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Ron Endres named 2016 Conservationist of the Year

Ron Endres is a private landowner and champion of native area restoration in Dane County. In addition to being a model steward to his and many of his neighbors’ lands, Ron is also an incredibly active volunteer with numerous area organizations. But what truly makes him special is far more unique. From July through December, Ron works almost every day collecting, drying and processing native forb and grass seeds to provide them free-of-charge, to local non-profits and private landowners.

Ron leading the United Way Day-Of-Caring Volunteers seed collecting

Ron leading the United Way Day-Of-Caring Volunteers seed collecting.

Ron’s land stewardship activities are truly inspirational. He has worked over the last 25 years to reconstruct a 21 acre prairie and spends much of his time maintaining the land, adding to its species diversity and fighting back invasive species. He helps many of his neighbors as well, burning their prairies, treating their invasives, and restoring their land.

Ron is also an invaluable volunteer for many area organizations such as Dane County Parks, The Prairie Enthusiasts, The Ice Age Trail Alliance, Holy Wisdom Monastery, Swamplovers, and many others. He leads school kids and adult volunteers, serves on a board, is a chain saw team member, leads prairie plantings and burns, as well as seed collection and processing.

Ron leading a prairie planting at Holy Wisdom Monastery

Ron leading a prairie planting at Holy Wisdom Monastery.

It is, however, what Ron does in addition to these stewardship and volunteer activities that makes him so unique. From July through December, Ron works almost every day collecting, drying and processing native forb and grass seeds—providing hundreds of pounds and more than 100 species of seed, free of charge, to nonprofits and private landowners each year.

Ron’s seed collecting for donation

Ron’s seed collecting for donation

From big projects like a 23 acre planting at Hickory Hill in Cross Plains, a 30 plus acre planting at Holy Wisdom Monastery, and countless acres of planting at Swamplover’s conservancy—to small projects like Kettle Pond in Madison, a municipal restoration in Beloit, and a neighborhood restoration at Odana golf course; Ron’s seeds have ended up in restorations all over the county. His unwavering commitment to native habitat restoration makes it Gathering Waters’ honor to award Ron the prestigious Conservationist of the Year award. He will be presented with his award on November 2, at the Friends of Wisdom Prairie Dinner Lecture. Find out more and register today.

Partners in Forestry Cooperative honored with Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation

Partners in Forestry Cooperative (PIF) is a land owners’ cooperative that has been instrumental in the direct protection of thousands of acres of forestland in and around Vilas County. The organization has long been educating and informing legislators and landowners about the legal tools and benefits of sustainable forestry and conservation through tours, workshops, newsletters and direct networking since 2001.

Field Day under the red pine. “This Partners in Forestry field day was a community education effort to promote long-term forest management and conservation. Here, under a recently thinned red pine stand, a forestry staff explains to landowners and the public the benefits of thinning red pine in a timely fashion. The UW Center for Cooperatives helped to sponsor this event.”

Field Day under the red pine. “This Partners in Forestry field day was a community education effort to promote long-term forest management and conservation. Here, under a recently thinned red pine stand, a forestry staff explains to landowners and the public the benefits of thinning red pine in a timely fashion. The UW Center for Cooperatives helped to sponsor this event.”

 

PIF’s approach to conservation employs economic rationale as much as ecological. They believe an income stream helps a landowner further connect to the value of their investment. The organization helps private land owners with a vast array of management and conservation strategies, including the Managed Forest Law (MFL) program. This program, administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, discourages fragmentation while promoting sustainable forest management.  In this way, landowners can derive wealth from their property without dramatically altering it. “Without PIF’s education and outreach efforts, many landowners would not have had the knowledge or incentive to take advantage of many worthy opportunities including the MFL program,” says Rod Sharka, a Vilas County resident and PIF Board Member.

Portion of Wisconsin River protected by the Forest Legacy Program

 

Recent PIF efforts resulted in the permanent conservation of over 1000 acres and two miles of Wisconsin River habitat near the river headwaters, by utilizing the Forest Legacy Program, and MFL enrollment. PIF’s advocacy, direct action and investment were crucial to this conservation success story. The property had been owned by a real estate professional who showed a desire to sell. As PIF offered insights into the advantages and the means to accomplish this conservation project, the landowner became a willing partner.

PIF assists with and strongly advocates for sustainable forest management, on privately held lands and protected lands, and as a tool for conservation. “PIF newsletters and workshops have included tree species life-cycle requirements, sustainable forest management practices, recognizing and treating invasive species, forest impacts from a changing climate, tax implications of harvesting timber, federal land exchanges, managed forest law, edible plants, information on unique forest animals and the list goes on and on,” says Matt Dallman, Director of Conservation at The Nature Conservancy, “They are very thorough.”

Gary Goska and Joe Hovel at the WI River legacy forest “When local realtor Gary Goska (right) was faced with selling his family hunting lands, PIF suggested a working forest conservation project as a solution. Director Joe Hovel negotiated and invested with Gary and the Upper Wisconsin River Legacy Forest was conceived, protecting 1042 acres and over 2 miles of river, all with public access, near Land O’ Lakes”

 

Without Partners in Forestry Cooperative, large swaths of working forest would have met different fates. PIF is demonstrating that having healthy environments, and even public access, can be conducive to stimulating economic activity, and one doesn’t need to take preference over the other. For these great achievements, we are honored to present Partners in Forestry Cooperative with the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Work Lands Preservation award. The organization will be presented with its award on November 5, during its annual meeting. More information coming soon.

Kevin Shafer, 2016 Policymaker of the Year Award

Kevin Shafer is a champion of the Milwaukee River watershed. As Executive Director of the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewage District, Kevin has fostered a cooperative relationship between the district and a wide range of public and private conservation partners. His leadership has resulted in the implementation of cost effective, creative solutions for reducing water runoff and wastewater discharge with resounding success—drastically improving the water quality of the Milwaukee River watershed.

Kevin Shafer - Photo from Milwaukee Magazine

Shafer 246 feet below the Milwaukee River. Photo from Milwaukee Magazine

During his tenure at MMSD, Kevin has guided the agency’s embrace of ‘green’ infrastructure. By utilizing incentive programs that aid homeowners with the costs of rain gardens and rain barrels, in addition to removing the concrete lining and dams in Milwaukee’s rivers, lake and streams, rain water is trapped where it falls. This approach reduces the rate and severity of floods, and cleans the water as it’s filtered through the ground.

Kevin and Gina McCarthy the Administrator of the U.S. EPA

Additionally, Kevin has significantly shaped the ways in which MMSD works and collaborates with the communities it serves. “Kevin has transformed the relationship MMSD has with its surrounding communities,” says Christine Nuernberg, former Mayor of Mequon, “Kevin’s collaborative approach has replaced the adversarial relationship that predominated the past.” This newfound cooperation has enabled MMSD to work with municipalities, conservation groups and other stakeholders to implement ‘Greenseams.’

Greenseams is a program that places upstream shorelines and wetlands in Milwaukee’s watershed under conservation easements (meaning, development of the property is permanently restricted). In addition to preventing floods, filtering water and cleaning the air, these habitats revitalize natural areas in otherwise developed communities and provide opportunities for outdoor recreation.

Kevin Shafer-2015

“By being a visionary and team player, Kevin has made Milwaukee a national leader in innovative storm water management,” says Jeff Martinka, Executive Director of Neighborhood House of Milwaukee. Given these reasons, it is Gathering Waters honor to present Kevin Shafer with the prestigious Policymaker of the Year award. He will be presented with his award on October 20, at an event in Milwaukee. More information coming soon.

Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust – 2016 Land Trust of the Year

Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust has helped protect natural areas and water resources for the past 20 years.  Guided by the mission to “preserve lands that protect our waters, landscapes, and natural habitats for this and future generations,” the Land Trust has helped conserve thousands of acres.  By blending education, collaboration and outreach efforts with landowners, government agencies and conservation organizations, the Land Trust is ensuring that special places in Northeast Wisconsin will remain that way.

Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve – 48 acres in Winnebago County, protected by Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust in 2005.

“Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust recognizes that the first step toward protecting land is helping landowners learn about and build a relationship with their land,” says Katie Beilfuss, Outreach Program Director for Wisconsin Wetlands Association,  “They take time to listen to landowners, focusing on meeting them where they are.”

The Land Trust has employed this principle during their engagement with wetland property owners on Green Bay.  With assistance from other organizations, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust has held workshops engaging landowners on how wetland and water areas interact and why each depends on the other being healthy to thrive.  The Land Trust is using these efforts to increase conservation and enhance the health of Green Bay’s watershed.

“The Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust understands the bigger conservation picture,” says Joe Henry, Ecologist at the Department of Natural Resources, “We are very fortunate to have them as a partner in research, education and conservation efforts.”

Gilson Creek Preserve sign installation – 31 protected acres in Brown County

Gilson Creek Preserve sign installation – 31 acres in Brown County protected by Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust

The Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust has protected over 30 miles of shoreline including trout streams, habitat for the dwarf lake iris and the Karner blue butterfly, and territory to support wildlife.  Twenty-one of the Trust’s properties are Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources Land Legacy Places–the most important places to meet Wisconsin’s future conservation and recreation needs.

All of us in Wisconsin and beyond are fortunate for the efforts of Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust. Due to this reason, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor the conservancy with the prestigious Land Trust of the Year award. The organization will be presented with its award on October 6, during its 20 Year anniversary Celebration and Fundraising Event. Find out more and register today.

Bill Lunney wins Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award 

Bill Lunney has dedicated more than 45 years to advancing state and local conservation efforts through his leadership serving numerous conservation-based organizations either as a board member (including ours!), founder, or board Chair. He has been integral to preserving thousands of acres of land, building strong citizen-based environmental organizations, growing consensus among many stakeholders—particularly public officials—for land preservation, and for promoting a land ethic based on the idea that any land preserved is a gift to future generations.

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Bill Lunney

Through a variety of roles with different organizations and agencies, Bill has helped expand Dane County’s Park system exponentially and helped preserve environmentally significant land all over Wisconsin. He has also aided in the development and implementation of educational and volunteer programs on many of those lands.

These successes would have failed without productive engagement with various stakeholders locally and statewide. “Bill has an ability to lead meetings, diffuse tensions and outline ways forward,” applauds Dane County Parks Director Darren Marsh, “he is exceptionally astute when it comes to personal interactions and motivating people for a cause.”  His levelheaded pragmatism has paid off over the years as Bill has consistently helped bring together a broad coalition in support of reauthorizing, and fending off budget-cuts to the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

 

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Bill with Jim Welsh, Executive Director at Natural Heritage Land Trust, and his wife, Judie Pfeifer, at Patrick Marsh Wildlife Viewing Platform.

All told, Bill has served, or still serves, as a Board Member for seven different conservation organizations. This total doesn’t include the involvement he and his wife Judie Pfeifer have with nonprofit organizations and government agencies in other fields. What’s telling is the dedication he brings. “Bill commits himself to major fundraising efforts, membership recruitment efforts, developing educational and volunteer programs and ensuring strong organizational capacity,” says Gail Shea, who served with Bill on Natural Heritage Land Trust’s board, “he doesn’t just join an organization as a passive board member.”

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Bill and his wife Judie Pfeifer

In many ways, Bill’s leadership is responsible for the preservation of thousands of acres of critical habitat, which also serve as educational opportunities. In Dane County and beyond, Bill has made a lasting impact on the conservation movement in Wisconsin and we are proud to honor him with the prestigious Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement award. He will be presented with his award on September 15, at Natural Heritage Land Trust’s Garden party Celebration. If you are interested in attending this event and fundraiser, please contact heidi@nhlt.org

Return of a Lost Child

The Frog Bay area is an ecologically exceptional stretch of forest and shoreline located along Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin.  It features rare and endangered plants, pristine boreal forest, and a rich abundance of wildlife. Historically important to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, it’s an area where they once harvested wild rice and much more. Then, being privately owned for over a century, it was inaccessible to the tribe and everyone else.

Frog Bay

Frog Bay along Lake Superior’s Shoreline. Photo by Grandon Harris.

When the property’s most recent owners, the late Dave and Marjorie Johnson, began to contemplate the future of this special place and decided they’d like to ensure its preservation and protection forever, a friend and neighbor put them in touch with their local land trust, Bayfield Regional Conservancy (BRC).

First, BRC reached out to the Red Cliff Tribe to see if they would be interested in owning and stewarding this place that was once theirs—and of course, they were.  But financing the purchase of this land was a major obstacle for them. The Johnsons did not have the means to donate the entire parcel, and neither the tribe nor the land trust could afford to purchase the land outright.

Frog Bay Vegetation. Photo by Grandon Harris.

Frog Bay Vegetation. Photo by Grandon Harris.

Luckily, BRC was able to help the Tribe secure the needed funds through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program and a few other sources. Brian Bainbridge, Vice Chairman of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, compares the reunion between this place and the Tribe as “the return of a lost child.”

And with the return of this place to the Tribe, it became a gift to us all, as the Frog Bay Tribal National Park.  “We’ve had people from all over the world to come visit” Bainbridge proudly shared.  And this place is more than a new destination spot; it’s an ecological treasure that plays an important role in protecting the water quality of Lake Superior and we will all benefit from this special place for generations to come.

Photo of Wisconsin Coastal Management Program Visit to Frog Bay

Photo of Wisconsin Coastal Management Program Visit to Frog Bay

 

Story by: Sandy Jensen

The Call of the Whip-poor-will

The forest is quiet – the floor is littered with last season’s fallen leaves.

You can barely hear the ripple of the creek where the clean, clear water flows across the rocks.

Shhh, listen.  Can you hear it?

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

The call of the Whip-poor-will.

Look.  Over there on the side of road the bulldozers quietly, patiently, sit in wait.

whip (1)

The whip-poor-will.

Thump, thump.  There’s a knock on the farm house door. Vicky isn’t expecting anyone.  She wipes her hands and pulls the curtain back.  Vicky doesn’t recognize the man in the suit with the clipboard of papers under his arm.

She opens the door. “Can I help you?”

“Good afternoon.” John explains that he is from Hi Crush, the sand mining company. “Your farm has the prime sand we are looking for and we’re willing to pay you handsomely for it.  The papers are all ready, just sign here.”

Vicky’s face becomes ashen.  “This farm has been in my family for well over 30 years. My son has spent years restoring that prairie you call a sand mine.”

“This farm is not for sale!” Vicky closes the door.

temp Looking-Toward-the-Baraboo-Hills

Photo credit: Prairie Hill Farm

Vicky spends the evening worrying about the future of her family farm.  Tossing and turning, she barely sleeps that night. While she lays awake she can hear it.

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

When she wakes up in the morning Vicky remembers an article she read in her local paper about protecting land. She digs through the papers on her desk until she finds the one she is looking for.  Vicky re-reads the article.

Then she picks up her phone and calls Mississippi Valley Conservancy!

Vicky talks about her farm with Abbie. She talks about the years her kids spent growing up on it. She remembers how they loved to go down to the creek with their city cousins and splash in the water.  She remembers how they would come back to the house muddy and exhausted, but with grins from ear to ear.

And Vicky talks about the wildlife and plants that still call her farm home.

Photo credit: Susan Penning

Photo credit: Susan Penning

Over the next few months, Vicky works with the team at Mississippi Valley Conservancy.  She tells us how important protecting her farm forever is to her, her kids, and her grandkids.  She talks about the clean, clear water that runs through the creek below. And she talks about the Whip-poor-will, and the other animals that live on her farm.

Today, Vicky is at peace knowing her family farm is protected from development forever through a conservation agreement with Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Because of this agreement, Vicky’s grandkids and great grandkids will splash through the stream and come back to the house wet, muddy and happily, exhausted.

Because of this agreement, Vicky and her family will continue to hear the call of the Whip-poor-will as it drifts through the valleys and across the forest floor – for generations to come.

Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will, Whip-poor-will.

Story by: Carol Abrahamzon, Executive Director, Mississippi Valley Conservancy

Our new Executive Director

Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts is pleased to announce the hiring of Mike Carlson as Executive Director. Mike has been with Gathering Waters for eight years, serving as Government Relations Director, External Relations Director, and, most recently, Interim Executive Director.

Gathering Waters’ Board Chair, Thomas Mitchell, said, “After a robust review–and overwhelmingly positive feedback from a number of important stakeholders about Mike’s qualifications to lead the organization–the Board decided to promote from within and to select Mike as the next permanent Executive Director.”

A native of Washington, D.C., Mike received his bachelor’s degree from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine, and then completed an M.S. in Environment and Resources at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies at the UW-Madison, and a J.D. at the University of Wisconsin Law School.

Mike traces his commitment to conservation to his youth and time spent at a family cabin in the mountains of central Virginia, trout fishing, and hiking in and around the Shenandoah National Park. Mike continues to be an avid outdoorsman. He is passionate about Gathering Waters’ mission and supporting Wisconsin’s land trust community.

maple tapping

Gathering Waters is pleased to announce the hiring of Mike Carlson as Executive Director.

“I’m excited to take on this leadership role at Gathering Waters and to build upon the organization’s strengths and past successes,” Mike Carlson said. “Together, with the land trust community, we will focus on advancing our mission–helping land trusts, landowners, and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.”

Mike has made a significant impact on several public policy campaigns, beginning with helping to obtain reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in 2007 and fighting for the program through the last four biennial state budgets. Due in large measure to his strong and focused advocacy efforts at Gathering Waters, land trusts have been able to secure nearly $100 million in Stewardship Program grant funding during the last decade to support important land protection efforts. Mike has also worked collaboratively with many partners at the local, state, regional, and national level to advocate for conservation funding and policies.

“The Board of Directors is thrilled that Mike is assuming this important role, and we’re confident that he is perfectly positioned to lead the organization forward,” Mitchell added.

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Unlike any other organization, Gathering Waters exists to strengthen Wisconsin’s land trusts – advocating for funding and policies that support land conservation and fostering a community of practice that promotes land trust excellence and advancement. www.gatheringwaters.org

Changes Announced for 2016: Executive Director Transition

A big change is in store for Gathering Waters: Executive Director, Mike Strigel, has announced that he is stepping down at the end of 2015.  In appreciation for Mike’s service, Gathering Waters’ Board Chair, Thomas Mitchell, made the following statement:

“As chair of Gathering Waters’ board of directors, I join my colleagues in celebrating Mike Strigel’s 9-year tenure as Executive Director. Mike has been a valuable and effective leader, and the entire board would like to recognize and applaud him for the significant impact that he has had on Gathering Waters and the entire land trust community in Wisconsin.

Mike Strigel is stepping down at the end of 2015

  • Mike has led the organization through several major public policy campaigns, beginning with reauthorization of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in 2007 and fighting to maintain a robust program through the last five biennial state budgets. Due in large measure to the strong and focused advocacy efforts of Gathering Waters, land trusts have been able to secure nearly $100 million in Stewardship Program grant funding during the last decade to support important land protection efforts.
  • In partnership with colleagues at the Land Trust Alliance, Mike oversaw development and implementation of Wisconsin’s Land Trust Excellence and Advancement Program (LEAP) – our nationally recognized program that provides coordinated and intensive services and support for Wisconsin land trusts whether large, small, staffed, or all-volunteer.
  • Mike has built an effective team at Gathering Waters – hiring and retaining bright and hardworking staff, and recruiting dynamic and devoted board members.
  • When individual land trusts in Wisconsin faced challenges, large or small, Mike was always quick to respond, offering a steady hand and support to board and staff members.
  • Under Mike’s leadership, a real vision has taken shape for what it means for Gathering Waters to be Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts. A strong alliance supports and nurtures the community of land trusts across the state, which translates into more success on the ground– protecting the lands that provide so much value to us all.
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Gathering Waters’ Board Chair, Thomas Mitchell

Periods of transition always present unknowns, but also opportunities.  Gathering Waters is in a strong position as an organization, and the board is committed to working together with staff and the land trust community to chart a course for even more success in the future.  Our mission as Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts is vital.

During this time of change, I am pleased to announce that the board of directors has appointed Gathering Waters’ External Relations Director, Mike Carlson, as the Interim Executive Director.  Mike has eight years of experience with Gathering Waters and we are thrilled that he is stepping into this role.

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Mike Carlson will serve as Interim Executive Director

We wish Mike Strigel all the best in his new role as President and Executive Director of the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monona, and we thank him for his years of dedication and service to Gathering Waters.

 

Sincerely,

Thomas Mitchell

Board Chair, Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts”

Congress passes permanent conservation tax incentive and LWCF extension

Today, Congress passed a year-end deal on spending and taxes that will make permanent the enhanced incentive for donations of conservation easements! The legislation also includes a brief but welcome reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The bill is now headed to the president’s desk and the White House has indicated that President Obama is likely to sign the agreement into law over the weekend.

Conservation Easement Tax Incentive

Making the enhanced tax incentive permanent has been a top priority for the land trust community nationally, and this vote in Congress is a major victory for conservation.  Across the country, land trusts have been building strong bipartisan support for this powerful and cost-effective incentive by contacting  their members of Congress, writing Letters to the Editor, organizing tours of protected properties, and mobilizing their supporters.

The enhanced tax incentive has been highly successful at encouraging private, voluntary land conservation in Wisconsin and across the U.S., accelerating the pace of conservation across the country by nearly 33% and exceeding one million acres per year. First established in 2006, the enhanced incentive expired at the end of 2014.  With a permanent tax incentive, landowners will have predictability as they make important planning decisions about the future protection of their land.

Land and Water Conservation Fund

The Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), which is celebrating its 50th year in 2015, is one of the best tools available for creating parks and public lands across America. This fund takes a portion of revenues from offshore oil drilling and uses that money to pay for local, state, and national parks, as well as other public lands such as forests, shorelines, historic sites, and wildlife refuges.  In Wisconsin, LWCF has been critical for helping to protect special places ranging from the Ice Age Trail to large working forest conservation easements to local community parks.

Ice Age Trail near Gibralter Rock Photo By: Kate Zurlo-Cuva

Ice Age Trail near Gibraltar Rock Photo By: Kate Zurlo-Cuva

The legacy of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is outstanding — expanding Americans’ access to spectacular natural landmarks as well as parks and trails near home. Since 1965, this fund has helped to protect over 3 million acres of land in every state and territory. Every year, over 500 million people visit these places, dramatically boosting local economies.



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