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Mississippi Valley Conservancy Earns National Recognition

The following post was written by our wonderful member Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

LA CROSSE, WI – August 10, 2017 – At a time of political change, one thing is clear and consistent: Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 1997, Mississippi Valley Conservancy has been doing just that for the people of Southwest Wisconsin. Now the Conservancy announced it has renewed its land trust accreditation – proving once again that, as part of a network of only 389 accredited land trusts across the nation, it is committed to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in its conservation work. Additionally, the Conservancy was awarded a special Commendation for its Project Evaluation Worksheet. The Commission will use this worksheet as an example of excellence to land trusts nationwide.

 

“Renewing our accreditation shows Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s ongoing commitment to permanent land conservation in Southwest Wisconsin,” said Carol Abrahamzon, Executive Director. “We are a stronger organization than ever for having gone through the rigorous accreditation renewal process. Our strength means the bluffs, forests, streams, prairies, and farms of the Driftless Area will be protected from development, forever. Places for birds, butterflies, bees, and children to live, grow and thrive, forever.”

The Conservancy had to provide extensive documentation and undergo a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation renewal. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded the renewed accreditation, signifying its confidence that the Conservancy’s lands will be protected forever.

Accredited land trusts must renew every five years, confirming their compliance with national quality standards and providing continued assurance to donors and landowners of their commitment to forever steward their land and easements. Almost 20 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas vital to healthy communities are now permanently conserved by an accredited land trust.

As an accredited land trust, Mississippi Valley Conservancy’s mission is to preserve our bluffs, farm fields, wetlands, prairies and streams in the Driftless Area. The Conservancy serves the Wisconsin counties of Buffalo, Crawford, Grant, Jackson, La Crosse, Monroe, Richland, Trempealeau and Vernon. The staff of conservation and land management experts works with landowners who voluntarily participate in conservation agreements and land acquisition efforts. The Conservancy also owns and manages nature preserves to enhance biodiversity and provide habitat for declining species. The organization’s outreach team provides environmental education in efforts to enrich our local communities.

 

“It is exciting to recognize Mississippi Valley Conservancy with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. Accreditation recognizes Mississippi Valley Conservancy has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

Mississippi Valley Conservancy is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the most recent National Land Trust Census, released December 1, 2016 by the Land Trust Alliance. This comprehensive report also shows that accredited land trusts have made significant achievements.

  • Accredited land trusts have steadily grown and now steward almost 80% of conservation lands and easements held by all land trusts.
  • Accredited land trusts protected five times more land from 2010 to 2015 than land trusts that were not accredited.
  • Furthermore, accreditation has increased the public’s trust in land conservation, which has helped win support for federal, state and local conservation funding measures.

A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits are detailed atwww.landtrustaccreditation.org.

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ABOUT MISSISSIPPI VALLEY CONSERVANCY

Founded in 1997, Mississippi Valley Conservancy is a nationally accredited regional land trust that has permanently protected more than 18,500 acres of scenic lands in southwestern Wisconsin by working with private landowners, businesses and local communities on voluntary conservation projects. The focus of the Conservancy is to conserve the forests, prairies, wetlands, streams and farms that enrich our communities, for the health and well-being of current and future generations.

ABOUT THE LAND TRUST ACCREDITATION COMMISSION

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more, visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

ABOUT THE LAND TRUST ALLIANCE

Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. Based in Washington, D.C., and with several regional offices, the Alliance represents about 1,000 member land trusts nationwide.

The Alliance’s leadership serves the entire land trust community—our work in the nation’s capital represents the policy priorities of land conservationists from every state; our education programs improve and empower land trusts from Maine to Alaska; and our comprehensive vision for the future of land conservation includes new partners, new programs and new priorities. Connect with us online at www.landtrustalliance.org.

Bayfield Regional Conservancy Earns National Recognition

The following post was written by our wonderful member Bayfield Regional Conservancy.

 

Bayfield, WI (August 15, 2017) – At a time of political change, one thing is clear and consistent: Americans strongly support saving the open spaces they love.  Since 1996, Bayfield Regional Conservancy has been doing just that for the people of northwestern Wisconsin. Now Bayfield Regional Conservancy (BRC) announces it has renewed its land trust accreditation – proving once again that, as part of a network of only 389 accredited land trusts across the nation, it is committed to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in its conservation work.

Bayfield Regional Conservancy had to provide extensive documentation and undergo a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation renewal. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded the renewed accreditation, signifying its confidence that BRC’s lands will be protected forever.

 

Sue DeNuccio, Vice President of BRC’s Board of Directors, shared her perspective on the merits of accreditation.  “As a small land trust operating with a professional staff of two, the requirements for accreditation demand extreme diligence in addressing policy, process, and follow through.  The details are the devil, and the panel of accreditation reviewers don’t let anything fall through the cracks.  This means staff, board members, and volunteers must adhere to policy consistently.”

As DeNuccio underscores, “Accreditation means we can say to a prospective family wishing to protect their cherished property, we can do that forever.  We can say to grantors and partners, we are dependable and accountable for every dollar they invest in our work.  To the community; we are not just average, we excel at our work based on national norms.”

Accredited land trusts must renew every five years, confirming their compliance with national quality standards and providing continued assurance to donors and landowners of their commitment to forever steward their land and easements.  Almost 20 million acres of farms, forests and natural areas vital to healthy communities are now permanently conserved by an accredited land trust.

“It is exciting to recognize Bayfield Regional Conservancy with this distinction,” said Tammara Van Ryn, executive director of the Commission. “Accredited land trusts are united behind strong ethical standards ensuring the places people love will be conserved forever. Accreditation recognizes BRC has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

BRC is one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States according to the most recent National Land Trust Census, released December 1, 2016 by the Land Trust Alliance. This comprehensive report also shows that accredited land trusts have made significant achievements.

 

  • Accredited land trusts have steadily grown and now steward almost 80% of conservation lands and easements held by all land trusts.
  • Accredited land trusts protected five times more land from 2010 to 2015 than land trusts that were not accredited.
  • Furthermore, accreditation has increased the public’s trust in land conservation, which has helped win support for federal, state and local conservation funding measures.

A complete list of accredited land trusts and more information about the process and benefits are detailed at www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Bayfield Regional Conservancy

Since its founding in 1996, Bayfield Regional Conservancy has preserved over 4,650 acres of natural lands, waters, forests, farms, and places of scenic, historic and spiritual value in Ashland, Bayfield, Douglas and Sawyer Counties. It has helped protect special places like Houghton Falls Nature Preserve, Frog Bay Tribal National Park, the Lincoln Community Forest, and the North Pikes Creek Wetlands Community Forest among others.

About the Land Trust Accreditation Commission

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission inspires excellence, promotes public trust and ensures permanence in the conservation of open lands by recognizing organizations that meet rigorous quality standards and strive for continuous improvement. The Commission, established in 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance, is governed by a volunteer board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts. For more,visit www.landtrustaccreditation.org.

About the Land Trust Alliance

Founded in 1982, the Land Trust Alliance is a national land conservation organization that works to save the places people need and love by strengthening land conservation across America. Based in Washington, D.C., and with several regional offices, the Alliance represents about 1,000 member land trusts nationwide.

The Alliance’s leadership serves the entire land trust community—our work in the nation’s capital represents the policy priorities of land conservationists from every state; our education programs improve and empower land trusts from Maine to Alaska; and our comprehensive vision for the future of land conservation includes new partners, new programs and new priorities. Connect with us online at www.landtrustalliance.org.

State Senator Sheila Harsdorf named Policymaker of the Year

Policymaker of the Year – State Senator Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls has demonstrated an enduring commitment to land and water conservation in Wisconsin through her role on the Legislature’s Joint Committee on Finance, her service on the board of the Wisconsin Conservation Corps, and her role as a founding board member of the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust. Her long-time support of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program embodies Wisconsin’s strong bi-partisan legacy of land conservation.

As a founding Steering Committee Member of the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, Senator Harsdorf helped KRLT grow to the strong organization it is today, that now protects over 2,800 acres of land, and 9 miles of vulnerable stream bank in the Kinnickinnic River watershed. In addition to her work with KRLT, Senator Harsdorf has also been an ardent supporter of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail and has volunteered on the Trail many times over the years.

 

Her support of the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program has helped the Ice Age Trail Alliance and its partners protect approximately 160 properties, 14,000 acres, and nearly 90 miles of the Ice Age Trail. In the 2015-2017 budget, the Senator helped restore funding for the Stewardship Program, including $1M in funds for the acquisition of lands for the Ice Age Trail. Her support of the Stewardship Program helps land trusts all over Wisconsin protect the places that make Wisconsin such a special place to live. The Stewardship Program “would not have been funded without the continuous and stalwart efforts of Senator Sheila Harsdorf,” said Herb & Corrine Lundberg, Ice Age Trail Alliance volunteers.

Gathering Waters is pleased to present Policymaker of the Year Award to State Senator Sheila Harsdorf on September 21, 2017 at Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website.

Driftless Area Land Conservancy named Land Trust of the Year

Land Trust of the Year Award – Driftless Area Land Conservancy is a nationally accredited land trust that has protected over 7,000 acres of unique natural and agricultural landscapes in southwest Wisconsin. Through the strong leadership of their board and the tireless efforts of their staff, the Conservancy has grown into an invaluable local asset: working to protect the natural resources of their region and providing public access, advocacy, and outdoor education programming in communities across their 5-county service area.

The Driftless Area Land Conservancy organizes countless educational programs, field trips, special events, training opportunities, and community conservation projects each year.

Under the leadership of their Executive Director Dave Clutter, the Conservancy is actively developing an ambitious plan to increase public access through the Driftless Area Trail– a project that would connect three state parks and other state lands, creating  a nearly 50-mile hiking loop. The Trail has real potential to boost tourism and economic development in the region.

Dave Clutter, Executive Director of DALC at Erikson Conservation Area

While doing this important work, the Driftless Area Land Conservancy team has developed a reputation for “being a thoughtful, forward thinking, strategic and passionate nonprofit in Southwestern Wisconsin,” according to Paul Ohlrogge with UW Extension. They also excel at fostering collaboration through efforts like the Lowry Creek Partnership near Frank Lloyd Wright’s iconic Taliesin, coordinating the Southwest Wisconsin Grasslands and Stream Conservation partnership, and facilitating multi-partner ecological restoration activities in the region.

The Conservancy has recently stepped up as an advocate for the unique landscape in the Driftless, organizing a coalition of community members opposed new transmission line infrastructure, which threatens to impact the scenic beauty and natural resources in the region.

Gathering Waters is thrilled to present the Land Trust of the Year Award to the Driftless Area Land Conservancy on September 21, 2017 at Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website.

 

Terry & DiAnne Hatch receive Land Legacy Society Award

Land Legacy Society Award – Terry & DiAnne Hatch are Iron County landowners whose generous support of land conservation in Wisconsin has been deeply impactful. Their contributions have created a legacy of protected land throughout the state and have bolstered advocacy efforts to secure hundreds of millions of dollars in public conservation funding through Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program.

Terry served for several years on the Gathering Waters Board of Directors, and he and DiAnne have long supported conservation organizations ranging from the Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters to the Northwoods Land Trust.

While serving for seven years on the Gathering Waters Board of Directors, Terry, often accompanied by DiAnne, made countless trips from his home in Illinois to meetings in Wisconsin. The Hatch’s commitment of time and energy has been matched only by their generous donations. As one of the most significant contributors in Gathering Waters’ nearly 25-year history, “the impact of their gift can be seen and felt in the growth and strength of Gathering Waters’ work, and reverberates statewide through enhanced land trust excellence and the lasting protection of some of Wisconsin’s most special places,” said Sara DeKok, former Associate Director at Gathering Waters.

In addition to financial support, Terry and DiAnne have demonstrated their conservation ethic through the permanent protection of their land in northern Wisconsin, donating a conservation easement that is held by the Northwoods Land Trust.

Generous, yet humble, thoughtful and measured, Terry and DiAnne have donated time, energy, resources, land, and immeasurable support to Wisconsin land conservation.

Gathering Waters is thrilled to present Terry and DiAnne Hatch with the Land Legacy Award on September 21, 2017 at Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website.

 

Dan Wisniewski receives Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Stewardship Award

 

Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Stewardship Award – Dan Wisniewski of Middleton has spent decades influencing public policy to benefit land and water conservation in Wisconsin. Dan has served as a dedicated board member with the Northwoods Land Trust, supporting their efforts to protect over 11,000 acres, and through his volunteer efforts and leadership with Trout Unlimited (TU), he has played a critical role in securing restoration funding and public access on some of best cold water streams in Wisconsin.

In his distinguished career in local and state government, as Secretary of the Wisconsin Board of Commissioners of Public Lands, and in leadership at all levels of Trouts Unlimited, Dan Wisniewski has positively affected conservation policy and funding in Wisconsin and beyond.

 

Dan has been a tireless advocate for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship program, playing a key role in developing The Wild Rivers Legacy Forest. He has been described as an “unsung hero” in the effort to preserve and secure public access to Token Creek in Dane County, was instrumental in acquiring the land that is now the Pheasant Branch Conservancy, and has assisted in completing countless other local projects.

Those who have worked with Dan describe his  approach to conservation, policy work, and fundraising as forward-thinking and savvy. After a distinguished career, Dan is now using his broad experience and skills in volunteer roles, including more than 12 years on the Board of Directors of the Northwoods Land Trust. Through his work with the Conservation Committee of the NWLT, the organization has expanded to more than 11,000 acres of protected land.

“Dan Wisniewski has spent years—decades—working steadily and effectively on a variety of levels to conserve lands and waters and provide the public with access to them. His efforts have helped his communities, his state and the nation to accomplish those goals,” said John (Duke) Welter, TU Driftless Area Restoration Effort Outreach Coordinator and former Wisconsin Natural Resources Board member.

Gathering Waters is happy to present Dan Wisniewski with the Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Stewardship Award on September 21, 2017 at Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website.

 

Jim Welsh named Conservationist of the Year

Conservationist of the Year – Jim Welsh, Executive Director of the Natural Heritage Land Trust (NHLT), has been instrumental in the protection of many of the most loved and valued places in south central Wisconsin. During Jim’s successful tenure over the past 15 years, NHLT has achieved national accreditation and now has conserved over 10,000 acres of farms, forests, prairies, and wetlands in and around Dane County.

Under Jim’s leadership, NHLT has preserved land in rural, agricultural, and urban environments, including  historical areas like John Muir’s original family farm in Marquette County. Jim, hailed by many as a thoughtful and committed leader, is passionate that everyone deserves access to nature and open spaces.  He has worked with community members to support important conservation education initiatives, including expanding the forest at Lakeview Elementary School, and protecting land for use by low-income communities as gardens for food production.

 

One of Jim’s nominators, Michael Foy, summed up his qualifications this way: “Jim is absolutely the model of an effective modern conservationist, and everything we could hope for in a land protection partner. His enthusiasm to try new approaches, professionalism, quiet good humor, realism, and dedication to land protection makes him a pleasure to work with.”

For these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to present Jim Welsh with the Conservationist of the Year Award on September 21, 2017 at Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website.

 

Door County Land Trust Surpasses 8,000 Acres Protected

The following post was written by our wonderful member Door County Land Trust.

 

106 Acres Added to Chambers Island Nature Preserve

The Door County Land Trust announces today that it has now surpassed 8,000 acres protected from development through the addition of 106 acres to the Chambers Island Nature Preserve. Door County Land Trust Executive Director Tom Clay says, “We are pleased that with this most recent acquisition we are surpassing two milestones— 8,000 acres are now protected by the Land Trust, and at 593 acres, Chambers Island has become our largest nature preserve. Chambers Island is an important piece in the picture of Door County’s conservation.”

Chambers Island provides vital stopover habitat for migratory birds. The island is dominated by hardwood and cedar forests with contiguous canopy, an inland lake called Mackaysee, and wetlands including a leather-leaf muskeg (bog), the only one of its kind in Door County. Protecting Chambers Island was recognized as a priority during joint conservation planning sessions with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and others.

The 8,000 acres protected by the Door County Land Trust are the result of several land protection methods that create corridors of conserved lands benefitting native plant and wildlife species. The Land Trust owns and manages 15 nature preserves and 24 natural areas, which comprise about 4,100 acres protected. Additionally, 3,200 acres are permanently protected through conservation easement agreements with private landowners. An additional 700 acres have been protected and transferred to other organizations for ongoing care.

“There is urgency to our work in Door County. Protecting our thriving plant, fish and bird habitats now creates a refuge in an otherwise rapidly changing world,” says Door County Land Trust director of land program Terrie Cooper. “The Land Trust is poised to protect the most vulnerable places on the peninsula, like the interior of Chambers Island which is so important to the birds migrating over the bay each year—over 169 species identified so far.”

Thanks to a fruitful partnership with the Chambers Island Nature Preserve Committee and the Chambers Island Association, generous donations to the Door County Land Trust from individuals and private foundations account for nearly 40% of the funds raised for the project to date. These donations have been matched by funds provided through the State of Wisconsin DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund Grant Program, the Fox River Natural Resource Damage Assessment funds and North American Wetland Conservation Act Grant Funds. Fundraising for the Chambers Island Nature Preserve continues as additional land and the needs for the ongoing care of the nature preserve are identified.

More Land Trust Survey Results: Priorities for training and collaboration

This is Part 3 of 3 in a series of blog posts sharing Wisconsin land trusts’ responses to our April 2017 survey. (See Part 1 for conservation priorities and resources for land acquisition and management and Part 2 for accomplishments and visions for the future.)

When asked to rate land trust training needs over the next 5 years (as high, medium, or low priority, or not a priority), the five most frequently selected as high priorities were:

  • Public understanding of land trust values
  • Cultivating major donors
  • Growing & sustaining members/donors
  • Reaching new audiences
  •  Engaging youth

However, many other training topics are important to land trusts as well. When considering both high and medium ratings, at least 75% of respondents selected 12 of the 21 response options provided. And, when accounting for any priority (high, medium, or low) at least 85% selected 16 of the 21 topics.

Training Needs

By category, the most high priority ratings were given to community engagement, followed by fundraising, governance, and land protection and stewardship. However, when including both high and medium priority ratings, governance topics were most frequently selected.

When asked to rate the expected importance of certain issues and opportunities over the next 5 years—in order to help Gathering Waters prioritize efforts to convene discussion or collaboration— the five most frequently selected as high priorities were:

  • Public awareness/support of land conservation
  • The future of conservation funding
  • Water quality protection
  • Forest conservation/ management
  • Invasive species control

When considering both high and medium ratings, 60% of the 33 respondents selected 10 of the 13 issues.

Issues and Opportunities

 

What do these survey results mean for the Wisconsin land trust community and Gathering Waters?

Survey responses, along with the proposals submitted to our recent open call for innovative projects, input from the Land Trust Council, and feedback from past trainings will inform our strategic planning. Some key reoccurring themes across these sources include:

  • Engaging the community and fostering public understanding of the value of land trust work
  • Fundraising strategies and practices
  • Best practices in nonprofit governance (e.g., finances, personnel management, strategic planning)
  • Best practices in conservation easement programs, from the basics to managing monitoring and handling challenges
  • GIS capacity and skills, including integrating mobile data collection into a central system

As we move forward with strategic planning and prioritizing our services, we will be actively exploring a range of methods and formats to address these and other topics (e.g., training workshops, Ask an Expert calls, Land Trust Retreats) as well as identifying partners and collaborative ways to tap into new sources of support.

Family donates conservation easement at Rowan Creek State Fishery Area

The following post was written by our wonderful member Natural Heritage Land Trust.

 

Good news that yesterday a family with Madison roots permanently protected 165 acres of their beloved land through a voluntary conservation easement donated to Natural Heritage Land Trust.

The family’s land along Rowan Creek just west of Poynette in Columbia County boasts some remarkable views over the Rowan Creek valley and is being lovingly restored by the family.

Many threatened and endangered species have been found on the property, including slender glass lizard, massasauga rattlesnake, and ornate box turtle. The conservation easement ensures that the land will remain an undeveloped refuge for these and other animals and plants in perpetuity.

The property and its surrounding landscape is also culturally very rich, with a long history of use by Native Americans and farmers of European descent. And while it seems unbelievable, Wisconsin’s first outdoor rock festival, Sound Storm, featuring the Grateful Dead, was held in a natural amphitheater on the property in 1970. Read the Wisconsin Historical Society’s article here.

We honor Telle Zoller for having the vision to protect this special place, forever. And, we thank the supporters of Natural Heritage Land Trust for making this project possible.

Yours in Conservation,

Jim Welsh
Executive Director

Natural Heritage Land Trust



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