Archived entries for Policy Advocacy

Community Asset, Local Treasure

When landowners Alex and Mary Erickson decided to sell their 220-acre property nestled between the Pecatonica River and the Village of Argyle, the community was deeply concerned. As local resident John Soper described, “This property came up for sale and I thought, uh oh, are we going to have that access to it that we had before?” Luckily, the Ericksons were on the same page. “Seeing this land protected so that it will inspire kids and the Argyle community has always been our dream,” Mary explains. And because of funding from the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, their local land trust, Driftless Area Land Conservancy (Driftless) was able to purchase the property – forever protecting the land and access for the public.

Photo by Ivan LaBianca

“We couldn’t have done this without the Knowles Nelson Stewardship grant. It paid for fifty percent of the appraised value of the property and that was significant. Without the Stewardship funding the deal wouldn’t have gone through.” – Dave Clutter, Executive Director, Driftless Area Land Conservancy, photo by Ivan LaBianca

 

Since the property became a permanent part of the Argyle community, Driftless and the community have worked together to truly make the most of all it has to offer. As Dave Clutter, Executive Director of Driftless, explains, “The community support for this project has been heartwarming. It is clear that this place has touched the lives of many people already.” The Community Foundation of Southern Wisconsin funded a kiosk and boardwalk to facilitate public access to the land, and Driftless has “been working hand-in-hand with the school in developing curriculum and using this property as an outdoor laboratory.” Additionally, an anonymous foundation funded the purchase of binoculars, a computer, and a spotting scope for the school’s environmental education activities.

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Argyle youth now have an incredible outdoor laboratory and classroom while the entire community can rest assured that this treasure will always be theirs, Photo courtesy of Driftless Area Land Conservancy

 

And the students are loving it. “It’s just better to be outside because you get more fresh air and there’s just more to do,” said high school student, Kaylie Berget. Her friend Taylor Mathys added, “During school it kinda feels cooped up and when we get to get outside, it’s like you’re free.”

This special place will continue to enrich the lives of those around it, forever. Echoing the sentiment of fellow community members, local resident Neale Tollakson says “It’s a great comfort to me to know that it’s going to continue to be here for future generations.”

Why Stew Matters:

  • Locals have always felt this land was a part of their community’s identity and now they always will, as they continue to have a place close to home to get outside, explore, and be active year round.
  • Students benefit from the incorporation of an outdoor laboratory and classroom.
  • Living near parks and green spaces has been shown to boost mental well-being and reduce stress

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program! This story is also available as a 3 minute video watch it today!

Conserving Water, Benefitting Birds and Business

For many years, Dr. Noel Cutright envisioned the creation of a bird observatory along Lake Michigan. As a renowned birder and ornithologist, he knew that the western shore was a significant stopover point for birds on their migratory journeys, being part of a major flyway stretching from South America to Alaska. So when a golf course in the town of Belgium went on the market, he saw an opportunity.

photo by Kate Redmond

This is a dream-come-true for the late Dr. Cutright and for over 200 species of migratory birds. It’s good for the economy, water conservation and is truly a special place for all to enjoy. Photo by Kate Redmond

Dr. Cutright encouraged the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) to buy the golf course property, which included frontage on the Lake Michigan shoreline, and transform it into a migratory bird preserve. Skeptical about siting a nature preserve on such a manicured landscape, OWLT did their research while experts devised a plan to create several habitat types favorable to migrating birds. Ultimately, they were convinced of the ecological significance of the land and the viability of Dr. Cutright’s vision and began fundraising for the project.

OWLT secured funding for half of the purchase price through the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program, making this incredible undertaking possible. Then, collaborating with local birding groups, many local contractors, and people at every level of government, ten years of land restoration was accomplished in only eighteen months of intensive work.

photo by Ken Tapp

One of Dr. Cutright’s favorite quotes was this one by Rachel Carson: “There is symbolic as well as actual beauty in the migration of birds. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature — the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter.” Photo by Ken Tapp

Today, this special place is known as the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve. In addition to providing 150 acres of safe cover for birds to rest and feed, it offers a trail system that winds through the property, and is home to the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, another of Dr. Cutright’s visions. It also uses 10-20 million fewer gallons of water per year than its predecessor. The nearby town of Belgium was planning to dig a new well and build a water tower to meet municipal demand, but since the Preserve was created, the town found it no longer needed more water production.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

Sense of Identity & Source of Revenue

Terrie Cooper, a lifelong resident of Door County, considered the view from the top of the bluff in the town of Liberty Grove, saying, “I grew up in Ellison Bay. This is my home. The Grand View property was an iconic view that we had all known and loved. It identified our community. I don’t think anybody ever realized that could change.”

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This 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Photo by Julie Schartner

 

From this Door County high point, one can see the sparkling waters of Green Bay, islands in the distance, and sheer bluffs topped by hardwood forests. Residents and visitors alike have enjoyed the scenic overlook for many years, often pulling over to the side of the road to snap photos or take in the majestic view. Only when construction of a 44-unit condominium development began on the property did people realize that this signature view could disappear.

Beyond the community concern, an economic threat also loomed. Door County draws over two million visitors every year, most of whom come to enjoy the scenery and outdoor activities. Tourism accounts for almost $300 million in annual revenue in Door County. Though privately owned, the Grand View property was a de facto tourist attraction that drew thousands of visitors each year.

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“My wife Vonnie and I drive into Ellison Bay every day and always slow down to marvel at the remarkable view. This very special place has been naively taken for granted until the past few years when the potential for development became real.” – Dave Callsen, community member, Photo by Door County Community Foundation

 

Concerned citizens approached Door County Land Trust to help find a solution. The land trust responded, marshaling its resources for what would be a five-year-long commitment to forge a path to preservation of the popular and iconic view. Their expertise in conservation and real estate led to successful grant-writing, private fundraising, and land purchase negotiations. They also partnered with the Town of Liberty Grove, which agreed to take eventual ownership of the land and manage it as a public park.

Through persistence and dedication, the land trust was able to secure funding for the overlook property through the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the National Scenic Byway Program. The 16-acre property and its famous view are now permanently protected as the Grand View Scenic Overlook and Park—a place for visitors to picnic, take photos, reflect, and explore. Door County, known for its beautiful landscape, can rest assured that this destination spot will always remain.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

Enriching Lives, Providing Livelihoods

Camp Nawakwa, in Chippewa County, is a summer camp that has been run by the Girl Scouts for many years. Located on a glacial lake and surrounded by hardwood forest, the camp offers kids a place to experience the outdoors, to connect with nature through activities like fishing, swimming, or hiking, and learn invaluable skills; all while building lifelong friendships. It has shaped the lives of many.

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Camp Nawakwa will continue to shape the lives of Girl Scouts like Sherry Jasper (above), who has been a part of the organization for years.

Sherry Jasper has been a part of the Girl Scouts for decades, starting as a young camper and later serving on the Board of Directors of a large Wisconsin Girl Scout council. “I grew up in Girl Scouting and the out-of-doors program, so taking care of the land and providing opportunities for others to learn from the land is a very strong value that I carry to this day,” she says. So when a portion of Camp Nawakwa needed to be sold to support other programs and properties, Sherry and the Girl Scout leadership approached the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA) for help.

The IATA is a land trust whose mission is to create, support, and protect the Ice Age National Scenic Trail, a thousand-mile footpath that winds through the state. The trail provides access to some of the state’s most beautiful natural areas, including privately-owned land near Camp Nawakwa. It also helps feed Wisconsin’s tourism industry, strengthening local economies.

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Because of the Stewardship Program, the community gained a new source of revenue, place to explore, and destination spot! Photo by Dave Caliebe

The IATA did not disappoint. They understood the vision and led the way to make it possible. They collaborated with Chippewa County to secure funding through the state’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program, which provided half the purchase price of the land and made this deal possible, and with the Girl Scouts, who placed an easement on the land to ensure its permanent protection.

Because of this project, the camp will remain and have access to an extensive trail improved and maintained by the IATA. And that’s not all. Because of this deal, the land is now managed as a public working forest, supplying the county with jobs and a new source of revenue that also offers 110 magnificent acres of public recreational opportunities like fishing, hiking, skiing, and much more.

A printable version of this story and others are available on our website. Feel free to share with legislators and media outlets to help save the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program!

20 Years Strong

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Together we protect our local food base and agricultural economy.

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

2014: An Exciting, New Year

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

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

In the public policy & advocacy arena:

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

Providing direct services & technical assistance:

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

Spreading the good word:

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

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

Stories of Stewardship: A Sportsman on Stewardship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Great Lakes Victory

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

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

Fun kayaking in Lake Superior. Photo credit: Natalie Lucier

Fun kayaking in Lake Superior. Photo credit: Natalie Lucier

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

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

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

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

The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes are important to us all.

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

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

Cates Family Farm, Wins!

Agriculture and food production are the foundation of Wisconsin’s social fabric and economy— it’s a more than $50 billion industry. And one that depends on the state’s agricultural and forestry lands. Protecting these lands, and working them in an environmentally sound and sustainable way is key to Wisconsin’s ability to benefit from and enjoy them in the future.

That’s why Gathering Waters has formed strategic partnerships within the state, to garner support and raise awareness about the preservation of working lands.  Partnering for Progress, for instance, is a collaboration between Gathering Waters, Wisconsin School for Beginning Dairy & Livestock Farmers, Lakeshore Natural Resource Partnership and the Saxon Homestead Farm. Each year, Partnering for Progress holds an old-fashioned Barn Dance & Chautauqua on a historic, working dairy farm to celebrate Wisconsin’s farmers, working lands, and rural heritage.

The annual Barn Dance & Chautauqua celebrates Wisconsin’s farmers, working lands, and rural heritage.

This year, Dick Cates, a friend to Gathering Waters and the Director of the School for Beginning Livestock and Dairy Farmers at the University of Wisconsin (a Partnering for Progress collaborator), has even more to celebrate than another successful Barn Dance & Chautauqua. Indeed, huge congratulations are in order as Dick’s family farm- the Cates Family Farm, was awarded the Sand County Foundation and the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Foundation’s 2013 Leopold Conservation Award! The Award honors Wisconsin landowner achievements in voluntary stewardship and management of natural resources. It “honors leaders who love the land and that really captures the heart and soul of the Cates family,” said Wisconsin Agriculture Secretary Ben Brancel.

Dick, Kim, their daughter Shannon, and their son Eric. Photo credit: Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation.

Dick and Kim Cates operate Cates Family Farm, a grass-fed beef enterprise near Spring Green in Iowa County. According to the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, the farm includes 700 acres of managed grazing land and 200 acres of managed forest. They direct market their pasture-raised steers to grocery stores, restaurants, cafeterias and households around southern Wisconsin and the Chicago area.

The Cates’ brand is known and trusted. Photo credit: The Conscientious Omnivore

Since 1987, the Cates have worked to make the family farm more environmentally sound and profitable. They adopted rotational grazing practices, created a managed grazing system, included subdivision fencing and stream crossings for livestock. They encouraged the revitalization of a native oak savannah and care for Lowery Creek, a trout stream that runs through the grazing acreage.

The Cates work hard to protect Lowery Creek, a trout stream that runs through their pastures.

The Cates work hard to protect Lowery Creek, a trout stream that runs through their pastures. Photo credit: Cates Family Farm

On December 8, 2013, at the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation’s annual meeting in the Wisconsin Dells, the Cates Family Farm was presented with the Leopold Conservation Award, which included a $10,000 check and a crystal depicting Aldo Leopold. “This has meaning beyond words…. I keep having to pinch myself,” Dick said. “I’m just so overwhelmed by the entire experience and we feel there are so many wonderful family farm producers in Wisconsin who are equally deserving. We’re proud to be able to carry the torch for so many others.” We’re proud of you and your family too, Dick. Congratulations!

With Many Thanks, to You

With 2013 winding to a close, we’ve been thinking about all that’s happened over the course of the last year and one theme pops up time and time again: all the ways that you, our supporters, are enriching the lives of countless Wisconsinites− including those of future generations. This awareness fills us with an incredible sense of gratitude; thank you.

Because of your support over the last year alone:

We fought successfully to maintain Knowles- Nelson Stewardship Program funding at $12 million annually, available for land trusts to protect the special places that make Wisconsin such a wonderful place to live, work, and play – for everyone. Protecting these special places supports tourism and the quality of life in our communities, and is beneficial to business and job growth.

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Over 700 staff and volunteers in the land trust community received education through training, workshops, mentoring and advising. These staff and volunteers do the on-the-ground, daily work to ensure the protection of our trails, forests, scenic vistas, family farms, and urban green spaces.

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Together, we increased awareness and understanding of the value land trusts bring to their local communities, playing a key role in the quality of life and the economy of local communities. Understanding that land trusts protect values we all cherish is important to building support for their work, and enlivening the community of people whose lives have been touched by the magic of the outdoors.

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These are examples of the value you bring to our mission through your continued support and are a direct result of your vision, dedication, and generosity. Together, we’re helping to protect the places that make Wisconsin special. Again, thank you.



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