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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.

 

Changes afoot at Gathering Waters: New staff and a fond farewell

The new year will bring some changes to the faces of Gathering Waters. Read on for an update on GW staffing in 2015:

Sara DeKok, our long-time Associate Director and Member Relations Director will be moving on in January 2015 when she welcomes her second child and puts down roots in the Twin Cities.  She has been a great friend and inspiring leader to all of us here at Gathering Waters and after 12 years with the organization, she will certainly be missed.

We wish her and her family the very best and are happy, knowing she will find a great opportunity in Minnesota to continue her incredible contribution to the conservation movement.

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We wish Sara DeKok a fond farewell.

Kristin Swedlund, whom we welcomed as our new Program Assistant in August, will take on a new role as Gathering Waters’ Development Coordinator upon Sara’s departure.  She has wealth of fundraising experience and is already proving to be a great asset to the land trust community.

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Kristin Swedlund has a wealth of fundraising experience and is a great asset.

And finally, we are eager to welcome a new Program Assistant in early January.  Interviews are currently taking place, so stay tuned for a new face at the office door and voice on the phone!

Land Trust Partners with City to Protect Water

Tall Pines Conservancy has partnered with the City of Oconomowoc on an innovative and exciting program (The Adaptive Management Program) to improve the water quality in their area. Together, they are reducing water pollution from urban and agricultural sources and enabling the City to reach compliance with the Department of Natural Resources waste-water and storm water permit requirements in a cost-effective manner.

Siltation after heavy rains in Mason Creek flowing into North Lake

Tall Pines Conservancy has partnered with the City of Oconomowoc to improve and maintain water quality.

The Adaptive Management Program aims to prevent pollutants from getting into the waterways through improved conservation practices including better leaf collection practices, rain gardens, porous pavement, retention ponds, residential fertilizer control, implementation of an aggressive street cleaning program, better storm water management practices and much more.

Lac La Belle at Dusk

Safer, healthier, more beautiful places to live, work and play.

All of this will mean improved water quality in the Oconomowoc River and Rock River area streams and lakes. It will mean enhanced aquatic and wildlife habitat, reduced aquatic weed growth and algal blooms in area lakes and waterways. This means safer, healthier, more beautiful places to live, work and play.

Pretty cool, right? We think so.

Want to know more about this project? Check out Tall Pines Conservancy’s Fall/Winter 2014 newsletter.

20 Years is a Name Changer

Wisconsin’s landscapes – miles of beach, soaring bluffs, acres of ancient forest – were shaped by the world’s largest freshwater ecosystem, the mighty Mississippi and the last great glacial retreat. In short, Wisconsin is defined by water. And, “gathering of the waters” is an interpretation of Wisconsin’s meaning. So in 1994, when it came time to choose a name for a new organization that would work to protect land statewide, our founders sought to poetically reference the special place in which we would work. And so, Gathering Waters Conservancy was born.

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Gathering Waters founders celebrating our 15th anniversary in 2009 (left to right): Bud Jordahl, Rob Chambers, Jean Meanwell, Bill O’ Connor, and Geoff Maclay

As our 20-year-milestone approached, we took a critical look at the way this organization has evolved for and with Wisconsin’s land trusts. While Gathering Waters has entered the vocabulary of many conservationists across Wisconsin and even the country, “Conservancy” was a misnomer, since we do not directly protect land. And, while poetic, Gathering Waters alone left room for confusion over our role.

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So today, we announce a small change with major significance. Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts, exists to help land trusts, land owners and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

The new name doesn’t change anything that we do, but we hope it better captures who we are and opens the door to more connection to the people who care about the places that make Wisconsin special.

We hope you like it as much as we do!

Lucky Stoughton

Dane County and the City of Stoughton now have a new, special place to make their own. As future development continues around this newly protected place, these 40-acres of untouched land will remain a true sanctuary and source of outdoor adventure for community members.

That’s right, Natural Heritage Land Trust (NHLT) recently purchased 40-acres of land that boasts over a mile of frontage on the Yahara River and is a popular stopover for migrating waterfowl (click for a map). NHLT is donating the land to the City of Stoughton to be enjoyed as a conservancy park where the public will have permanent access to the river. The city’s plans for the property include an extension of the bike trail that starts in the heart of the city and presently ends in Viking County Park, just south of the acquired property.

Yahara Waterway

Yahara Waterway by Mario Quintana

This community asset was made possible through funding provided by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, the Dane County Conservation Fund, and Natural Heritage Land Trust members. The previous landowner’s willingness to sell the land to Natural Heritage Land Trust for less than its fair market value played an equally vital role.

Enjoy, Stoughton!

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.

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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!     



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