scout leadership approached the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) for help.

The IATA is a land trust whose mission is to create, support, and protect the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a thousand-mile footpath that winds through the state. The trail provides access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural areas, including privately-owned land near Camp Nawakwa. It also helps feed Wisconsin’s tourism industry, strengthening local economies.

Dave Caliebe

Because of the Stewardship Program, the community gained a new source of revenue, place to explore, and destination spot! Photo by Dave Caliebe

The IATA did not disappoint. They understood the vision and led the way to make it possible. They collaborated with Chippewa County to secure funding through the state’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which provided half the purchase price of the land and made this deal possible, and with the Girl Scouts, who placed an easement on the land to ensure its permanent protection.

Because of this project, the camp will remain and have access to an extensive trail improved and maintained by the IATA. And that’s not all. Because of this deal, the land is now managed as a public working forest, supplying the county with jobs and a new source of revenue that also offers 110 magnificent acres of public recreational opportunities like fishing, hiking, skiing, and much more.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

A Legacy and Gift

John Muir, the nineteenth century naturalist, writer and advocate of wilderness preservation, is most often associated with California. He did, after all, spend much of his later life there, working tirelessly to protect its forests and mountains. But his early years were spent in Wisconsin, on his family’s farm near Portage. It was there, amongst woods, prairies, wetlands and glacial lakes that he developed his lifelong passion for the natural world, which became a national legacy and inspiration.

Born in Scotland, Muir came with his family to the United States as a young boy. His parents settled in Marquette County in central Wisconsin and started farming. He later described his feelings at first seeing his new home: “This sudden splash into pure wilderness – baptism in Nature’s warm heart – how utterly happy it made us!” and “Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!”

Photo by Brant Erickson

This Stewardship project protects a Wisconsin legacy while providing locals and visitors with a destination spot where they can explore, recreate and more. Photo by Brant Erickson.

About a century later, Bessie McGwin Eggleston and her husband owned a farm in Marquette County that included 38 acres of what had once been part of Muir’s family farm. Bessie felt a strong personal connection to her land and to nature, writing: “I think we have to help our children learn to appreciate and to enjoy the beauties of nature. If we can develop the appreciation for the loveliness which has been given us, we will also develop the desire to preserve these precious gifts for the heritage of future generations.”

Bessie wished to have her entire 198 acre property permanently protected, to benefit future generations. Although she didn’t live to see it, her wish was granted when her family sold the land to Natural Heritage Land Trust. While a number of organizations and donors chipped in, the fulfillment of this dream wouldn’t have been possible without funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

credit - McGwin Family Photo Collection

This photo of Bessie on the farm is courtesy of the McGwin Family Photo Collection.

Now, a portion of the land will become part of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail while another will be added to the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. And all of it will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching; a fitting tribute to both John Muir and Bessie McGwin Eggleston.

“ In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. Photo by H. W. Bradley and William Rulofson

“ In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” – John Muir. Photo by H. W. Bradley and William Rulofson

New at Gathering Waters

We are happy to welcome two new additions to the team here at Gathering Waters: Becky Andresen, our part-time Program Assistant and Rhea Bradley, our Outreach & Development Intern.

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Becky Andresen, Program Assistant

As our Program Assistant, Becky will be keeping the office organized and making sure everything is running smoothly while ensuring staff have what they need to thrive. She will also play a vital role with supporting our fundraising and membership program. In addition to working for Gathering Waters, Becky has another part time job with Public Health-Madison & Dane County as a Laboratory Assistant where she tests water samples.

Rhea Bradley, Outreach & Development Intern

Rhea Bradley, Outreach & Development Intern

As our Outreach & Development Intern, Rhea will offer some fresh ideas and support of our outreach efforts, fundraising and special events.  She is currently a student at Edgewood College majoring in Business Management and minoring in Environmental Studies.  She has a strong interest in sustainable business and hopes her internship at Gathering Waters will expand her awareness of the value of land conservation while developing professional skills.

Find out more about these two or the rest of the Gathering Waters’ team on our website.

Welcome Becky and Rhea! 

Nature’s Beauty and Capacity to Heal

As a young boy scout, Doug Jones learned that “you leave your spot better than you found it.” To this day he and his wife Sherryl adhere to this adage. In December 2014 Doug and Sherryl permanently protected a part of their land with Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC).

This restored prairie, situated next to a secluded lake along the Wisconsin River, is helping protect an array of beautiful and brilliantly colored rare fish that call the lake home. According to Dave Marshall, retired Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist and current Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) researcher and board member, these rare fish are “much like the proverbial canaries in the coal mines. They reflect the health of these lakes, which are crucial to the health of the river.”

the Jones

Sherryl & Doug Jones

The prairie restoration, planted and maintained by Doug and Sherryl, filters nutrients from groundwater before it reaches the lake. In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms that threatened the future of the rare fish that live only in lakes like these. Since Doug and Sherryl planted the prairie on their property, FLOW has measured – through groundwater and surface water samples – a steady decline in nutrients in the lake next to the Jones’ prairie.

In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms

In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms.

According to Sherryl, “we planted the prairie because we simply thought it was beautiful, but it’s incredibly rewarding to know that we’re also improving water quality and protecting these special animals.” This unique project serves as a model for protecting waterways throughout the Driftless Area. It was made possible through a partnership between DALC, FLOW and the Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA).  MEA and FLOW provided funding to DALC to protect lands along the Lower Wisconsin River, with a focus on improving water quality.

New Beginnings

As we ring in a new year, many of us stop to reflect on the past year and our hopes for the future. We think about why we do what we do and the value we bring to and derive from it.

Harkening back to the October 2014 Land Trust Retreat here is a list of words that participants offered in response to the question, What is a word that describes what you see, hear, or feel in a place you help conserve?

untamed quiet serene
tranquil peaceful relaxing
removed crunchy squishy
salty verdant fresh
refreshing magic rippling waters water shimmering
raindrops breathtaking soothing
removed home fortunate
timeless wildness unspoiled
magic bird sounds beep-beep
alive rustic primordial
promise opportunity whisper
unspoiled awe inspiring glorious
reverent haunted humble
proud mortal soulfulness
contentment

 

These words inspired creativity in the Retreat Haiku Contest. They also highlight what is so special about the work that land trusts do.

All of us at Gathering Waters wish you ample measures of opportunity and magic, with moments of peacefulness and relaxation, as you enter this fresh, new year!

 

 

Ideas from Wisconsin’s 2014 Land Trust Retreat

The Land Trust Retreat in October was dubbed both “Land Trust 101” and “Executive Director Therapy” by participants, indicating the range of benefits it offered for brand new board members and seasoned leaders and staff alike.

More than anything else participants in this year’s retreat valued the opportunity to network. The strength of the land trust community truly lies in identifying issues and tackling them together.

One retreat session in particular gave participants space to reflect together on the “big picture.” The room was abuzz as each small group moved through a series of questions, rotating from station to station to add to and comment on the ideas of previous groups.LT retreat 2014 (301)

Here are some of the themes that emerged.

Land trust folks know that conserving land over time is an awesome responsibility. These are some of the questions that keep them up at night.

  • What data could we collect on easements that would be helpful for science and management far into the future?
  • What more can we do to ensure resource quality and availability for future generations?
  • How can we weather changes in government programs and resources to manage natural resources?
  • How can we demonstrate conservation’s relevance to more people and make the connection with global and local issues like climate change, poverty, disease?

These are ideas and directions land trusts are interested in exploring.

  • Creative fundraising approaches, like mobile payments, electronic currency, crowdfunding
  • Financing with a Chip Fee or transfer fee for conservation
  • Web-based tools for monitoring and stewardship by staff and citizen scientists
  • Electronic record keeping, with proper standard/filing format
  • Remote-control drones–new ways to access property as well as potential for confrontational issues
  • Pathways to engage the wider community through social media, mobile technology, and virtual tours
  • Becoming more targeted in land owner contacts (work with UWSP on this)
  • Developing a “watershed” message, making riparian buffer zones a “commodity”
  • Treat dairy manure properly in watershed by trails, like industrial waste

Participants also listed ideas for working together to increase their effectiveness and efficiency.

  • Share tools & resources: hardware tools, work crews, monitoring
  • Joint workshops
  • Share donor lists, recognize that overlap occurs
  • Peer support and accountability for meeting standards, whether accredited or not
  • Help/contract for technical support, GIS
  • Cooperate on grant writing/applications
  • Baselines preparation/GIS job sharing
  • Board member shadowing
  • Shared professional support/mentorship
  • Trade off facilitation of meetings
  • Convene board meetings on the same date to share guest speaker
  • Pass CE’s to neighbor, “save” $50,000
  • Serve as back-up holders
  • Mergers
  • Develop expert/skill directory on-line
  • Shared PR, “brought to you by Wisconsin’s Land Trusts”

This is a conversation that will be ongoing. At Gathering Waters we welcome your continued reflections and suggestions on how we can work together to make land trusts stronger. Contact Meg Domroese, Land Trust Program Director (meg at gatheringwaters dot org), or reach out to one of the members of Wisconsin’s Land Trust Council. Council members keep their fingers on the pulse of land trusts and help us to set priorities strategically.

With our Land Trust Alliance partners we will take these ideas up in Ask-an-Expert calls, peer mentoring activities, and other training opportunities, including at future retreats.

 



Gathering Waters • 211 S. Paterson St. Suite 270 • Madison, WI 53703 • PH 608-251-9131 • FX 608-663-5971 • info@gatheringwaters.org