Archived entries for Working Lands Conservation

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.”

Scenic farm and bluffland property protected forever.

We received some wonderful news last week from our member land trust Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC). If you have a connection to the Mississippi River Valley, or simply care about protecting special places in Wisconsin, you’ll want to read MVC’s press release below:

Mississippi River Valley Property Conserved

A drive the through the Mississippi River Valley now features brilliant fall colors, and a short distance east of Ferryville, Mississippi Valley Conservancy has ensured 189-acres of scenic bluffland will remain intact for future generations. The Conservancy completed a conservation agreement with Ken and Deneen Kickbusch on Thursday, October 20th to permanently protect their 189-acre farm and bluffland.  The voluntary conservation agreement protects the scenic beauty and wildlife habitat by limiting future subdivision, development, mining, and other unsustainable activities that are inconsistent with the landowner’s wishes. The land remains in private ownership and is not open to the public.

“The animals and the birds don’t always have contiguous habitat, and our land can make a difference for the wildlife,” said Deneen, “we have so many great memories here.” Their memories include hunting trips with sons and grandsons, camping within view of the Mississippi River, working in the prairie, serenades by whippoorwills, and startling wood ducks out of the ponds.  Carol Abrahamzon, Executive Director for the Conservancy stated, “Ken and Deneen have been so thoughtful about the use of their land and the future of that land. We are honored to be a part of realizing their dream to protect the wildlife and its habitat.”

 

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The Kickbusch 189 acre property is comprised of farmland, bluffland and prairie communities. Its protection ensures wildlife and native plants will have suitable habitat, forever.  

Photo by: Mississippi Valley Conservancy

The Kickbusch’s bought the land in 1976, attracted to the rural character, the lack of buildings, and the wildlife. The land is a mix of agricultural land and wooded bluffs, with the steep rugged topography characteristic of the Driftless Area. Ken and Deneen recognized the importance of land preservation, watching changes to the landscape as commodity prices rise, stating, “a conservation easement would provide the kind of protection that this highly erodible land deserves”. Nationwide an acre of farmland is lost every minute from conversion to other land uses. Over the years, terraces and water retention ponds were added to the Kickbusch property to address soil erosion and runoff. “When we bought the property, we restored the ponds,” said Ken, “which were as full this year as they have ever been, and always used by the wood ducks. Once, I counted sixteen wood ducks flying out of the pond.”

The land also includes several “goat” prairies, labeled as such because the early settlers thought they were so steep, only a goat could climb them. The prairies include the same wildflowers and grasses that were present here 200 years ago. The agreement with the Conservancy ensures that habitat remains intact for wildlife, and future owners honor the conservation practices within the farmland. “There is just too much abuse of the land, devastating local communities, rivers, wildlife,” said Ken “we felt this was something solid, something real we could do for the future”.

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Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid, found on the Kickbusch property. The orchid was recently added to the DNR’s list of species of “Special Concern”. The native wildflowers & grasses found today have been present on the Kickbusch land for over 200 years. 

Photo by: Mississippi Valley Conservancy

“The Kickbusch’s land provides a great example of how little is known about the habitat right here in our backyard,” remarked Abbie Church, Conservation Director for the Conservancy, “as we walked through the prairie, we found a small stalk of snow-white blooms, and a Great Plains Ladies Tresses Orchid. We walked on to find five other stalks. This orchid was recently added to the Wisconsin DNR’s list of species of “Special Concern” and the University of Wisconsin herbarium has no previous records of this orchid being found in Crawford County. One week later we found yet another species of rare orchid, this time in the woods, another new record for Crawford County.” The prairie today is in great shape due to Ken and Deneen’s efforts. “Fifteen years ago Ken went out and cut the red cedars in the prairie,” according to Deneen, “It looks much better today than ever before; the prairie is so beautiful”.

 

Don Hawkins, taking home the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation

Don Hawkins of Mineral Point spent 32 years as an exemplary teacher of agriculture at Mineral Point High School before retiring to become a shining example of community engagement.

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After retiring in 1983, Don contributed to the community through years of service on a number of boards. Then, in 1997 Don helped secure a lease on 200 acres in Iowa County where the soil had been exhausted by farming. By forming some new partnerships, including the recruitment of Iowa County jail inmates, he was instrumental in turning the former crop fields into one of the largest prairie restorations in Southwest Wisconsin. Eventually, another 230 acres was added to create the 430-acre Iowa County Recreation and Prairie Restoration—a beautiful retreat for all to enjoy.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page3

About that same time, Don began to lead two other restoration projects—ultimately transforming 20-acres of an idle-weed patch and small mixed-wood forest that are owned by local schools, into valuable assets for students, teachers and other community members. One of which, has appropriately been dubbed the “Don Hawkins Community Oak Savannah” while the other is now a beautiful tall-grass prairie.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page4

On top of this, Don has been leading a partnership between a high school ag and third grade class for eight years, starting prairie seed in a greenhouse and planting them in the savannas. He has brought many other grades and classes to the savannas as well, to learn and engage with the outdoors.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page2

“Will Don ever slow down? It seems unlikely…. The satisfaction he gains from restoring the land and helping build community continues to beckon.” (Chuck Tennessen, Voice of the River Valley). For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Don Hawkins with a Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

*All photos courtesy of Friends of the Oak Savanna

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.

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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!

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.

Land Trusts, Protecting our Food

Local farms are so important; they provide fresh, sustainable food from places that we know.  And, you may not often think about it, but food is one thing that connects us all to the land. The only way that we can ensure that we consistently have access to good, healthy food is by protecting the places where this food comes from.

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Protecting Wisconsin farmlands is important to us, and to future generations.

We at GWC know this is important and so does our partner in farmland preservation, American Farmland Trust (AFT). And you know who else knows it? Wisconsin’s land trusts, of course. In fact, one of our member land trusts- Geneva Lake Conservancy (GLC), recently connected with AFT to help protect our farmlands.

The Krusen Grass Farm in East Troy, WI. Photo from www.yggdrasillandfoundation.org

One of the protected organic farms: The Krusen Grass Farm in East Troy, WI. Photo from www.yggdrasillandfoundation.org

In December, AFT transferred three agricultural conservation easements in the East Troy area to GLC. Under their management, these three easements will protect nearly 800 acres of organic farmland, now and forever. We’d like to offer both our congratulations and our thanks to GLC, for this valuable service they are providing to their community and to future generations. We’d also like to celebrate the collaboration between AFT and GLC that made this important opportunity a reality.

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The most delicious and nutritious food is local.

It’s wonderful to see more of Wisconsin’s farmlands being protected – it ensures that you and I can have a connection to our food now and in the future. Whether it be through a locally-sourced restaurant, farmer’s market, or CSA, there are endless opportunities to get involved in your local food scene and get a sense for why we are so persistent on this farmland preservation thing. Personally, we can’t wait for our local farmer’s market to open up this spring so we can get our hands on some locally grown fruits and veggies!

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!

FarmAbility: Building Bridges with the Community

Focusing on the belief that a strong community connection with agriculture is integral to our economic health, retaining our heritage and quality of life, and living sustainably, Leelanau Conservancy in Michigan designed and launched FarmAbility in 2009. This program connects the land trust with farmers, leading them down the path to permanent land protection.

FarmAbility leads farmers on a path of permanent land protection.

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Farmers enrolled in FarmAbility receive modest income incentives and long-term planning assistance in exchange for keeping their farmland in production for a minimum of 10 years. This program was adapted by neighboring Grand Traverse Regional Land Conservancy in 2013, and between the two land trusts, over 7000 acres of property have been enrolled so far.

Brian Bourdages of Grand Traverse says, “It’s an honor to work with those farmers and farm families that want to utilize various farmland protection methods to ensure our globally unique farmland remains valuable for farming in the future.”

Interested in the ideas and methods behind this program? You can talk with Bourdages and Tom Nelson, the developer of FarmAbility for Leelanau Conservancy, at an ask-an-expert call on November 1st at 11am. Registration is free for our individual and land trust members.  (Not a member?  Join today!)

These calls are a virtual component to our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program. Interested in learning more about how LEAP can help you and your land trust? Contact us any time!

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Interested in knowing more about farmland protection in Wisconsin? Check out our Working Lands page.

Honoring Our Conservation Leaders

The Prairie Enthusiasts' chair Jack Kussmaul's smile is just the tip of the iceberg on how inspired we felt by these conservation leaders.

The Prairie Enthusiasts’ chair Jack Kussmaul’s smile is just the tip of the iceberg on how inspired we felt by these conservation leaders.

 

On a beautiful September night, nearly 300 people from across the state gathered for our 11th Annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration to honor some of Wisconsin’s most inspiring conservation leaders. You can view a slideshow of the winners and the event highlights and feel just as inspired as we did by their stories.

 

 

Sustaining the Lifeblood of Our Great State: A Thank You to Dan Lemke

“Wisconsin’s forestlands are the lifeblood of our great state. They provide us with clean air and water, vital fish and wildlife habitat, countless recreational opportunities, and a supply of natural resources that boost our economy and create jobs.”

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Congressman Mark Green (8th Congressional District) used these eloquent words to describe one of Dan Lemke’s signature land protection projects in Wisconsin.

Dan, Plum Creek’s Senior Land Asset Manager and one of our 2013 winners of the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation, shows not just a true commitment and dedication to growing and preserving Wisconsin’s forested lands but also a flexible and creative drive that makes him stand out in a crowd of eminent conservationists statewide. Some of Dan’s most notable conservation efforts include his work on a Wolf River conservation easement that permanently conserved 18,500 acres of working forest for recreational use and wildlife habitat and a Chippewa Flowage conservation easement that protected more than 18,000 acres of hardwood forest in Northern Wisconsin.

Dan has played a key role in the permanent protection of more than 60,000 acres of Wisconsin timberland.

Dan has played a key role in the permanent protection of more than 60,000 acres of Wisconsin timberland.

As working forests, these acres continue to produce sustainable forest products for the state’s timber industry and provide permanent public access and land protection for critical bird habitat.  These unique conservation easements help to support Wisconsin’s two largest industries while conserving lands that have great value – whether for scenic, wildlife, or recreation.

Dan’s hard work has helped not just the forestry and tourism industry flourish, but transformed the northwoods into the beautiful and cherished gem that defines it today. His continued dedication to helping preserve important and valuable forest lands for generations to come is truly an asset and we thank him for his dedication.

Please join us in celebrating and honoring Dan’s many achievements at our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Ceremony on September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison, WI.



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