Archived entries for Wisconsin Land Trusts

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

More Land Trust Survey Results: Successes and Looking Toward the Future

Wisconsin land trusts have a lot to be proud of—and big plans for the future.

In this Part 2 of “The Results Are In,” we share what Wisconsin land trusts said, in response to our April survey, about their successes, needs, and visions for the future. (See Part 1 for conservation priorities and resources for land acquisition and management.)

What recent accomplishment is your land trust most proud of?

  • Land protection, including working with landowners to protect many acres of lakeshore, wetlands, farmland, wildlife habitat, community forest, and special places throughout the state
  • Restoration of shoreline, wetlands, prairie, and pollinator habitat
  • Programming that provides quality education for youth and the broader community
  • Partnerships, such as working with Boy Scouts on trails, community collaboration to protect farmland for immigrant farmers
  • Organizational successes, like financial stability, developing a strategic plan, working through a tough issue, achieving accreditation, and receiving recognition as Land Trust of the Year by Gathering Waters

Besides adequate funding, what is the single greatest obstacle to accomplishing your mission?

 Capacity was the most frequent response, including:

  • The need for more staff, and more diverse board members to carry on with the organization
  • The challenge of effectively engaging and managing volunteers, and of moving from an all-volunteer to staffed organization
  • The difficulty of prioritizing conservation challenges and opportunities to have the greatest impact, and doing so at a scale that makes a difference
  • Finding long-term, committed donors and raising annual operations support

Also on the list of obstacles was a lack of public awareness and political will—from a “failure [of the public] to understand what we do and the importance of our mission to the quality of life in our region” to a “lack of commitment to land conservation” among elected officials.

Other responses called out the need for available land, willing landowners, and community buy-in.

What do you think your land trust will look like in 10 years?

  • Many survey responses included aspirations to increase land trust staff and board capacity, and the scale and scope of work.
  • Land acquisition and easements are expected to continue as a focus, with several land trusts anticipating expansion of their service areas.
  • Others expect to see a shift from land acquisition to stewardship as a focus, and building capacity in restoration and community engagement. They also recognize the need to “stay ahead” with current easements with succession to new land owners.
  • Program areas that land trusts want to continue to build are landowner services, advocacy, conservation education. They would like to be seen as conservation leadersas community organizations, not only an environmental ones.
  • Several, particularly those working on a relatively local scale, envision maintaining their current scope, ensuring that lake shores, natural areas, and farmland continue to be protected.
  • While there is concern about funding, particularly with uncertainty about state and federal support, some land trusts are looking to build endowments for staffing and operations through bequests.
  • Respondents also indicated they would expand partnerships, and anticipate joining forces locally or regionally with other land trusts in mergers. They noted the need to plan for leadership transitions.
  • They also anticipate increased residential pressure as well as increased demand for outdoor access. As one respondent put it:

I believe that public support for land trusts will grow as will the public’s demand to have more land trust land open to the public for recreation. This will have to be balanced against the need for quieter preserves for wildlife habitat and contemplative study.

How can land trusts connect the dots from successes to obstacles to these visions for the future? 

Up next: Wisconsin land trusts’ priorities for training and collaboration.

The Results Are In – A Survey of Wisconsin Land Trusts

In April 2017, Gathering Waters surveyed member land trusts about their current priorities and activities, as well as what they see as needs and opportunities for the future. Representatives of 37 out of 44 land trusts completed the online survey – an 84% response rate!

Following are some highlights of what land trusts say about their conservation priorities, resources they use to determine those priorities, and types of funding for their land acquisition and management activities.

Conservation priorities

  • The top five primary priorities are: wetlands, wildlife areas, river & stream corridors, forests, and habitats of rare or endangered species.
  • Wetlands and watersheds/water quality topped the overall priorities (including both primary and secondary ratings), followed closely by open space, wildlife areas, river & stream corridors, and forests.

Resources used to determine land trust conservation priorities

  • Land trusts’ own strategic plans are an essential guide for conservation priority setting.
  • Wisconsin DNR and federal agency priorities are also important in priority-setting for many land trusts.

Project financing

Within the categories of federal, state, local, and private funding, land trusts listed a variety of programs and donors they leverage to finance acquisitions and land management.

  • Private funding is the type of funding source they tap the most often.
  • State conservation programs are also critical funding sources, with the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program mentioned specifically by 75% of those land trusts that finance projects with state funding.

In a future blog post, we will share the responses to questions about Wisconsin land trusts’ needs and their vision for the future.

This survey will also inform Gathering Waters’ strategic plan and help us prioritize our programming to support a strong Wisconsin land trust community.

Tree Farmer Permanently Protects Land on Arbor Day

Kann famliy celebrating the permanent protection of their beautiful tree farm.

The following press release was written by our land trust member Mississippi Valley Conservancy 

An award-winning local tree farmer is celebrating Arbor Day Friday by signing a land protection agreement with Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Gerald Kann of La Crosse who was named north central region Outstanding Tree Farmer of the year in 2016 by the American Tree Farm System, is permanently protecting his 114-acre Monroe County tree farm with a conservation easement.

Kann, who also received recognition in 2014 as Wisconsin Outstanding Tree farmer of the Year, said it was a nice coincidence to be closing on the agreement on a day set aside to celebrate the role of trees in our lives.

From 1974 through 2016, the Kann family, including wife Charlotte and sons Kurt and Karl, planted over 45,200 trees on their property. For 25 years, the tree farm was operated as a “choose-and-cut” Christmas tree farm.

“The Kann Property truly demonstrates exceptional forest stewardship,” said Carol Abrahamzon, executive director for the conservancy. “Their dedication to caring for the land is apparent in both the hours they’ve spent taking care of the property and also in the sheer numbers of trees planted.”

A conservation easement is a partnership between a land trust and a conservation-minded landowner. The conservation easement ensures that the Kann tree farm cannot, at any point in the future and regardless of ownership, be converted to a residential subdivision or cornfield, but remain as a refuge for area wildlife.

Abbie Church, MVC conservation director, said that wildlife observed over the years by the owners include bobcat, fisher, black bear and badger. Her most recent visit to the property included serenades of spring frogs, including spring peepers, chorus frogs, and wood frogs, all of which can be heard right from the porch of the log cabin on the property. Winter hikes on the on the property provide an abundance of wildlife tracks, the forest resources providing food and cover throughout the year.

The citation for the Wisconsin award says that the winning tree farmer “must exhibit the most exceptional forest stewardship to protect and improve forest health, wildlife habitat, clean water and sustainable wood supplies, and must promote this stewardship within their communities.”

Church said that meshes with the Conservancy’s focus to “conserve the forests, prairies, wetlands, streams, and farms that enrich our communities for the health and well-being of current and future generations.”

20 Year Habitat Investment Protected Forever

The following press release was written by our land trust member Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

MONROE COUNTY, WIS – George and Carmeen Johnston of Norwalk have protected 20 years of work on their land in the headwaters of the Kickapoo River where they have restored native tallgrass prairie and removed invasive species.

By signing a conservation agreement with Mississippi Valley Conservancy on the 54-acre property near Norwalk they have stated their wish that the prairies and oak woodlands on the property be protected from development, according to Megan Kabele, MVC conservation specialist who worked with the Johnstons on protecting their land. The development restrictions become part of the title to the land, which must be honored by future owners of the land. MVC will monitor the property once a year for compliance, according to the agreement.

George Johnston, a retired stream biologist and a longtime member of the Conservancy, said: “At some point Im going to be gone. I dont want whoever buys this place to be able to do whatever with it. Weve spent a lot of time caring for this place. I want to continue to have control over what happens with this land after Im not around anymore.”

He added that when he and Carmeen learned their land was in the Kickapoo River watershed they thought protecting the land would make a difference for water quality in the river. “It would be nice if more people would put conservation easements on their land.”

“Prescribed burning continues to be used to control invasive species and encourage native plants. As a result, the Johnston property features an incredible mix of habitat types that testify to their hard work and are a source of inspiration for landowners seeking prairie and woodland restoration,” Kabele said. The Johnston’s have not only protected their investment in habitat restoration, they are protecting rural open space values and are providing permanent vegetation for cleaner waters.

Carmeen Johnston said, “We are glad that our little bit of heaven can stay our little bit of heaven. We wouldn’t have known what to do, if it werent for Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Asked to tell a favorite story about the land, George said that several years after they bought the property, he was out walking on the back side of the property. “All the western sunflowers were in bloom. I started looking around…the more I looked, the more species I found. We didnt know that back area was a prairie remnant. It was just really exciting to find a prairie remnant. I spent my career in fisheries, but I love plants. Ive always been more interested in botany than anything else. Ive spent my whole life outside. If I see something new, I have to identify it.”

Kabele said George’s work restoring the prairie has resulted in more native plants returning. “These improved habitats form natural communities that include wildflowers, grasses, and sedges — critical resources for declining pollinators.”

Carol Abrahamzon, MVC executive director, said, “Through their conservation easement George and Carmeen have provided an enduring legacy to future generations while achieving peace of mind, knowing that their land will be taken care of far into the future.”

Calling All Storytellers! ‘Wild Words’ Event Invites High-School Students to Share Stories

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 10, 2017

CONTACT:  

Tom Clay, Executive Director: tclay@doorcountylandtrust.org

Cinnamon Rossman, Communications and Outreach Manager:  crossman@doorcountylandtrust.org

Sturgeon Bay, WI – March 10, 2017 – ‘Wild Words: Earth Day Stories of Our Connection to the Land’ is planned for Saturday, April 22 at Crossroads at Big Creek. On this evening, high-school students from across the county are invited to share stories of their connection to the land.

The ‘Wild Words’ project is currently enlisting students to participate. Students in drama, forensics and ecology clubs may be particularly suited, but any interested student should contact the Door County Land Trust to sign up soon. Workshop participation is limited. Stories can range from humorous to dramatic, informative or persuasive. Students can work individually or in pairs to develop and share their stories. An optional workshop for participants will be hosted by WriteOn, Door County in early April.

Door County Land Trust’s executive director Tom Clay says, “Door County families have a history of farming, hunting and fishing, and a great appreciation for the natural beauty of this county. This storytelling event gives high schoolers an opportunity to reflect on why the land is important to them and their family…to share their sense of place.”

The ‘Wild Words’ event on April 22 will be based on a format called “pecha kucha” which is Japanese for chit-chat. Using twenty pictures and twenty seconds per picture, each story will be 6 minutes and 40 seconds long.

‘Wild Words’ is a partnership project between Crossroads at Big Creek, the Door County Land Trust, and WriteOn, Door County. The three organizations are working collaboratively to engage students, help them develop their stories and to present the final event.

The first ten students to sign up to participate will receive a scholarship to the Festival of Nature in May 2017 and a certificate of participation. Students may also be eligible for extra-credit through their classroom teachers.

To learn more about participating in this project, call Door County Land Trust at (920) 746-1359 or email Cinnamon Rossman at crossman@doorcountylandtrust.org or Gretchen Schmelzer at grschmelzer6@gmail.com.

About the Door County Land Trust

The Door County Land Trust’s mission is “To protect Door County’s exceptional lands and waters…forever.”  It is a nonprofit, community-based organization that actively works to conserve land by undertaking or assisting with direct land transactions—primarily the purchase or acceptance of donations of land or conservation easements. Founded in 1986, the Door County Land Trust has protected more than 7600 acres from Washington Island through southern Door County and many points in between.

Door County Land Trust nature preserves are open year-round to the public at no charge for hiking, cross-country skiing, wildlife observation, hunting, and other low-impact, non-motorized recreational activities. For more information and to become a Land Trust member visit www.doorcountylandtrust.org or call (920)746-1359.  

Help Protect the Great Lakes

The original version of this article was updated on 3/16/17 in response to the release of the Trump Administration’s preliminary federal budget (EPA and Great Lakes restoration cuts can be found on page 41-42.)

The Great Lakes–which provide drinking water for nearly 40 million people, including more than a million Wisconsinites–are at risk. Gathering Waters staff is in D.C. this week for Great Lakes Day with more than 100 advocates from the region to let members of Congress know how vital and valuable the Great Lakes are to our state’s economy and quality of life.

Executive Director, Mike Carlson and Government Relations Director, Chris Danou were in Senator Baldwin’s office on the morning the draft budget was released.

Read on for more information about:

  • The potential for a complete loss of all federal funding for Great Lakes protection and restoration;
  • How you can help protect the Great Lakes;
  • Wisconsin land trusts and the Great Lakes.

The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a critical federal program for cleaning up toxic pollution, reducing polluted runoff, controlling invasive species and restoring habitat. Cuts to this funding would be devastating.

Bi-partisan Great Lakes Programs at Risk

The Trump Administration’s preliminary budget eviscerates funding for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI)–a critical federal program for cleaning up toxic pollution, reducing polluted runoff, controlling invasive species and restoring habitat. The loss of the $300 million annual funding would devastate Great Lakes restoration efforts. The GLRI has enjoyed strong bi-partisan support in Congress, and we’re looking to Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation for leadership in defending critical Great Lakes funding and programs.

Read a statement from the Healing Our Waters Coalition to find out more about the immediate threat to one of Wisconsin’s most valuable assets.

 

You can help by contacting legislators and making a donation.

YOU Can Help

As part of the HOW Coalition’s annual fly-in to Washington DC, more than 100 Great Lakes advocates, including Gathering Waters staff, are meeting with members of Congress this week to talk about successful restoration efforts and the need for continued investment in the region. Can’t join us in DC? No problem–you can make a difference from home. Call your federal representatives today and ask them to protect critical Great Lakes funding and programs.

Find contact information for Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators and your U.S. House member, or simply text your zip code to 520-200-2223. You’ll get a text back immediately with everything you need.

Also, consider a donation to Gathering Waters today to increase your impact.

More than a dozen Wisconsin land trusts help protect the Great Lakes in the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior basins through land protection and management.

Wisconsin Land Trusts and the Great Lakes

More than a dozen Wisconsin land trusts help protect the Great Lakes in the Lake Michigan and Lake Superior basins through land protection and management. These protected lands–such as the Frog Bay Tribal National Park–also provide access to the Lakes for all of us–for all kinds of recreation and enjoyment, forever.

Cuts to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative would be devastating to these efforts in the region.

Driftless Area Land Conservancy Earns National Recognition

Strong Commitment to Public Trust and Conservation Excellence

At a time of political change, one thing is clear: Americans overwhelmingly support saving the open spaces they love. Since 2001 Driftless Area Land Conservancy (“Driftless”), one of 1,363 land trusts across the United States, has been doing just that for the people of Southwest Wisconsin.

Now Driftless is pleased to announce it has achieved national recognition, joining a network of only 372 accredited land trusts across the nation that have demonstrated their commitment to professional excellence and to maintaining the public’s trust in their work.

To be accredited demonstrates our commitment to permanent land conservation in Southwest Wisconsin,” said Mike Van Sicklen, Driftless’ board president. “Financial supporters, conservation partners and landowners should all feel comfort in the knowledge that we’re a strong, ethical and fiscally responsible organization for having gone through the rigorous accreditation program.

Driftless Executive Director, David Clutter, and his son are seen here at the 220-acre Erickson Conservation Area in Argyle Wisconsin, which is open for public enjoyment.

Driftless had to provide extensive documentation and undergo a comprehensive review as part of its accreditation application. The Land Trust Accreditation Commission awarded accreditation, signifying its confidence that Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s lands will be protected forever. Over the past 16 years Driftless has conserved 42 different sites covering nearly 7,000 acres of farms, forests and natural areas, including the 220-acre Erickson Conservation Area in Argyle Wisconsin, open for public enjoyment.

Over the years Driftless has also conserved unique historic lands and resources like the Thomas Stone Barn outside of Barneveld, high quality trout streams, productive farmland, critical wildlife habitat for declining grassland birds and endangered species, old-growth woods and native remnant prairies, massive rock outcrops and geological features, and lands that provide buffer unique Wisconsin River backwaters that support threatened and engaged fish.

“It is exciting to recognize Driftless Area Land 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 Driftless Area Land Conservancy has demonstrated sound finances, ethical conduct, responsible governance, and lasting stewardship.”

The National Land Trust Census, released December 1, 2016 by the Land Trust Alliance, shows that accredited land trusts have made significant achievements.

  • Accredited land trusts protected five times more land from 2010 to 2015 than land trusts that were not yet accredited.
  • Accredited land trusts also have stronger systems and more resources to steward and defend their conservation lands forever.
  • As a result, the public’s trust in land conservation has increased helping to 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 Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s purpose is to maintain and enhance the health, diversity and beauty of Southwest Wisconsin’s natural and agricultural landscape through permanent land protection and restoration, and improve people’s lives by connecting them to the land and to each other.

A student birding on one of the properties that is protected by Driftless and free for the public to enjoy.

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.

This blog post was copied from Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s blog

Land Swap at Patrick Marsh and Waunakee Prairie

Natural Heritage Land Trust and Dane County this week swapped land to improve management of two public natural areas.

Dane County donated 14 acres of land on the south side of Patrick Marsh Wildlife Area (map), on the eastern doorstep of Sun Prairie, to Natural Heritage Land Trust. The land is adjacent to the 80 acres owned by Natural Heritage Land Trust and is part of a 320-acre wildlife area. In exchange, Natural Heritage Land Trust donated 40 acres of land north of Waunakee to Dane County. This land, the Wilke Prairie Preserve (map), is adjacent to the County’s Waunakee Prairie.

patrick-marsh

Patrick Marsh

At Patrick Marsh, Natural Heritage Land Trust has been working with Patrick Marsh Conservancy, Sun Prairie Rotary, Patrick Marsh Middle School, and other groups to improve trails and restore wildlife habitat. In November, 250 students from Patrick Marsh Middle School planted 18 acres of prairie in a field on the south side of the marsh (click here for the video). This fall the Land Trust officially adopted the DNR land at the marsh and will work on more improvements to wildlife habitat. The Land Trust works with volunteers, a summer intern crew, Operation Fresh Start, and others to make the wildlife area more accessible, educational, and enjoyable for everyone.

img_5705

Wilke Preserve

The land Dane County is gaining in this swap, the Wilke Prairie Preserve on Six Mile Creek north of Waunakee, was created in 1994 when Hazel Knudson donated 40 acres to Natural Heritage Land Trust. According to Land Trust Executive Director Jim Welsh, “Hazel’s original goal had been to see her land become part of the county’s system of parks and natural resource areas. It’s nice to see that 22 years later we could fulfill Hazel’s wishes.”

According to Dane County Executive Joe Parisi, “The land exchanges with Natural Heritage Land Trust are wonderful examples of how Dane County continues to collaborate with our conservation partners to deliver a quality and seamless recreational experience for residents of and visitors to Dane County.  These exchanges will increase management efficiencies and reduce operating costs by consolidating land holdings where the County or the Land Trust already owns other conservation and recreational lands.  My special thanks to Natural Heritage Land Trust for all it does to further the goals of the County’s Parks and Open Space Plan.”



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