Archived entries for General Interest

New at Gathering Waters

We are happy to welcome two new additions to the team here at Gathering Waters: Becky Andresen, our part-time Program Assistant and Rhea Bradley, our Outreach & Development Intern.

Becky Adresen cropped

Becky Andresen, Program Assistant

As our Program Assistant, Becky will be keeping the office organized and making sure everything is running smoothly while ensuring staff have what they need to thrive. She will also play a vital role with supporting our fundraising and membership program. In addition to working for Gathering Waters, Becky has another part time job with Public Health-Madison & Dane County as a Laboratory Assistant where she tests water samples.

Rhea Bradley, Outreach & Development Intern

Rhea Bradley, Outreach & Development Intern

As our Outreach & Development Intern, Rhea will offer some fresh ideas and support of our outreach efforts, fundraising and special events.  She is currently a student at Edgewood College majoring in Business Management and minoring in Environmental Studies.  She has a strong interest in sustainable business and hopes her internship at Gathering Waters will expand her awareness of the value of land conservation while developing professional skills.

Find out more about these two or the rest of the Gathering Waters’ team on our website.

Welcome Becky and Rhea! 

Nature’s Beauty and Capacity to Heal

As a young boy scout, Doug Jones learned that “you leave your spot better than you found it.” To this day he and his wife Sherryl adhere to this adage. In December 2014 Doug and Sherryl permanently protected a part of their land with Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC).

This restored prairie, situated next to a secluded lake along the Wisconsin River, is helping protect an array of beautiful and brilliantly colored rare fish that call the lake home. According to Dave Marshall, retired Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist and current Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) researcher and board member, these rare fish are “much like the proverbial canaries in the coal mines. They reflect the health of these lakes, which are crucial to the health of the river.”

the Jones

Sherryl & Doug Jones

The prairie restoration, planted and maintained by Doug and Sherryl, filters nutrients from groundwater before it reaches the lake. In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms that threatened the future of the rare fish that live only in lakes like these. Since Doug and Sherryl planted the prairie on their property, FLOW has measured – through groundwater and surface water samples – a steady decline in nutrients in the lake next to the Jones’ prairie.

In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms

In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms.

According to Sherryl, “we planted the prairie because we simply thought it was beautiful, but it’s incredibly rewarding to know that we’re also improving water quality and protecting these special animals.” This unique project serves as a model for protecting waterways throughout the Driftless Area. It was made possible through a partnership between DALC, FLOW and the Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA).  MEA and FLOW provided funding to DALC to protect lands along the Lower Wisconsin River, with a focus on improving water quality.

New Beginnings

As we ring in a new year, many of us stop to reflect on the past year and our hopes for the future. We think about why we do what we do and the value we bring to and derive from it.

Harkening back to the October 2014 Land Trust Retreat here is a list of words that participants offered in response to the question, What is a word that describes what you see, hear, or feel in a place you help conserve?

untamed quiet serene
tranquil peaceful relaxing
removed crunchy squishy
salty verdant fresh
refreshing magic rippling waters water shimmering
raindrops breathtaking soothing
removed home fortunate
timeless wildness unspoiled
magic bird sounds beep-beep
alive rustic primordial
promise opportunity whisper
unspoiled awe inspiring glorious
reverent haunted humble
proud mortal soulfulness


These words inspired creativity in the Retreat Haiku Contest. They also highlight what is so special about the work that land trusts do.

All of us at Gathering Waters wish you ample measures of opportunity and magic, with moments of peacefulness and relaxation, as you enter this fresh, new year!



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

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

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

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

GWC-Headshots-14 for web

We wish Sara DeKok a fond farewell.

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

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

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

Land Trust Partners with City to Protect Water

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

Siltation after heavy rains in Mason Creek flowing into North Lake

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

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

Lac La Belle at Dusk

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

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

Pretty cool, right? We think so.

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

Lucky Stoughton

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

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

Yahara Waterway

Yahara Waterway by Mario Quintana

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

Enjoy, Stoughton!

Muir Family Farm Protected for Years to Come

“I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown,
for going out, I found, was really going in.” -John Muir

The Natural Heritage Land Trust recently announced an exciting development in the preservation of the original John Muir family farm – the purchase of nearly 200 acres in Marquette County between Montello and Portage, WI. The property will be open to the public for hiking, hunting, cross-country skiing, fishing, trapping, and bird-watching – continuing John Muir’s legacy of preserving natural spaces for all people to explore, discover, and enjoy.


John Muir, a Scottish-American naturalist and author, founded the Sierra Club and is widely regarded as the father of our National Park System. His family emigrated from Scotland in 1849 and started a farm near Portage, WI. The recent property acquisition includes 38 acres of the original 320-acre farm and is part of a 1,400-acre protected landscape, including the John Muir Memorial Park/Muir Park State Natural Area and the Fox River National Wildlife Refuge. A map of the new and existing protected lands can be found here.

john-muirPhoto Credit:

“Oh, that glorious Wisconsin wilderness!” -John Muir

Muir’s passion for preserving natural spaces echoes through Wisconsin’s conservation community. The permanent preservation of this beautiful natural space and piece of Wisconsin’s history would not have been possible without the work of the National Heritage Land Trust in partnership with the landowner and funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, USFWS Fox River/Green Bay Natural Resource Trustee Council, The Conservation Fund, Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust, Wisconsin Land Fund of the Greater Green Bay Community Foundation, Wisconsin Friends of John Muir, and John Muir Chapter of the Sierra Club.

To learn more about this land acquisition or the Muir family legacy, please contact National Heritage Land Trust.

Rosholt’s Treasure Protected by North Central Conservancy Trust

Both Jim Benn and Louise Benn Barnard have fond childhood memories of living in Rosholt and know how much the area meant to their father, Dr. Vernard Benn.

Jim Benn said his father, who has since passed away, loved living and working in the area since the day he moved to Rosholt in 1937. Dr. Benn served in the area for 49 years, retiring in 1985, and delivered more than 5,000 babies.

“He treated the town as his office,” Jim Benn said. “He was a hunter and fisherman, and was known for playing hooky whenever he could to go out and spend time in the woods.”

Louise Benn Barnard said she always remembers hiking from their home to the land on Sunday afternoons, and how much she enjoyed playing there as a child.

Sign at the Benn Nature Conservancy.

“We’re thrilled to give this land to these people, because they will enjoy those little things as much as we did.” (Louise Benn Bernard)

These sentiments led the brother and sister, who now live in Massachusetts and California, respectively, to decide the 35 acres their family owned just behind the Rosholt School District should be enjoyed by students and the community.

“It was truly magical, and I knew when I moved I’d always miss Wisconsin,” said Benn Barnard. “We’re thrilled to give this land to these people, because they will enjoy those little things as much as we did.”

After receiving the property, now known as the Vernard A. Benn Conservancy, the school district contacted their local land trust, North Central Conservancy Trust (NCCT) to ensure that it would remain protected, forever. Together, the school district and NCCT designed an easement, which lays out the terms through which the land will be protected.

The property includes much of the Rosholt Millpond and has long been maintained as a nature conservancy, with a trail system designed and cared for by students of the district, and now it is guaranteed to remain this way, benefiting the health and well being of the community for generations to come.  As Jo Seiser (the Executive Director of NCCT at the time) explains, “as part of the easement, the property must continue to be used as an area for students and the public and cannot be developed or divided. The trust will inspect the property annually to ensure it is maintained.”

Benches at the Benn Nature Conservancy.

Students and other community members will be able to enjoy this beautiful property forever.

The community was so thankful for this gift that the school district organized an Earth Day assembly, to thank the Benn family for its donation. The assembly included musical performances by students and statements of appreciation from students and members of the community. “This donation will ensure that this spectacular piece of nature, which is right in our backyard, will be there for the use of our students,” Rosholt District Administrator Marc Christianson said.

Students and other community members will be able to enjoy this beautiful property forever – what a wonderful gift from the Benn family and North Central Conservancy Trust to the Village of Rosholt! This is a great example of why we work so hard to strengthen all of Wisconsin’s land trusts. The value they offer their communities is priceless and permanent.

Nathan’s Owl

Here at Gathering Waters we love to hear the stories of amazing things that Wisconsin’s land trusts do for their communities. That is, after all, a huge part of why we do what we do. Last fall, Caledonia Conservancy (one of our member land trusts), hosted their second annual “Community Daze”, where dozens of youngsters and adults came out to the King’s Corner property in Caledonia to enjoy a wide array of activities including a Birds of Prey display by Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, which Eric Schumann (our board Treasurer and the Past President of Caledonia Conservancy) and his wife Jane, arranged for the event. One boy named Nathan was particularly enthralled by the owls at the event, this is his story.

Nathan decorating a birdhouse at Caledonia Conservancy Community Daze.

Nathan decorating a birdhouse at Caledonia Conservancy Community Daze.

Nathan arrived at the King’s corner property excited to do some nature crafts and learn about the wildlife in the area. He and his sister started off the day by making pine cone bird feeders, decorating a birdhouse, and visiting a skunk, a lemur and a porcupine. Next, Nathan decided to check out the Birds of Prey display and learn about the Barred Owl.

Nathan was awestruck by the creature and amazed to learn that one could potentially be found in his own backyard. He absorbed all the information he could about this mysterious bird including how to make a nesting box. When Nathan returned home, he promptly told his parents that he wanted to build one so they could attract an owl to their home. A few hours and one trip to Menards later, Nathan and his father had built the box and placed it in their backyard.

Nathan and his dad working on the nesting box.

Nathan and his dad working on the nesting box.

Nathan watched until sunset that night and has since asked his mother for night vision goggles since he learned that the owl will most likely come “really late. like 10:00 pm”.

Every night, Nathan excitedly looked out to the nesting box to check if an owl had decided to call it home, but come Christmas still no owl appeared. His family kept expecting his interest to fade as no owl had showed up, but he kept to it and continued to do research on what type of owl would most likely use the box.

Then on January 4th, 2014, Nathan peered out his kitchen window to find a gray phase Eastern Screech Owl perched in the hole. Nathan’s owl had finally arrived! Although the cold weather kept him indoors, Nathan grabbed binoculars and watched the owl settle in.

Owl 2

The owl that has settled into Nathan’s nesting box.

In Nathan’s research, he found out that female owls selects their mate by the abundance of food and the quality of the nesting shelter, so Nathan is sure that there will be a female joining his owl. Nathan also learned a lesson about symbiotic relationships from his research, since he found out that Easter Screech Owls often have a blind snake in their nesting boxes. Nate told his mom and dad “just like us; a mom, a dad, babies and a helper friend in a house.”

Nathan studys up on Owl

Nathan studies up on owls.

“Just like us; what a valuable concept for children to have in regard to wildlife” his mom stated in a letter to Caledonia Conservancy thanking them for hosting the inspiring event.

Additionally, Nathan recently told his Mom he wanted to be a scientist and she is sure this owl experience has fostered that.

“Perhaps we will look into getting one of those night cameras as it looks like the ‘Year of the owl’ will continue.” Wrote his mother in the letter.  “Thank you Caledonia Conservancy so much for sparking this interest.  You have started something special.”

Welcome Meg Domroese, our new Land Trust Program Director!

We are very happy to announce that Meg Domroese will be joining our team as the new Land Trust Program Director, early this July!

As you may know, our mission is to help land trusts, landowners, and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special. Unlike any other organization, we accomplish our mission by strengthening Wisconsin land trusts – a network of approximately 50 nonprofit organizations that protect land to preserve its natural, agricultural, or cultural value for public benefit. We provide direct technical assistance to non-profit land trusts; are non-partisan, solution-oriented advocates for public policies supporting land conservation; and use our statewide voice to share the stories of land trusts’ impact and how they address community needs, and inspire broad public support for land conservation.

Welcome to the team, Meg!

Welcome to the team, Meg!

The Land Trust Program Director position is integral to accomplishing this important work. Among other things, Meg will provide direct coaching to and coordination of training for land trusts around the state; she will execute GWC’s signature program to support Wisconsin land trusts (our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program); she will facilitate meetings with land trusts and collaborative partners, and coordinate collaborative efforts around the state.

Meg comes to Gathering Waters from the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts, and Letters where she convened discussions on statewide water and energy issues. She helped found the Citizen Science Association, which, in its first months of existence, already has 1700 members and plans to convene its first national conference in early 2015. Meg led projects in Bolivia and British Columbia, among other places, in her previous position at the American Museum of Natural History’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation. These projects all aimed to promote participation in conservation through partnerships among scientists, educators, and community leaders.

Meg is excited to join an organization dedicated to helping people protect the places that make Wisconsin special. Born and raised in Oak Park, IL, Meg spent many a family holiday on Wisconsin’s lakes and rivers. Having taken up residence in Madison almost two years ago, she can’t get enough of the bike paths, paddling around Lake Wingra, or excursions to parks and small towns around the state. We sure are glad to have her!

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