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2014 Land Trust of the Year: The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund is a national land trust that has had a significant impact in Wisconsin. Known for its collaborative approach, the Fund’s conservation efforts serve to enhance and protect air and water quality, wildlife habitat and public recreation areas that preserve connections to our natural, cultural and historical heritage—all while creating opportunities to enhance economic opportunities for nearby communities and sustain local jobs in the forestry industry.

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The beautiful Brule St.-Croix Legacy Forest will benefit the region in many ways, forever. Photo courtesy of The Conservation Fund.

Since the Fund opened its Upper Midwest office in 2005, it has nurtured partnerships for the protection of large-scale forest and watershed conservation. Notably, the Fund played an integral role in the permanent protection of the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest, which represents the largest conservation project in Wisconsin’s state history. Each year, the Legacy Forest provides more than 1000 Wisconsin jobs and brings in $34.1 million through employment, timber sales and taxes. The Legacy Forest also provides habitat for several threatened and endangered species, plays a critical role in protecting the region’s water supply, and is open to the public for hiking, fishing, trapping, cross-country skiing, hunting, and bird watching.

Without the collaborative efforts led by the Fund, vast tracks of land like this one would be at risk for development, forever changing our Northwoods landscape and quality of life. Nearly 76,000 acres have been protected in Wisconsin as part of the Fund’s Upper Midwest initiative. This work, accomplished in less than 10 years, is absolutely phenomenal.

The Conservation Fund will be recognized for the tremendous impact they are having in Wisconsin, as the Land Trust of the Year at Gathering Waters’ 12th annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!

Margaret Burlingham, recipient of the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation

Margaret Burlingham is a hard working volunteer advocate for farmland preservation in Jefferson County, where development pressure on farms and farmland has been heavy. Her work as chair of the Jefferson County Farmland Easement Commission has led to many successes in the areas of farmland preservation planning, easements, advocacy, outreach, and education, as well as the protection of more than 600 acres of farmland.

Margaret also demonstrated great leadership in the American Farmland Trust’s Friends of Farmland Protection group. She actively worked to preserve the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements program by organizing support, testifying at legislative hearings and providing valuable insights. Additionally, she has and currently does serve on a number of other committees, teams and/or boards. She also provides park planning & design, land use planning, and rain garden design & installation services to public sector clients through her consulting firm, LanDesign.

Burlingham

Margaret Burlingham’s leadership and dedication has helped lead to many successes in the areas of farmland preservation planning, easements, advocacy, outreach, and education, as well as the protection of more than 600 acres of farmland.

Her personal commitment to farmland preservation is further reflected in the 95-acre easement she and her husband, Tom, donated in 2008. They operate Langmanor Farm, where they grow 500 acres of hay, corn, soybeans, wheat, and custom bale hay.

“Margaret is a true professional in all her efforts. She is able to interact and work with local, county and state officials. Her insights and dedication have been invaluable to the Friends of Farmland Protection group. When there’s a need to get something done, we turn to Margaret Burlingham.” (Bill Berry, American Farmland Trust)

Gathering Waters is happy to award the 2014 Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation to Margaret- she clearly deserves it! Join us to honor her work, at the Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!

Door County icons Roy & Charlotte Lukes, earn Lifetime Achievement Award

Roy and Charlotte Lukes are treasured Door and Kewaunee County naturalists and conservation icons. They have worked as a team for over 40 years educating countless children and adults on the wonders of the natural world and the tremendous importance of protecting Wisconsin’s wild places.

photo by Len Villano

The Lukes have been huge contributors to the Door County Peninsula’s educational curriculum, designed to help people better understand the area’s history, geology, plants, and wildlife.

Roy was the first Chief Naturalist and Manager of The Ridges Sanctuary, has written over 1600 nature essays for area newspapers, and five books on The Ridges, Toft Point and the flora and fauna of Door County. Charlotte has identified more than 550 species of mushrooms in Door County and is working on putting her information into a book. Together, they have led hundreds of hikes in Door County, early morning bird outings and workshops for residents and visitors. The Lukes have been huge contributors to the Door County Peninsula’s educational curriculum, designed to help people better understand the area’s history, geology, plants, and wildlife. In fact, in 2000, Roy and Charlotte founded the Friends of Toft Point, to help preserve and educate others about the Toft Point State Natural Area.

“One doesn’t have to look far to appreciate the wonderful conservation work that has occurred in Door County during the past couple of decades – and in almost every case (if not every case) Roy and Charlotte have had a positive influence on the people responsible for these accomplishments.” – Robert W. Howe, Ph.D., Professor, Natural & Applied Sciences (Biology) and Director, Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, U.W. Green Bay

The Lukes are certainly deserving of the Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented to them at Gathering Waters’ 12th annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!

Matt Dallman, 2014 Conservationist of the Year

Matt Dallman of Minocqua, has consistently demonstrated outstanding conservation leadership, ideas, and commitment to partnership. As The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Conservation for Northern Wisconsin, he has worked effectively and cooperatively with many groups, including local land trusts, and has a reputation for navigating challenging and divisive issues among stakeholders in a manner that respects everyone, while never deviating from his core principals and objectives. His experience and collective approach to solving difficult challenges has helped protect Wisconsin’s forests, countless special places, and many tens of thousands of acres. Matt’s focus on ensuring this state’s natural resources are managed in a way that will leave them in good shape for tomorrow, combined with his steadfast approach to finding solutions that benefit both people and nature has made an incredible impact.

Dallman

Matt Dallman’s experience and collective approach to solving difficult challenges has helped protect Wisconsin’s forests, countless special places, and many tens of thousands of acres.

Included in the many tens of thousands of acres he’s helped to protect, over 80,000 of them are working forests. These forests will provide jobs and other economic benefits, protect wildlife habitat, as well as air & water resources, and provide countless opportunities for public enjoyment. The results of Matt’s long-time efforts have been exceptional and have left a truly lasting legacy of important lands throughout northern Wisconsin, conserved for all future generations.

But Matt is known for more than just his incredible conservation achievements. Those who know him and have worked with him herald a similar praise regarding his character:

“Simply put there are few people who work as tirelessly and humbly to protect and preserve the natural places that make Wisconsin special. His integrity, commitment, and skills are unrivaled. Most remarkably, Matt manages to navigate extremely challenging and highly divisive issues among diverse stakeholders in a manner that respects all the players, while never deviating from his core principles and objectives.” (Tia Nelson, Executive Secretary, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.)

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Matt Dallman with a Conservationist of the Year Award, on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!

Melissa Cook, 2014 Conservationist of the Year

Melissa Cook, a Parks and Recreation Specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), has dedicated the majority of her professional life to restoring the natural resources in the heart of Milwaukee, making those resources accessible to residents.

Through her leadership, Melissa has helped to develop a sense of ownership, stewardship and wonder among central city populations not often reached by typical environmental outreach efforts.

Melissa has demonstrated incredible vision and perseverance for over fifteen years, in the development, promotion, stewardship and enhancement of the Hank Aaron State Trail in the Menomonee Valley. This urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness, improvements to an important environmental corridor, rehabilitation of urban waterways, economic growth, and overall quality of urban life. Through her leadership, Melissa has helped to develop a sense of ownership, stewardship and wonder among central city populations not often reached by typical environmental outreach efforts.

Menomonee River in 1999, and Menomonee River and Hank Aaron State Trail in 2011. What a difference!

Menomonee River in 1999

“Melissa’s vision, leadership and unwavering perseverance are a primary reason why a once forgotten stretch of river cutting though a vacant brownfield is today filled with neighborhood children walking river paths, anglers catching salmon, bikers from throughout SE Wisconsin, and an array of native flora and fauna re-establishing along the Menomonee River.” (Laura Bray, Executive Director, Menomonee Valley Partners)

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Menomonee River and Hank Aaron State Trail in 2011. What a difference!

Over the last fifteen years, Melissa has coordinated events such as the Hank Aaron run/walk every August, river clean ups, volunteer days to plant native species along the trail and public events to educate the community about this great asset. She also helped to create Stew Crews – businesses, schools, and neighborhood organizations who have adopted sections of the Trail and help with its maintenance.

Among other things, this urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness, including an annual run/walk, coordinated by Melissa Cook.

Among other things, this urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness- including an annual run/walk, coordinated by Melissa Cook.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Melissa Cook with a Conservationist of the Year Award, on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!     

Muir Family Farm Protected for Years to Come

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown,
for going out, I found, was really going in.” -John Muir

The Natural Heritage Land Trust recently announced an exciting development in the preservation of the original John Muir family farm – the purchase of nearly 200 acres in Marquette County between Montello and Portage, WI. The property will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching – continuing John Muir’s legacy of preserving natural spaces for all people to explore, discover, and enjoy.

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John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist and author, founded the Sierra Club and is widely regarded as the father of our National Park System. His family emigrated from Scotland in 1849 and started a farm near Portage, WI. The recent property acquisition includes 38 acres of the original 320-acre farm and is part of a 1,400-acre protected landscape, including the John Muir Memorial Park/Muir Park State Natural Area and the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. A map of the new and existing protected lands can be found here.

john-muirPhoto Credit: 4lakes.org

“Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!” -John Muir

Muir’s passion for preserving natural spaces echoes through Wisconsin’s conservation community. The permanent preservation of this beautiful natural space and piece of Wisconsin’s history would not have been possible without the work of the National Heritage Land Trust in partnership with the landowner and funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, USFWS Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council, The Conservation Fund, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, Wisconsin Land Fund of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, and John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club.

To learn more about this land acquisition or the Muir family legacy, please contact National Heritage Land Trust.

Lake Michigan Day a Success

On a beautiful August morning, a group of nearly 100 conservation leaders, government officials and concerned citizens gathered at the UW-Manitowoc campus for the inaugural Lake Michigan Day.

The event was held on August 14, 2014 and showcased opportunities for continued restoration and protection of Lake Michigan as well as the broader Great Lakes basin. It also highlighted the ongoing challenges facing the lakes and provided a venue for decision-makers and community leaders to engage with an array of stakeholders on issues facing the Great Lakes.  Many local examples of restoration projects along the lake shore in Manitowoc were shared.

lake michigan day logo

Elected officials like the Mayor of Manitowoc, Justin Nickels, and U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin welcomed the group to the event and shared their strong commitment to Great Lakes restoration and protection.

U.S. Senator Tammy Baldwin welcomed attendees to Lake Michigan Day

Attendees also heard from Steve Galarneau from Wisconsin DNR Office of the Great Lakes Director; Todd Ambs, Campaign Director for the Healing Our Waters Coalition; Peter Annin, author and Board Member of The Nature Conservancy; Jim Hurley, Director, UW Sea Grant; and Jim Snitgen, Water Resources Team Leader with the Oneida Nation, about the important restoration work that is occurring in and around Lake Michigan and the complex, ongoing challenges that continue to face the Great Lakes.

Shawn Graff, Executive Director, of the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust received a Champion of Conservation Award at Lake Michigan Day

Gathering Waters and several of Wisconsin’s land trusts that work in the Lake Michigan basin, including Glacial Lakes Conservancy, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, and the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation, were in attendance at the event. Shawn Graff from Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT), received a well earned Champion of Conservation Award for his and OWLT’s efforts and successes.  Shawn and OWLT have helped to protect crucial habitat along the Lake Michigan shoreline, improve watershed health, and tackle significant invasive species challenges, among other projects and priorities.

Kids playing along the shore of Lake Michigan. Photo credit: Rachel Kramer

Kids playing along the shore of Lake Michigan. Photo credit: Rachel Kramer

Retiring-Congressman Tom Petri also received an award at the event for his longstanding, bi-partisan approach to Great Lakes issues. Representative Petri has been a consistent supporter of Great Lakes restoration and protection, and has worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to ensure that programs like the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative are a success.

Local media from Manitowoc covered the event including an article and an editorial in the Manitowoc Herald and coverage on the local Fox network.

Lake Michigan Day was organized and supported by the Lakeshore Natural Resources Partnership, the Wisconsin Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, Wisconsin Coastal Management Program, and Gathering Waters, among other local, state and regional partners.

Rosholt’s Treasure Protected by North Central Conservancy Trust

Both Jim Benn and Louise Benn Barnard have fond childhood memories of living in Rosholt and know how much the area meant to their father, Dr. Vernard Benn.

Jim Benn said his father, who has since passed away, loved living and working in the area since the day he moved to Rosholt in 1937. Dr. Benn served in the area for 49 years, retiring in 1985, and delivered more than 5,000 babies.

“He treated the town as his office,” Jim Benn said. “He was a hunter and fisherman, and was known for playing hooky whenever he could to go out and spend time in the woods.”

Louise Benn Barnard said she always remembers hiking from their home to the land on Sunday afternoons, and how much she enjoyed playing there as a child.

Sign at the Benn Nature Conservancy.

“We’re thrilled to give this land to these people, because they will enjoy those little things as much as we did.” (Louise Benn Bernard)

These sentiments led the brother and sister, who now live in Massachusetts and California, respectively, to decide the 35 acres their family owned just behind the Rosholt School District should be enjoyed by students and the community.

“It was truly magical, and I knew when I moved I’d always miss Wisconsin,” said Benn Barnard. “We’re thrilled to give this land to these people, because they will enjoy those little things as much as we did.”

After receiving the property, now known as the Vernard A. Benn Conservancy, the school district contacted their local land trust, North Central Conservancy Trust (NCCT) to ensure that it would remain protected, forever. Together, the school district and NCCT designed an easement, which lays out the terms through which the land will be protected.

The property includes much of the Rosholt Millpond and has long been maintained as a nature conservancy, with a trail system designed and cared for by students of the district, and now it is guaranteed to remain this way, benefiting the health and well being of the community for generations to come.  As Jo Seiser (the Executive Director of NCCT at the time) explains, “as part of the easement, the property must continue to be used as an area for students and the public and cannot be developed or divided. The trust will inspect the property annually to ensure it is maintained.”

Benches at the Benn Nature Conservancy.

Students and other community members will be able to enjoy this beautiful property forever.

The community was so thankful for this gift that the school district organized an Earth Day assembly, to thank the Benn family for its donation. The assembly included musical performances by students and statements of appreciation from students and members of the community. “This donation will ensure that this spectacular piece of nature, which is right in our backyard, will be there for the use of our students,” Rosholt District Administrator Marc Christianson said.

Students and other community members will be able to enjoy this beautiful property forever – what a wonderful gift from the Benn family and North Central Conservancy Trust to the Village of Rosholt! This is a great example of why we work so hard to strengthen all of Wisconsin’s land trusts. The value they offer their communities is priceless and permanent.

Nathan’s Owl

Here at Gathering Waters we love to hear the stories of amazing things that Wisconsin’s land trusts do for their communities. That is, after all, a huge part of why we do what we do. Last fall, Caledonia Conservancy (one of our member land trusts), hosted their second annual “Community Daze”, where dozens of youngsters and adults came out to the King’s Corner property in Caledonia to enjoy a wide array of activities including a Birds of Prey display by Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, which Eric Schumann (our board Treasurer and the Past President of Caledonia Conservancy) and his wife Jane, arranged for the event. One boy named Nathan was particularly enthralled by the owls at the event, this is his story.

Nathan decorating a birdhouse at Caledonia Conservancy Community Daze.

Nathan decorating a birdhouse at Caledonia Conservancy Community Daze.

Nathan arrived at the King’s corner property excited to do some nature crafts and learn about the wildlife in the area. He and his sister started off the day by making pine cone bird feeders, decorating a birdhouse, and visiting a skunk, a lemur and a porcupine. Next, Nathan decided to check out the Birds of Prey display and learn about the Barred Owl.

Nathan was awestruck by the creature and amazed to learn that one could potentially be found in his own backyard. He absorbed all the information he could about this mysterious bird including how to make a nesting box. When Nathan returned home, he promptly told his parents that he wanted to build one so they could attract an owl to their home. A few hours and one trip to Menards later, Nathan and his father had built the box and placed it in their backyard.

Nathan and his dad working on the nesting box.

Nathan and his dad working on the nesting box.

Nathan watched until sunset that night and has since asked his mother for night vision goggles since he learned that the owl will most likely come “really late. like 10:00 pm”.

Every night, Nathan excitedly looked out to the nesting box to check if an owl had decided to call it home, but come Christmas still no owl appeared. His family kept expecting his interest to fade as no owl had showed up, but he kept to it and continued to do research on what type of owl would most likely use the box.

Then on January 4th, 2014, Nathan peered out his kitchen window to find a gray phase Eastern Screech Owl perched in the hole. Nathan’s owl had finally arrived! Although the cold weather kept him indoors, Nathan grabbed binoculars and watched the owl settle in.

Owl 2

The owl that has settled into Nathan’s nesting box.

In Nathan’s research, he found out that female owls selects their mate by the abundance of food and the quality of the nesting shelter, so Nathan is sure that there will be a female joining his owl. Nathan also learned a lesson about symbiotic relationships from his research, since he found out that Easter Screech Owls often have a blind snake in their nesting boxes. Nate told his mom and dad “just like us; a mom, a dad, babies and a helper friend in a house.”

Nathan studys up on Owl

Nathan studies up on owls.

“Just like us; what a valuable concept for children to have in regard to wildlife” his mom stated in a letter to Caledonia Conservancy thanking them for hosting the inspiring event.

Additionally, Nathan recently told his Mom he wanted to be a scientist and she is sure this owl experience has fostered that.

“Perhaps we will look into getting one of those night cameras as it looks like the ‘Year of the owl’ will continue.” Wrote his mother in the letter.  “Thank you Caledonia Conservancy so much for sparking this interest.  You have started something special.”

Welcome Meg Domroese, our new Land Trust Program Director!

We are very happy to announce that Meg Domroese will be joining our team as the new Land Trust Program Director, early this July!

As you may know, our mission is to help land trusts, landowners, and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special. Unlike any other organization, we accomplish our mission by strengthening Wisconsin land trusts – a network of approximately 50 nonprofit organizations that protect land to preserve its natural, agricultural, or cultural value for public benefit. We provide direct technical assistance to non-profit land trusts; are non-partisan, solution-oriented advocates for public policies supporting land conservation; and use our statewide voice to share the stories of land trusts’ impact and how they address community needs, and inspire broad public support for land conservation.

Welcome to the team, Meg!

Welcome to the team, Meg!

The Land Trust Program Director position is integral to accomplishing this important work. Among other things, Meg will provide direct coaching to and coordination of training for land trusts around the state; she will execute GWC’s signature program to support Wisconsin land trusts (our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program); she will facilitate meetings with land trusts and collaborative partners, and coordinate collaborative efforts around the state.

Meg comes to Gathering Waters from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters where she convened discussions on statewide water and energy issues. She helped found the Citizen Science Association, which, in its first months of existence, already has 1700 members and plans to convene its first national conference in early 2015. Meg led projects in Bolivia and British Columbia, among other places, in her previous position at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. These projects all aimed to promote participation in conservation through partnerships among scientists, educators, and community leaders.

Meg is excited to join an organization dedicated to helping people protect the places that make Wisconsin special. Born and raised in Oak Park, IL, Meg spent many a family holiday on Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers. Having taken up residence in Madison almost two years ago, she can’t get enough of the bike paths, paddling around Lake Wingra, or excursions to parks and small towns around the state. We sure are glad to have her!



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