Archived entries for Stewardship

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

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

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

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

 

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

Portion of Wisconsin River protected by the Forest Legacy Program

 

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

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

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

 

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

Kevin Shafer, 2016 Policymaker of the Year Award

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

Kevin Shafer - Photo from Milwaukee Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

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“By being a visionary and team player, Kevin has made Milwaukee a national leader in innovative storm water management,” says Jeff Martinka, Executive Director of Neighborhood House of Milwaukee. Given these reasons, it is Gathering Waters honor to present Kevin Shafer with the prestigious Policymaker of the Year award.  Kevin will receive his award on October 20th at the Sweet Water Annual Meeting in Milwaukee. Click here for more details or to register for the event. 

Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust – 2016 Land Trust of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of us in Wisconsin and beyond are fortunate for the efforts of Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust. Due to this reason, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor the conservancy with the prestigious Land Trust of the Year award.  NEWLT will be presented with their award at their 20th anniversary event on October 6, in Menasha. Find out more about the event and register here. 

Bill Lunney wins Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award 

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

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Bill Lunney

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

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

 

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

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

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Bill and his wife Judie Pfeifer

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

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 Wisconsin’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!

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

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.

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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.

Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area Grows

A 144-acre bluffland on the Great River Road, Wisconsin’s only national scenic byway, was slated for residential development. When the community found out, many banded together under the leadership of the local land trust, Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC), to make sure that didn’t happen.

Jay Olson-Goude

MVC tapped into an invaluable resource—the state’s Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program. Funding through the Stewardship Program provided over 80% of the money needed to purchase this special place from the folks who owned it. A number of community institutions came through to cover the $86,436 balance. Clearly, protecting this land was important to the community and instead of being developed, the land became an extension of the Sugar Creek Bluff State Natural Area.

And for good reason! They now have 420-acres available to them for hunting, fishing, hiking, bird watching and other family recreation.  Additionally, as Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director pointed out, this “will benefit the students of De Soto Junior High and High School, who have adopted Sugar Creek Bluff, doing restoration workdays as well as environmental education activities.”

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“if today was my last day on earth, I’d like to spend part of it on Sugar Creek Bluff.” (Laura Patten) Photo courtesy of Mississippi Valley Conservancy

Andy and Laura Patten, who own property next to the state natural area were asked how they would describe it to someone who hadn’t been there before. Andy said it “combines all the natural beauty of the Driftless in a setting that makes it easy for anyone to access. The goat prairie, a spring-fed trout stream, the full range of the oak savanna and woodland ecosystem, grasslands and an abundance of rare and native plant and animal species all exist there to be appreciated and enjoyed.”  Laura said, “if today was my last day on earth, I’d like to spend part of it on Sugar Creek Bluff.”  She added, “Seeing the bluff out my window when I’m at work reminds me that when people work together, we can make good decisions that will reward the land and others for generations to come.”

Cerulean Warbler

A variety of wildlife will always be able to count on this place, including the rare cerulean warbler. © Mark S. Szantyr

Joanne White, member of the Ferryville Tourism Council, said that the Bluffland is part of Ferryville’s identity as the smallest of the 93 cities in the Bird City Wisconsin program.  “We’re thrilled to have it protected,” she said. The community co-sponsors public hikes on the property with MVC. She said the rare cerulean warbler has been seen on each of the hikes she has attended.

Keeping Forests Accessible for Timber & Recreation

Wisconsin is a leader in the forest products industry and our timberlands directly support the state’s economy. Funding from the KnowlesNelson Stewardship Program protects this valuable asset by limiting the subdivision of large forest properties and complementing the active management of adjacent public forestlands.

Since the 1990s, Wisconsin has lost more than a quarter of a million acres of industrial forestland—much of which is now in small, parcelized ownerships. The smaller the parcel, the less chance timber will be managed to support local mills. Hunters also lose out as “no trespassing” signs typically follow changing ownership.

Fortunately, through the leadership of land trusts, the Stewardship Program has been instrumental in slowing forest land parcelization. Funding from the program allows land trusts and land owners to find business solutions, ensuring our forests remain accessible for recreation and timber harvest.

Michael Anderson

This Stewardship project supports an economically viable forest, which creates jobs while ensuring access to outdoor recreation. Photo by Michael Anderson

 

In fact, as a nationally recognized leader among land trusts, The Conservation Fund has become a champion of Wisconsin’s northern working forests. Its most recent victory for the state was the permanent protection of the 13,732-acre Twin Lakes Legacy Forest in Iron County.

This Legacy Forest has been a top priority for supporters of working forests because its resources and outdoor recreation opportunities are major drivers of the regional economy. An important aspect of this land deal is providing permanent public access for recreation, including vehicle access on over 10 miles of private-woods roads that enable hunters to continue accessing the interior of the property.

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“These investments in our future are made possible by the Knowles-Nelson State Stewardship Program, helping communities safeguard the state’s habitats and inhabitants.” – Tom Duffus, Vice President – Midwest for The Conservation Fund, Photo by Amy Singh

 

It will also now continue to support jobs and provide a sustainable supply of forest products in perpetuity, ensure and enhance access to outdoor recreation, and protect habitat for important game and non-game species.

Why Stewardship Matters:

  • It supports Wisconsin’s $20 billion forestry industry, including jobs.
  • It provides a sustainable supply of forest products.
  • It ensures that our forests remain and are accessible for recreation, timber, and sport—major drivers of the regional economy.
  • It protects important habitat for game and non-game species.

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!

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!



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