Latest Entries

The Year at Faville Grove

The Madison Audubon Society, a Wisconsin land trust, offers lucky individuals a unique opportunity to gain experience caring for and managing the land through its Land Steward position. Land Stewards supervise intern field crew, monitor and manage habitat restorations, identify and control invasive species, collect native species, conduct prescribed burns, coordinate volunteer work events, lead field trips and outreach events, prepare and manage grants, monitor conservation easements, record sanctuary phenology and more.

Faville Winter Work Party. Photo from madisonaudubon.org.

Faville Winter Work Party. Photo from madisonaudubon.org.

We recently found an article in Madison Audubon Society’s Spring 2014 newsletter written by one of these land stewards- Matt Weber, from the Faville Grove Sanctuary. Here are his favorite memories from the job during 2013:

  • Hearing whip-poor-wills calling in the Lake Mills Ledge.
  • Seeing the short-eared owls return to the Crawfish River floodplain (Martin, Tillotson, and Charles prairies) after a couple years without their presence.
  • Watching a doe find her fawn out in the prairie to nurse.
  • Discovering two new native species on the sanctuary – Prairie parsley (a threatened species in Wisconsin) and grape honeysuckle.
  • Confirming that Eastern Prairie White-Fringed Orchids (on the state endangered species list) are recovering on Snapper and Faville Prairie State Natural Areas after flooding and drought damaged the populations.
  • Collecting 15 pounds of spiderwort seed in the north Lake Mills Ledge Uplands.
  • Conducting our first-ever summer burn and watching the prairie recover with several species flowering late into September and October including spiderwort, compass plant, prairie dock, sawtooth sunflower, ironwood, rattlesnake master, and prairie blazing star.
  • Collecting 139 native species with 48 individual volunteers and 354 volunteer hours (not including groups).
Short eared owl. Photo by Bex Ross.

The short eared owl returns. Photo by Bex Ross.

What a rewarding job and such a thoughtful and inspiring reflection on the joys of being a land steward!

Thank you to Madison Audubon Society for sharing this reflection in your newsletter!

The Climate Corner

The Climate Corner is a monthly column of the Peninsula Pulse, featuring a variety of writers from around the state and Door County, addressing various aspects of the challenges and opportunities climate change presents. Our Executive Director Mike Strigel recently wrote an article for the column, discussing the ways that land trusts are addressing this critical topic. You can read the full article here, or catch some of the highlights below:

In all that they do, land trusts must look to the future, constantly planning for the changes that may affect the health of the land under their stewardship and may alter its value to the community. Whether the change is caused by development in the area, an increasing population, or by the significant warming of average air and water temperatures that is occurring today, land trusts have to be prepared to manage their obligations to the land and the community effectively – in perpetuity.

Photo by Matthew Hester

Photo by Matthew Hester

Across the country more land trusts are including climate change in their strategic planning. Emerging research is helping to identify land that will be critical as our world changes. In some places land trusts are creating natural corridors to allow for plant and animal migration as changing habitat conditions force species to move in order to survive.

Sandhill Crane in prairie

Photo by Gary Shackelford

In coastal areas, land trusts are setting aside wetland and shore land buffers in ways that will protect against erosion and improve water quality in the event of more frequent and higher intensity precipitation or drought. In other cases, land trusts are restoring habitats with more climate resilient native species, as is critical in places such as working forests where a forest suffering from a change in climatic conditions could lead to the loss of not only habitat, but also of jobs. In addition, many land trust projects provide much needed carbon sequestration by preserving forests, helping to offset carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Photo by Emily Jean

Photo by Emily Jean

Beyond these direct activities, land trusts are well-positioned to provide a forum for discussion and dialogue on issues such as climate change. The staff, boards of directors and members of local land trusts are politically diverse, but united by their commitment to a healthy environment through conservation. They represent a cross-section of the community. Business leaders, farmers, elected officials, and concerned citizens come together at land trust meetings and events to talk about what is most important for the places they all care about regardless of political affiliation. As a convener of civic leaders, land trusts can help to move climate change out of the partisan divide by focusing attention on how land conservation can help communities adapt to and lessen the impacts of a changing climate.

Communities thrive when they come together to define and actively confront challenges. Wisconsin land trusts have the opportunity to play a key role in meeting the challenges of climate change in Wisconsin. We already admire land trusts for the many ways they enrich our communities. Helping to mitigate the effects of a changing climate on our lands and waters is yet another reason to appreciate and support their work here on the Door Peninsula.

Linked to the Land

We love to see land trusts across the state developing new and exciting partnerships to meet the needs of the communities they serve. One recent example is Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s (MVC) partnership with the Mayo Clinic Health System. Mayo is sponsoring “Linked to the Land,” a series of hikes given by MVC, designed to get people outside.

“This series offers a wide variety of outdoor events that provide an opportunity to experience the wonder and excitement of our region’s natural resources on the lands that have been permanently protected by MVC and its partners,” says Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director.

“The Linked to the Land hikes are an excellent way to add physical activity and fun to your lifestyle, as well as to learn about the wonders of the Driftless Area,” says Jonathan Rigden, M.D. “Mayo Clinic Health System – Franciscan Healthcare, supports our community’s efforts to promote healthy living. Plenty of physical activity, good eating habits, and stress reduction are the key.”

TMcCormick_Boch Fnd @ Narrows_4687

With healthcare costs rising, it’s wonderful to see land trusts and healthcare organizations partnering to promote healthy lifestyles. Photo by Terrence McCormick

If you are interested in checking out this exciting new series, here are the remaining 2014 dates:

Apr. 27 – Earth Fair Hike – Miller Bluff, La Crosse Bluffland

May 10 – Mother’s Day Bird Identification Hike – Sugar Creek Bluff, Crawford County, 8-10 a.m.

May 17 – Birds & Brunch at Boscobel Bluffs

Jun. 15 – Father’s Day Hike – Seldom Seen Farm, Gays Mills

Jul. 26 – River Bluff Day’s Hike – Sugar Creek Bluff, Ferryville

Aug. 16 – Prairie Flower Hike – Holland Sand Prairie, Town of Holland

Sept. 13 – FSPA Stargazing Hike, St. Joseph Ridge Garden Tour 5:30 p.m. Hike 6:30 p.m. Stargazing 8 p.m.

Oct. 11 – Family Fall Hike – MacGregor property, Grant County

Nov. 8 – Tree Identification Hike – Angel Bluff, Buffalo County

Dec. 30 – Holiday Break Hike – Mathy Quarry at 2 p.m.

For more information, visit MVC’s website.

Stories of Stewardship: Students of the Land

“Stories of Stewardship” is a special blog series that tells the stories of Wisconsin citizens whose lives and communities have benefited from the land conservation made possible through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program- a program so valuable, we at Gathering Waters work hard to ensure it remains well funded.

The following story was written by Roger Packard and David Musolf, of Jefferson County:

We might as well admit up front that we are addicted to ecological restoration. Fanatics. Bitten by the ‘prairie bug’ in a big way. With us, Leopold met his objective and then some.

Photo by Roger Packard & David Musolf.

Photo by Roger Packard & David Musolf.

Meeting the first part of Leopold’s objective—learning to see the land—was the hardest. Even though we have both been nature nuts all our lives, it took time and effort to see the big picture—to see beyond the rectangular grid imposed on the land by European settlers, to look under the pastoral façade and through the tangled mess of non-native vegetation where the farm fields ended. But once our eyes adjusted, myriad clues that had been hidden in plain view came into focus.

Reading these clues backwards in time, we began to understand how changing land use practices since the time of European settlement have altered native biological communities, and how, following the retreat of the glaciers, these diverse communities arose under the influence of fire, water and wind, as well as the influence the new plant and animal inhabitants, including humans.

Photo by Roger Packard & David Musolf.

Photo by Roger Packard & David Musolf.

As for enjoyment—well, we couldn’t help that. To begin to understand how the area’s diverse biological communities developed is a real thrill. To begin using this understanding to restore the landscape that the Native Americans knew is more thrilling still. So, with our first six acres of prairie restoration in 1994, the positive feedback loop was in place. The developing restorations helped us to see the land and its inhabitants more clearly, our understanding of the land deepened, our enjoyment of the land increased, we took on more restorations…and before we knew it, we were hooked.

In 1997, we joined forces with the Madison Audubon Society to establish the Faville Grove Sanctuary. Together with Madison Audubon, we have protected our land through conservation easements. With the help of the state Stewardship Fund as well as various other governmental programs and private contributions, we have permanently protected a total of 510 acres. Together with other landowners, including the University of Wisconsin- Madison and The Nature Conservancy, we are managing over 800 acres within the Faville Grove Sanctuary boundary.

With a corps of dedicated volunteers, we have planted well over 200 acres of prairie by hand with hand-collected, local genotype seed from over 130 species. With crews of summer interns, we have eliminated a gazillion weeds. We have filled miles of drainage ditches (not by hand!), cleared acres of savanna of encroaching brush, and generally worked every spare minute to return the sanctuary lands to their pre-European-settlement grandeur.

Photo by Roger Packard & David Musolf.

Photo by Roger Packard & David Musolf.

Recently, together with a small army of sanctuary supporters, we accomplished something generally deemed impossible: we succeeded in rerouting a proposed electric transmission line that would have run through the sanctuary. In rejecting the ‘sanctuary route’ for the line, the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin considered not only the ecological and aesthetic effects on the sanctuary, but the chilling effect the line would have had on future cooperative efforts to protect and restore private land in the state. The Public Service Commission decision underscores the importance of such efforts, and should reassure other landowners that the state will honor the sacrifices we make to protect the land.

In the 1930s and ‘40s, Aldo Leopold and his students worked with landowners in Faville Grove to develop methods to enhance wildlife on private lands. Leopold recognized then that conservation is “eventually too large, too complex, or too widely dispersed to be performed by government.” We suspect he also knew that by teaching students to see, to understand, and to enjoy the land, he would get them hooked on bringing the land back to life.

Building on Leopold’s legacy, Madison Audubon Society established the Faville Grove Sanctuary to protect the area and extend habitat for remnant populations of rare and endangered species. The sanctuary includes tamarack bog, sedge meadow, oak savanna and woods, as well as some of the state’s finest wet prairie restorations. Nearly $500,000 in grants from the Stewardship Fund have helped make possible the protection of this diverse and historic landscape.

20 Years Strong

Can you believe it? We’ve been strengthening Wisconsin’s land trusts for 20 years now! That’s right, it’s our 20th Anniversary.  We can’t think of a better time to reflect upon how we arrived at where we are today and the successes we’ve had along the way….

Here is a snapshot of some of the achievements we are most proud of, since our founding in 1994:

We wouldn't be where we are today without your support - thank you!!

Thank you, from all of us at GWC, for supporting us as well as the land trusts that we serve! None of this would have been possible without your support.

  • The number of land trusts working in Wisconsin has increased from 12 to over 50
  • The membership of Wisconsin’s land trusts has grown to nearly 55,000 members statewide
  • These land trusts have permanently protected well over 280,000 acres of Wisconsin’s natural heritage
  • We have become a respected voice for private land conservation in the state and have earned our reputation as the premier land trust service center in the nation

    TPE_kusmalCE_joesylvie_adotzour

    Together we protect special places, where youth discover the magic of the outdoors for the first time.

But more meaningful is the resulting impact of those acres conserved, organizations and collaborations established, and contacts made. Together with our land trust members, partners, and supporters, we are helping to protect the special places where we can all go to exercise and recreate, that protect our local food base and agricultural economy, where youth are discovering the magic of the outdoors for the first time, and that are home to our most precious resources and threatened species.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Together we protect our local food base and agricultural economy.

Thank you, from all of us at GWC, for supporting us and the land trusts that we serve! None of this would have been possible without your support. But our work is not finished. Please consider becoming a monthly donor, to help ensure that you and your loved ones will always be able to enjoy all the benefits of Wisconsin’s outdoors.

New and Improved

As we celebrate our twentieth anniversary this year, we look back at all we’ve accomplished. It makes us proud. And it makes us even more excited to begin the implementation of our new and improved Strategic Plan.  If you’d like to take a look at the plan, you can find a copy on our website. Otherwise, the 3 overarching themes of the plan are below. Either way, we’d love your feedback!

1) We make Wisconsin’s land trusts stronger

Our core objective, since the beginning, has been to strengthen Wisconsin’s land trusts. Our new strategic plan is a reaffirmation of that core objective. Through this plan, we seek to understand how that objective affects everything we do. We are only successful when land trusts see value in, and are strengthened by our programming.

IATA Gibraltar Seg. Fall 2013 (66)

We will provide land trusts with the training and resources they need to achieve excellence.

2) Collaboration is critical

This plan also brings to the forefront the importance of collaborations. Land trusts are demanding opportunities to collaborate–with each other and with other partners. In the past we have, and will continue to, promote collaboration through networking, shared trainings, and facilitation of joint programming. We will explore opportunities to more smartly deploy land trust resources through the pursuit of economies of scale, shared back offices, and mergers. We will also engage outside partners – traditional and nontraditional – who can be allies in our work.

We will help land trusts achieve even greater results through collaboration and partnerships.

We will help land trusts achieve even greater results through collaboration and partnerships.

3) Community engagement is key

Finally, as land trusts exist to provide value to communities through land conservation, we will increase opportunities to share the stories of the value that land trusts bring to creating healthy and whole communities. We will also explore opportunities to increase the impact and value of our work by better understanding community needs and examining how our core competencies may provide even more value to our land trust members and Wisconsin’s citizenry.

We will work to ensure that communities' needs are being met and do a better job of telling these stories.

We will do an even better job of sharing the countless ways land trusts are  fulfilling needs and adding value to their communities.

We’re excited about where we are headed and believe it will provide more value to land trusts, the communities they serve across Wisconsin, and of course – you! Your support is what makes this work possible; Thank you!

2014: An Exciting, New Year

Hopefully your 2014 is off to an excellent start…. We at Gathering Waters are definitely looking forward to all that this new year has to offer— we’re launching our new and improved three-year strategic plan and it’s our 20th anniversary!

Here’s an overview of the great things we have planned this year:

In the public policy & advocacy arena:

  • Education, education, education! With the state budget coming up a year from now and the Gubernatorial election set for this fall, we’ll be working hard to make sure legislators know exactly how important it is that the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program remains strong and that the Gubernatorial candidates are keenly aware of the important role land conservation and land trusts play in their communities.
  • Partnerships. The Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition  is accomplishing such great things, we’ll definitely continue working with them to ensure that local, state and federal officials continue to make Great Lakes restoration a priority.
14 Lulu Lake

We’ll be working hard to ensure the best interests of our land trusts are being represented in the political arena.

Providing direct services & technical assistance:

  • Staying true. True to our core objective that is- to strengthen Wisconsin’s land trusts, ensuring that they have the resources, tools, and know-how to meet community needs and protect the places that make Wisconsin so special.
  • More partnerships. We will we bring land trusts together to create efficiencies through shared staff, pooled resources, and joint funding opportunities. We’ll also continue our work with the Lake Michigan Shorelands Alliance to help identify, protect, restore and manage lands that protect the water quality, wildlife habitats, and the scenic integrity of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Basin.
  • Retreat! Our annual Land Trust Retreat this October will offer an unparalleled opportunity for learning, networking, and fun among land trust peers and conservation experts from around the state.
Topic Tables 1

We’ll be doing all we can to ensure our land trusts have what they need, to meet community needs and protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

Spreading the good word:

  • Turn up the volume. You may not realize the extent of the value your local land trust brings to you and your loved ones. We’re going to do a better job of making sure you know.
  • Put it in writing. This fall, in honor of the twenty years we have been working to strengthen land trusts, we will be publishing a collection of stories, highlighting the many ways land trusts benefit Wisconsin’s collective health, economy and education.
  • Let’s Party! Our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration is happening September 26th. It’s definitely the place to be if you’re interested in Wisconsin land conservation. And on May 3rd, we’ll be honoring you and others who make it possible for us to continue Wisconsin’s incredible land legacy, at our annual Land Legacy Gathering. Better save the dates and grab your party shoes.
Table Bluff - July by Kate

We’ll be spreading the word of our land trusts’ successes and of the countless opportunities and benefits they provide.

As you can see, it’s going to be an incredible, busy year.  We’re looking forward to it and appreciate all of the feedback and help we can get. Feel free to shoot us an email with your thoughts or support the work we’re doing with a tax-deductible gift.  Cheers, to this wonderful new year!

Stories of Stewardship: A Sportsman on Stewardship

“Stories of Stewardship” is a special blog series that tells the stories of Wisconsin citizens whose lives and communities have benefited from the land conservation made possible through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program- a program so valuable, we at Gathering Waters work hard to ensure it remains well funded.

The following story was written by Jim Evrard, of Burnett County:

As a retired DNR wildlife biologist and an active volunteer in several conservation groups, I’ve been involved in public land acquisition in Wisconsin for nearly 40 years. When I started with the DNR, most of our acquisition money for wildlife management lands came from a tax charged on arms and ammunition. When Gaylord Nelson was governor, he created the Outdoor Recreation Act Program (ORAP), providing funds for recreational land acquisition by imposing a penny per pack tax on cigarettes. That program has evolved into the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program we know today.

crex staff 3

Now the lakeshore is completely owned by the public and should remain wild forever.

Many tracts of land near my home in Northwestern Wisconsin were bought with Stewardship funds, but a recent acquisition is my favorite. Some years ago, a key tract of land on the northwest corner of the Crex Meadows Wildlife Area was put up for sale. The 170-acre tract was an old farm with idle agricultural fields, a young red pine plantation and the northern half of a small prairie lake. A local attorney bought the land, and when he died, his widow inherited the old farm.

The south shore of the lake had been owned by the DNR for years, and it was home to nesting waterfowl, loons, and even a pair of osprey. It was feared that when the land on the northern side was sold, summer residences would be built and the wildlife use of the wetland would decrease drastically. But these fears were never realized due to good land stewardship by the former owners. The only change made to the land was a duck hunting blind used by the family on the northern edge of the lake. The widow’s son-in-law is conservation-minded, and he suggested that she sell the land to the DNR so that it would be included in the Crex Meadows project. Now the lakeshore is completely owned by the public and should remain wild forever.

crex birds in flight -- crex staff

Through the years, I’ve watched wildlife on the lake and surrounding grasslands.

In addition to the Stewardship Program, the Friends of Crex and the Sharp-tailed Grouse Society contributed funds to purchase the land, but the Stewardship Program was the catalyst that put together the partnership needed to buy the property. This partnership between a public agency and private conservation groups is a good example of  cooperation between the government and its citizens. This spirit of cooperation continues in other projects including habitat management and recreational development.

As a retired person on a pension, I can’t afford to own land for hunting and other outdoor recreation. Land values have skyrocketed to a point where only wealthy persons can afford to buy and own extensive tracts of land or lakeshore. The rest of us increasingly depend upon public property for our outdoor recreation needs. Through the
years, I’ve watched wildlife on the lake and surrounding grasslands. I’ve hunted deer and wild turkeys on the edges of the property since the DNR acquired the land, and I’m looking forward to hunting ducks on the lake. Thanks to the Stewardship Program, I should be able to continue my recreational use of the property for many years in the future.

The Crex Meadows Wildlife Area near Grantsburg, in Burnett County, encompasses over 30,000 acres of wetland, woodland, and restored brush prairie. The area has been publicly protected since 1946, with Stewardship funding continuing to support its growth, preservation and maintenance. Crex Meadows is known for its hunting, hiking and wildlife observation opportunities.

Great Lakes Victory

Last Monday, January 13, the US Congress released its 2014 spending bill. It was a victory for the Great Lakes, as the bill restores funding to two essential Great Lakes programs. It provides $300 million for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and $1.44 billion for The Clean Water State Revolving Fund, for fiscal year 2014.

As a partner of the Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition (HOW), we work hard to ensure that local, state and federal officials continue to make Great Lakes restoration a priority. So, this was a victory for us as well!

Fun kayaking in Lake Superior. Photo credit: Natalie Lucier

Fun kayaking in Lake Superior. Photo credit: Natalie Lucier

Why do we care? Because the importance of the Great Lakes cannot be over emphasized. As the HOW website points out, the Great Lakes provide drinking water to more than 30 million people. More than 1.5 million U.S. jobs are directly connected to the Great Lakes, generating $62 billion in wages annually. Every $1 investment in Great Lakes restoration generates at least $2 of economic benefit.

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

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

How does this renewed funding help? The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative supports efforts to clean up toxic pollution, restore fish and wildlife habitat, fight invasive species, and reduce runoff from cities and farms. The Clean Water State Revolving Fund provides low-interest loans to communities across the nation to fund water quality protection projects for wastewater treatment, nonpoint source pollution control, and watershed and estuary management.

The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are important to us all.

As Todd Ambs, campaign director for the Healing Our Waters-Great Lakes Coalition, puts it:

“This budget represents a significant victory for the millions of people who depend on the Great Lakes for their drinking water, jobs, and quality of life. This investment will help support programs that are delivering results in communities across the region.”

Land Trusts, Protecting our Food

Local farms are so important; they provide fresh, sustainable food from places that we know.  And, you may not often think about it, but food is one thing that connects us all to the land. The only way that we can ensure that we consistently have access to good, healthy food is by protecting the places where this food comes from.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Protecting Wisconsin farmlands is important to us, and to future generations.

We at GWC know this is important and so does our partner in farmland preservation, American Farmland Trust (AFT). And you know who else knows it? Wisconsin’s land trusts, of course. In fact, one of our member land trusts- Geneva Lake Conservancy (GLC), recently connected with AFT to help protect our farmlands.

The Krusen Grass Farm in East Troy, WI. Photo from www.yggdrasillandfoundation.org

One of the protected organic farms: The Krusen Grass Farm in East Troy, WI. Photo from www.yggdrasillandfoundation.org

In December, AFT transferred three agricultural conservation easements in the East Troy area to GLC. Under their management, these three easements will protect nearly 800 acres of organic farmland, now and forever. We’d like to offer both our congratulations and our thanks to GLC, for this valuable service they are providing to their community and to future generations. We’d also like to celebrate the collaboration between AFT and GLC that made this important opportunity a reality.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The most delicious and nutritious food is local.

It’s wonderful to see more of Wisconsin’s farmlands being protected – it ensures that you and I can have a connection to our food now and in the future. Whether it be through a locally-sourced restaurant, farmer’s market, or CSA, there are endless opportunities to get involved in your local food scene and get a sense for why we are so persistent on this farmland preservation thing. Personally, we can’t wait for our local farmer’s market to open up this spring so we can get our hands on some locally grown fruits and veggies!



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