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Door County Land Trust Surpasses 8,000 Acres Protected

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


106 Acres Added to Chambers Island Nature Preserve

The Door County Land Trust announces today that it has now surpassed 8,000 acres protected from development through the addition of 106 acres to the Chambers Island Nature Preserve. Door County Land Trust Executive Director Tom Clay says, “We are pleased that with this most recent acquisition we are surpassing two milestones— 8,000 acres are now protected by the Land Trust, and at 593 acres, Chambers Island has become our largest nature preserve. Chambers Island is an important piece in the picture of Door County’s conservation.”

Chambers Island provides vital stopover habitat for migratory birds. The island is dominated by hardwood and cedar forests with contiguous canopy, an inland lake called Mackaysee, and wetlands including a leather-leaf muskeg (bog), the only one of its kind in Door County. Protecting Chambers Island was recognized as a priority during joint conservation planning sessions with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, The Nature Conservancy and others.

The 8,000 acres protected by the Door County Land Trust are the result of several land protection methods that create corridors of conserved lands benefitting native plant and wildlife species. The Land Trust owns and manages 15 nature preserves and 24 natural areas, which comprise about 4,100 acres protected. Additionally, 3,200 acres are permanently protected through conservation easement agreements with private landowners. An additional 700 acres have been protected and transferred to other organizations for ongoing care.

“There is urgency to our work in Door County. Protecting our thriving plant, fish and bird habitats now creates a refuge in an otherwise rapidly changing world,” says Door County Land Trust director of land program Terrie Cooper. “The Land Trust is poised to protect the most vulnerable places on the peninsula, like the interior of Chambers Island which is so important to the birds migrating over the bay each year—over 169 species identified so far.”

Thanks to a fruitful partnership with the Chambers Island Nature Preserve Committee and the Chambers Island Association, generous donations to the Door County Land Trust from individuals and private foundations account for nearly 40% of the funds raised for the project to date. These donations have been matched by funds provided through the State of Wisconsin DNR Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund Grant Program, the Fox River Natural Resource Damage Assessment funds and North American Wetland Conservation Act Grant Funds. Fundraising for the Chambers Island Nature Preserve continues as additional land and the needs for the ongoing care of the nature preserve are identified.

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

IATA Awarded Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service

The following post was written by our wonderful member Ice Age Trail Alliance.

Saturday, April 27, 2017

Cross Plains, Wisconsin – The Ice Age Trail Alliance won three of six categories for the George and Helen Hartzog Awards for Outstanding Volunteer Service. This recognition from the National Park Service reflects the commitment of our members and dedication of our volunteers and staff.

“We are extremely grateful for the dedication and impact of every volunteer,” said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds. “Each volunteer performs different tasks but shares the same goal – to make a difference every day. Whether a volunteer builds a bridge on a trail or a bridge to the future during a children’s program, each selflessly gives of his or her time and talent to enrich the national park experience for others.”

The Hartzog Awards are named for former National Park Service Director George B. Hartzog, Jr. and his wife Helen. Hartzog served as the head of the National Park Service from 1964 to 1972. In 1970, he established the Volunteers-In-Parks Program with 300 volunteers. Since then, more than four and a half million people have donated more than one and a half billion hours of service in national parks.

National Recognition:

Winning national recognition for the Hartzog Outstanding Volunteer Service Group Award was the IATA Mobile Skills Crew Program.  What garnered attention and sets this program apart is its passion, enthusiasm, and friendly sense of community. Since 2002, these attributes brought 13,408 volunteers on 146 project events and generated a total of 265,351 volunteer hours towards making the Ice Age National Scenic Trail a reality. Lauded was its “formalized methodology of approaching trail construction and maintenance.” In tandem, systematic and professional-level trainings have enabled volunteers to fully participate in Trail stewardship. Also noted was the behind-the-scenes efforts to connect diverse communities to the Trail, leading to the successful, on-going establishment of new partnerships. (You may read the glowing nomination letter here.)

The recipients will receive their awards during a joint National Park Service/National Park Foundation ceremony in Washington, DC on August 1.

Regional Recognition:

At the Midwest regional level, two Hartzog Outstanding Volunteer Service Awards were awarded as follows:

Hartzog Enduring Service Award: Dean Dversdall, Indianhead Chapter Coordinator, won recognition across the Midwest Region for being “one of the Trail’s finest stewards by every measure.”  His passion and commitment is evident in the 7,177 volunteer hours since 2007 he’s contributed to the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. Dean selflessly advances the work of building, maintaining, and protecting the Trail at all levels: board leadership, facilitating land acquisition, Mobile Skills Crew leader, spear-heading hikes, and providing taxi service for thru-hikers.

Hartzog Outstanding Park Volunteer Program: Designed to get the next generation intimately connected to the Trail through an immersion experience, the Saunters Program was recognized for its “growth spurt.” In six short years, Saunters boasted a 366% increase in the number of school districts involved, and a 614% increase in students served. Extraordinary advances include introducing diverse populations – rural youth in northern Wisconsin to urban kids of Milwaukee – to the well-being found on the Trail.


The Ice Age Trail Alliance is a nonprofit volunteer- and member-based organization established in 1958 that works to create, support and protect the Ice Age National Scenic Trail. One of only 11 National Scenic Trails, the Ice Age Trail is a thousand-mile footpath that highlights Wisconsin’s world-renowned Ice Age heritage and natural resources. Visit to learn more.

About the National Park Service. More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 417 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at to learn more.

Ducks Unlimited WI chapters earn spots on elite list

Ducks Unlimited promotes healthy ecosystems for birds along their migratory routes.


The following article was published by Wisconsin State Farmer on May 25, 2017. 

MADISON – The President’s Elite are among Ducks Unlimited’s most prestigious volunteer chapters throughout the nation. Every year, the list is reserved for the chapters that raise $100,000 to $250,000 for DU’s habitat conservation work.

In 2016, Wisconsin had two chapters included on the list: University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point and Madison Area chapters.

“These fundraising events are the backbone of DU’s habitat conservation efforts, and the volunteers who make up these chapters are the force making a difference for North American waterfowl populations,” said DU President Paul Bonderson. “It takes a great deal of effort to achieve the President’s Elite level, and these chapters deserve to be congratulated by every person who enjoys the outdoors.”

The 2016 President’s Elite chapters have the distinction of being honored during DU’s 80th National Convention in San Antonio, May 31 – June 4, with many chapter representatives in attendance.

UW-Stevens Point and Madison Area earned spots on the President’s Elite list out of the more than 2,600 DU chapters nationwide that host more than 3,900 fundraising events throughout the year. DU’s event fundraising system has become a model for other conservation organizations around the world and has funded a significant portion of the more than 13.8 million acres of wetlands and associated habitat DU has conserved since 1937.

“DU chapters across the country are showing that the future of waterfowl populations and the wetlands that filter our water and protect us from flooding are important to them and to their communities,” Bonderson said. “The more money we raise, the more habitat we can conserve and the closer we are to preserving our waterfowl hunting heritage. I would like to personally thank all our President’s Elite chapters for their achievement and look forward to seeing them among our distinguished chapters next year.”


Dane County to fund marsh land purchases

Natural Heritage Land Trust-Angie Banks


The following article was written by Jennifer Fetterly at The Star on May 30, 2017. 

DANE CO, Wis. – Outdoor enthusiasts will get more play area in the Lodi Marsh with a 58-acre land acquisition set to open to the public early summer.

The land off of County Highway Y in the northwest edge of Lodi Marsh will be a hot spot for hikers, hunters, fisherman, bird watchers and cross-country skiers.

The $174,642 price tag will be funded through Dane County Conservation Fund Grant and the DNR Stewardship Grant Program. The Natural Heritage Land Trust, which helped seal the land deal, is also contributing funds.

The Thompson property purchase is a coup to help protect critical waters, wetlands and grasslands in the current 1,211 acres Lodi Marsh Wildlife and State Natural Area, said Jim Welsh, executive director of the Natural Heritage Land Trust.

Closing up the gaps in the conservation area, he said, will help the state manage the land better.

The land, in the town of Dane, also has 2,000 feet of Spring Creek frontage. That was a plus for some Dane County supervisors, who unanimously approved the purchase at the May 18 county board meeting.

“This purchase is a good idea,” said Dane County Supervisor Dave Ripp. “That’s a Class 1 cold water trout stream, and this will help protect it by surrounding it with public land now.”

More money for marshes

Dane County it set to purchase 130 acres of land and easements in the Cherokee Marsh.

The $1.5 million deal will increase public access to the Yahara River in the natural resource and wildlife area and protect the waterways and restore wildlife habitat.

Last week Dane County supervisor approved the purchase of the 53 acres and a 77-acre conservation easement, from Ronald and Heather Treinen, as part of the deal. The land is at the intersection of River Road and Highway 19 in the Town of Westport and will be part of the Cherokee Marsh Natural Resource Area.

Local environmentalists say this latest purchase will connect with the 81 acres the county acquired for $1.1 million two years ago along the Yahara River in the towns of Windsor and Burke—creating a 200-acre contiguous parcel.

Dane County Supervisor Tim Kiefer said there are three benefits to the new acquisition: flood prevention, improving lake water quality and preserving open space.

“There is going to be significant population growth in Dane County and blocking off area like this that have significant recreational potential along the Yahara River are going to be really important,” Kiefer said.


Elementary school works to preserve forest in school’s backyard

Lake View Elementary School is raising money to save their outdoor classroom.

The following article was published by WISC-TV on June 8, 2017. 

MADISON, Wis. – A Madison elementary school is taking steps to preserve a forest in the school’s backyard.

Lake View Elementary School was built in an oak woodland, which students use as a living laboratory.

School officials noticed an apartment complex was supposed to be built nearby and reached out to the Natural Heritage Land Trust to help them protect and buy the land.

The school, along with the trust, has been raising money to buy the land from Habitat for Humanity.

“We protect special places, and this is a special place,” said Heidi Habeger, with the Natural Heritage Land Trust. “They were hoping that we could help them buy a piece of land that they could add to their outdoor classroom.”

The trust is very close to reaching its goal of raising $161,000. So far, it’s raised $110,000.

After the trust purchases the land, it will then donate it to the school to use for its outdoor classrooms. The land will become the Lake View Elementary School Forest.

Donations can be made at Click on the “donate now” button and mention the donation is for the Lake View project.

Volunteers Rise to the Challenge

59 volunteers committed 1,471 hours of service to keeping the Ice Age Trail open.


The following post was written by our wonderful member Ice Age Trail Alliance.

Keeping 15 miles of hard-to-access Ice Age Trail open and passable through rough, rocky terrain is no easy task. It takes a certain amount of grit to volunteer for a project of this magnitude, and 59 volunteers rose to the challenge and committed 1,471 hours to this worthy cause.

The Blue Hills are a gem and, thanks to your service and stewardship, the Ice Age National Scenic Trail is in fine condition for enjoyment by visitors from far and wide.


  • Operated 4 mowers for 90+ hours
  • Skillfully and safely operated 7 chainsaws, clearing dozens of down and hazardous trees from on and across the trail
  • Cleared encroaching brush with 3 gas-powered weed whackers, fit with metal cutting blades
  • Rehabbed ¼ mile of tread
  • Installed trail signage posts and thoughtfully painted several hundred reassurance markers – the iconic 2×6 yellow blaze

In all, 14+ miles of the Ice Age Trail were made open, passable and readily follow-able.

Special Thanks:

  • YOU!!
  • The Rusk County Forestry Department for use of the Murphy Flowage day use area for camping and base camp needs
  • All 18 Chippewa Moraine chapter members for pitching in to help a neighboring chapter and the MSC program
  • The Superior Lobe and Chippewa chapters and all individuals who loaned or provided power equipment
  • Fred Nash for pre-event planning and logistics
  • Thelma Johnson (Camp Chef), Letitia Koppa, Carol Johnson and Donna Pachaud for the amazing meals (and rhubarb galore!) that kept everyone fed and full of energy
  • Chris and Stephen McDiarmid of Gorilly Goods for the delicious organic snacks
  • Jennie-O Turkey for the tasty sandwich meats for our hand-prepared lunches
  • Jerry Sazama and all crew leaders for your dedication and leadership

Next Up:

IAT-U and Boardwalk Construction, June 21-25; summer camp for Trail wizards and lots of hand-on learning. Details here.

We’re heading to Kewaunee County to raise dollars for the IATA by serving good grub at Farm Technology Days, July 11 – 13. Details here.


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.

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