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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.

The value of a strong alliance for Wisconsin’s land trusts

As the year draws to an end, we are incredibly thankful for everyone who played a role in strengthening Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts. The stronger the alliance between Gathering Waters’ staff and board members, land trust leaders, and the broader conservation community, the more successful we are—protecting the lands that provide so much value to us all.

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The value of our alliance was thrown into sharp relief this year as we defended the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in the state budget. We built relationships with decision-makers, activated land trust leaders, shared communications tools and information, and supported advocacy efforts in communities across the state.love stew

Because of the strength of our alliance, millions of dollars per year will continue to fund land conservation efforts throughout Wisconsin, which means:

  • Thousands of jobs and billions of dollars will continue to be generated annually through tourism, outdoor recreation, forestry and agriculture.
  • Residents will continue to have cleaner air and water because of protected wetlands and forests.
  • Plants and animals will be more resilient to changing conditions.
  • Future generations will continue to have places to hunt, hike, fish and explore close to home.
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Photo by Alyson Tiffany

Unfortunately, while Stewardship was saved, Gathering Waters took a direct hit in the state budgetA grant, which provided significant resources for our work for more than twenty years, was eliminated. But we aren’t going anywhere; our mission and the value of a strong alliance for Wisoconsin’s land trusts is far too important.

We hope you agree and that you will consider a special gift to Gathering Waters today to keep the alliance stronger than ever.

In the coming year, we will redouble our commitment to strengthening Wisconsin’s land trusts. We hope your dedication to strengthening land trusts, protecting Wisconsin’s special places, and growing healthy communities is as strong as ours.

watch video.jpgWant to learn more about the difference you can make by strengthening Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts? Watch this video today!

Green Lake Conservancy- the 2015 Land Trust of the Year!

Green Lake Conservancy (GLC) is an important partner in a collective and strategic effort to preserve and protect Big Green Lake, Wisconsin’s deepest natural inland lake and a magnificent natural resource for the surrounding community and beyond. GLC has provided lake and watershed protection for the past 20 years by working with landowners to preserve their lakefront properties.

LT retreat 2014 (1013)

Photo by Bur Zuratsky

To date, 17 properties and over 700 acres of watershed lands have been protected. These properties have become an integral part of a network of public lands, serving as a showcase of restoration and preservation, offering trails, boardwalks and even a “water trail” to the public. Without Green Lake Conservancy there would be little public land near Big Green Lake. The existing county and city parks are designed for boats and beaches not natural sites.

GLC is also incredibly efficient with its resources. Being an all-volunteer-based organization, it has leveraged its impact by forging a partnership with other organizations to form the “Green Team”—offering up monthly outings to community members, including field trips, canoe/kayak floats, maple sugar making, winter moonlight walks, bicycle tours and other family-oriented activities. These activities are not only fun for all, they also help strengthen the bond between the land and its people, cultivating a sense of ownership and stewardship in those who will be responsible for protecting this special place well into the future.

Spring field trip tour at Mitchell Glen

Photo by Tom Eddy

As Ken Bates, Superintendent of the Green Lake School District says, “We are fortunate to have so many properties that give us public access to the diversity of our natural areas. Green Lake Conservancy has made a difference that will last for generations to come.” For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Green Lake Conservancy with the prestigious Land Trust of the Year Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

Harold Friestad earns Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award

Harold Friestad, from the Village of Williams Bay, was essential to winning a decades-long battle to purchase and then protect and restore a very special 231-acre parcel on Geneva Lake. Indeed, for 5 years, Harold worked with other Village of Williams Bay residents to fend off development of their lakefront. Eventually, as Village President, he was able to convince the rest of the Board to purchase the 231 acre parcel and partner with Geneva Lake Conservancy (their local land trust) to put a protective easement on the property, forever securing its existence as the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy.

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After the signing of an easement, permanently protectiing the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy (left to right): Robert Klockars, State Sen. Neal Kedzie, Harold Friestad, Charles Colman, John Marra and Lynn Ketterhagen. Photo from lakegenevanews.net

Twenty-five years later, Harold continues to actively manage the preserve as its Chairman, organizing work days and events, gaining the support of numerous local Geneva Lake area civic groups, schools, volunteers and donors, and inspiring students to make this special place their own.

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Folks from the community, enjoying one of the many events organized and hosted by Harold and the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. Photo from the KNC facebook page.

As Richard Boniak from George Williams College of Aurora University points out, “Harold’s passion for this project is electric, and many students choose to work with him as part of their service projects. Many students have been engaged with Harold and the nature conservancy way beyond their required hours. Students also engage with other community members, removing invasive species, brush clean up, seed collection, and planting. All these activities are organized and supervised by Harold. He is always willing to take the time to teach others about the land and its beauty.”

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Harold after completing a 5k (which he helped organize) at the Kishawuketoe Nature Conservancy with tons of other community members. Photo from the KNC facebook page.

Through his leadership, Kishwauketoe remains the largest intact wetland on Geneva Lake, moderating flood flow, improving water quality, recharging ground water, and housing a variety of plants and animals—all while providing recreational, educational, and scientific opportunities.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Harold Friestad with a Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

Don Hawkins, taking home the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation

Don Hawkins of Mineral Point spent 32 years as an exemplary teacher of agriculture at Mineral Point High School before retiring to become a shining example of community engagement.

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After retiring in 1983, Don contributed to the community through years of service on a number of boards. Then, in 1997 Don helped secure a lease on 200 acres in Iowa County where the soil had been exhausted by farming. By forming some new partnerships, including the recruitment of Iowa County jail inmates, he was instrumental in turning the former crop fields into one of the largest prairie restorations in Southwest Wisconsin. Eventually, another 230 acres was added to create the 430-acre Iowa County Recreation and Prairie Restoration—a beautiful retreat for all to enjoy.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page3

About that same time, Don began to lead two other restoration projects—ultimately transforming 20-acres of an idle-weed patch and small mixed-wood forest that are owned by local schools, into valuable assets for students, teachers and other community members. One of which, has appropriately been dubbed the “Don Hawkins Community Oak Savannah” while the other is now a beautiful tall-grass prairie.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page4

On top of this, Don has been leading a partnership between a high school ag and third grade class for eight years, starting prairie seed in a greenhouse and planting them in the savannas. He has brought many other grades and classes to the savannas as well, to learn and engage with the outdoors.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page2

“Will Don ever slow down? It seems unlikely…. The satisfaction he gains from restoring the land and helping build community continues to beckon.” (Chuck Tennessen, Voice of the River Valley). For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Don Hawkins with a Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

*All photos courtesy of Friends of the Oak Savanna

Representatives Loudenbeck, Kitchens, and Novak are the Policymakers of the Year

Representatives Amy Loudenbeck (R- Clinton), Joel Kitchens (R- Sturgeon Bay), and Todd Novak (R- Dodgeville) championed the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in the last state budget – vocally supporting Stewardship with members of their caucus and actively participating in a working group that successfully negotiated a compromise restoring Stewardship funding to $33 million per year.

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Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

From early on in the state budget, Representative Kitchens engaged the land trust community—meeting with constituents and stakeholders at the Door County Land Trust office and communicating regularly with helpful insights about the state budget.  Rep. Kitchens voiced his strong support for Stewardship early and often in the process.

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Representative Joel Kitchens (R- Sturgeon Bay). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

Representative Novak, who also serves as the Mayor of Dodgeville, has been a consistent proponent of Stewardship during his first term in the legislature and is quick to articulate the program’s importance to his district, which includes popular areas like the Lower Wisconsin Riverway and Governor Dodge State Park.  Rep. Novak spoke at length with both opponents and proponents of Stewardship to help find middle-ground.

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Representative Representative Todd Novak (R- Dodgeville). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

Representative Loudenbeck sits on the powerful Joint Committee on Finance and took the lead on natural resources issues in the state budget.  Rep. Loudenbeck engaged with a wide range of stakeholders including land trust leaders in her district.  She studied the details of the Stewardship Program and initiated a productive dialogue with her colleagues, working hard to find a compromise with fellow members of the Joint Committee on Finance. In her role, she was instrumental in the outcome of the state budget.

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Representative Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R- Clinton). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor these three outstanding leaders with Policymaker of the Year awards, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! IHeartStew

Dan Burke, 2015 Conservationist of the Year

Dan Burke, Executive Director of Door County Land Trust (DCLT), has been helping DCLT become a treasured and highly respected institution for nearly 20 years. Under his leadership, DCLT has preserved over 7,000 acres of land in one of the state’s most beautiful and ecologically diverse counties, and has grown its membership to over 2,200.

Dan Burke by J Schartner

Photo credit: J Schartner

His dedication and leadership skills have been crucial to DCLT’s success. He has led many challenging easement negotiations and spearheaded efforts to raise the funds needed to further the organization’s mission.  He’s built a talented and capable staff, and forged strong working partnerships with numerous conservation groups, enabling them to more effectively preserve Door County’s shoreline, wetlands, habitat and scenic areas through collaboration, leveraging each other’s skills and resources. This has strengthened land conservation as a whole in northern Wisconsin and it provides public accessibility to natural areas and outdoor recreation to thousands of people each year.

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Photo taken at Three Springs Preserve, a special place protected by Door County Land Trust. Photo credit: J Schartner

“While many people have contributed to the success of the Door County Land Trust, Dan’s visionary and dedicated leadership, and his ability to communicate, negotiate, structure, fund, and complete complex transactions, has been crucial. Dan’s ability to work cooperatively with land owners, communities, government officials and donors has resulted in a steady stream of truly great projects. Without Dan, and the Land Trust he has built, long-term preservation of this precious area would be very much at risk. Instead, it will benefit many generations to come.” Roy Thilly

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Dan Burke with a Conservationist of the Year Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

Baileys Harbor Range Lights Shine Once More

After going dark more than four decades ago, the iconic Upper and Lower Range Lights have a chance to shine again thanks to the perseverance of Ed Miller, a board member of The Ridges Sanctuary with a passion for these increasingly rare lighthouses.

When constructed in 1869, the Range Lights were considered the most effective way to keep ships off the treacherous reefs and shallows at the entrance to Baileys Harbor. From the water, a sailor got “on range” by vertically aligning the white light in the Upper Range Light with the Lower Range Light’s red beacon. Six similar range lights were built on the Great Lakes at the time, although today the Upper Range Light in Baileys Harbor is the only one of their style and class still standing in its original positions. The Lower Range Light was moved to a new foundation 15 feet from the original location in 2012 to place it at a safer distance from Ridges Road.

Maintained by The Ridges since 1937, the Range Lights guided ships to safe harbor for 100 years. In 1969, the lanterns were removed from both buildings and a directional light and day board were installed near the beach.

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Photo courtesy of Jane Whitney

Until the recent  opening of The Ridges’ new nature center on Hwy 57, the Upper Range Light housed the organization’s business office.

“From the time we began planning to build a visitor facility, it was our intent to eventually restore the Upper Range Light and make it accessible to the public,” said Ridges Director Steve Leonard.

With the staff now officed in the Cook-Fuller Center, the first stage of the restoration is underway.  This spring, The Ridges retained preservation architect Laura Davis of Isthmus Architecture in Madison to prepare  a Historic Structures Report. When completed, the report will define the structural scope of the restoration and help to establish the expense of the project.

Miller was actively involved in the restoration of the Lower Range Light and now chairs The Ridges Lighthouse Committee. With the restoration of the Lower Range Light completed, Miller turned his attention to the relighting of the Lights in December of 2014.  He applied to the Coast Guard, working closely with Doug Sharp of the Cleveland Coast Guard Station, throughout the process. In late April, Miller received approval to “relight the ranges as private aids to navigation.”

Miller then worked with Tim Fey of the Coast Guard Station in Two Rivers to obtain a replacement red lens lantern for the Lower Range Light. Upon its installation, the Lights sprang to life on June 11, 2015 and will remain lit permanently. The Coast Guard has indicated that the Baileys Harbor directional light and day board on the tower across from the Lower Range Light on Ridges Road will be removed. At this time, it appears that the entrance lighted bell buoy will remain in place.

Both Range Lights are featured as part of guided hikes at The Ridges. A ceremony celebrating the relighting will be held later this summer.

Order of sisters makes sure lake preserve remains protected

The following story was written by Don Behm for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

A pond, woods and wetlands in Mequon used by an order of Catholic Sisters as a rustic, spiritual retreat has been sold to the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust.

As Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother ended its decades-long stewardship of the 155-acre Spirit Lake Preserve, the change in ownership Friday established a milestone — protecting more than 6,000 acres of open spaces — for the regional land trust.

A small, wood-frame cottage at the dead-end of a farm lane provided members of the order with access to solitude: a natural area encompassing the small body of water, an adjacent grassland and a forest with two separate canopies.

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Photo courtesy of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

The lowland woods is topped with swamp white oak, yellow birch and red maple. Ephemeral ponds form in depressions during spring, providing habitat for salamanders and frogs.

Red and bur oak, shagbark hickory and ironwood dominate the upland. The spring carpet is colored by wildflowers: wild geranium, spring beauty, trillium and jack-in-the-pulpit.

An unnamed, intermittent stream cuts through a cattail marsh and wet meadow on the west edge of the property.

The Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother are facing declining numbers of members in the region, and a drop in use of the rural retreat, which is costly to maintain, said Pat Groth, a spokeswoman for the Oshkosh-based order.

Sisters of the Sorrowful Mother was founded in Rome, Italy, in 1883. The order is known for establishing Marian Health Care, a national health care system that created Ministry Health Care in northern and central Wisconsin. Marian became part of Ascension Health in 2014.

The order sold its Spirit Lake Preserve south of Bonniwell Road to the land trust for a little more than $1 million.

The congregation agreed to sell the property at a discount by trimming $150,000 off an appraised value of $1.2 million, said Shawn Graff, executive director of the land trust. A fiberglass canoe was left behind as part of the deal.

“The property will be held in conservancy and used as a nature preserve,” which is in line with the order’s own environmental values, Groth said. “We will continue to use it along with the public.”

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Photo courtesy of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

Ozaukee Washington Land Trust received a state Stewardship Fund grant of $600,000 to help pay acquisition costs.

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District will contribute $200,000 toward the acquisition in exchange for a permanent conservation easement on 85 acres. The L-shaped parcel includes the forest, marsh, meadow and intermittent stream. This is the 100th property protected by the district’s Greenseams flood management program and its inventory now encompasses a total of 3,142 acres. The easement prevents subdivision of the property and future development while harnessing the water-absorbing abilities of the woods and wetlands, said David Grusznski, Greenseams program director for The Conservation Fund. The fund manages Greenseams for MMSD.

Black soils in the wetlands are full of organic matter from decaying plants. Those soils act like natural sponges by trapping water in storms and reducing downstream flows. The intermittent stream draining the property is a tributary of the Milwaukee River.

Landscape photos (2)

Photo courtesy of Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

The forest is part of a larger natural area, known as the Highland Road Woods, recommended for protection by the Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission.

Fields on the northeast corner of the property are leased to local farmers. Those acres will remain in agriculture for a few years as the land trust works with other partners, including the Milwaukee Audubon Society, in establishing a management plan for the preserve, Graff said.

The land trust intends to transfer ownership of the entire property to Milwaukee Audubon in several years, he said. The group contributed $133,000 for the acquisition.



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