Archived entries for Driftless Area Land Conservancy

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

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

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

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

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.


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!

Nature’s Beauty and Capacity to Heal

As a young boy scout, Doug Jones learned that “you leave your spot better than you found it.” To this day he and his wife Sherryl adhere to this adage. In December 2014 Doug and Sherryl permanently protected a part of their land with Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC).

This restored prairie, situated next to a secluded lake along the Wisconsin River, is helping protect an array of beautiful and brilliantly colored rare fish that call the lake home. According to Dave Marshall, retired Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologist and current Friends of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway (FLOW) researcher and board member, these rare fish are “much like the proverbial canaries in the coal mines. They reflect the health of these lakes, which are crucial to the health of the river.”

the Jones

Sherryl & Doug Jones

The prairie restoration, planted and maintained by Doug and Sherryl, filters nutrients from groundwater before it reaches the lake. In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms that threatened the future of the rare fish that live only in lakes like these. Since Doug and Sherryl planted the prairie on their property, FLOW has measured – through groundwater and surface water samples – a steady decline in nutrients in the lake next to the Jones’ prairie.

In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms

In past years, excess nutrients created thick, dense algal blooms.

According to Sherryl, “we planted the prairie because we simply thought it was beautiful, but it’s incredibly rewarding to know that we’re also improving water quality and protecting these special animals.” This unique project serves as a model for protecting waterways throughout the Driftless Area. It was made possible through a partnership between DALC, FLOW and the Midwest Environmental Advocates (MEA).  MEA and FLOW provided funding to DALC to protect lands along the Lower Wisconsin River, with a focus on improving water quality.

Years in the Making

Local land trusts are in the business of conservation in perpetuity so by their nature they must practice patience, and have compassion for the land AND the people in order to meet their missions successfully. We’re pleased to share just one example of this type of patience and compassion to kick off our year.

Indeed, the passion of a single individual can impact so many lives, and over such span of time. In the last moments of 2013, Helen Boley made an agreement to conserve her land with Driftless Area Land Conservancy.


Helen Boley donated a 637-acre conservation easement to Driftless Area Land Conservancy on her very special property in northwest Iowa County.

This beautiful property is roughly 1 ½ miles west of the 781-acre Dry Dog conservation easements – also protected by DALC – and two miles due south of the 80,000+ acre Lower Wisconsin Riverway.

Boley's land is located within the Blue River Watershed

Boley’s land is located within the Blue River Watershed

This unique landscape, which includes Driftless Area outcrops and rock features, unique pine relict communities and over 6,000 feet of a Class 2 trout stream, the Sand Branch, is a paradise for local nesting birds and wildlife.

Helen Boley with Dave Clutter, Executive Director of Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Helen Boley with Dave Clutter, Executive Director of Driftless Area Land Conservancy

“I donated a conservation easement and also willed my property to Driftless because I’m concerned with the changing whims of government agencies and how they view land. I love my land and I want to see it protected forever.  This is the right thing to do.

 According to Dave Clutter, executive director with Driftless Area Land Conservancy, a Gathering Waters member and LEAP participant, Helen spent over two years communicating with loved ones and advisors and carefully thinking through a range of different options for her property.  In the end Helen donated a conservation easement and willed her property the Conservancy. 

The conservation community is incredibly grateful for Helen’s generosity, foresight and gift to posterity. To know that her special land will be protected forever is truly a wonderful gift to all of us as as we kick off the New Year.

Kids, wellness, agriculture, and water… thank you!

Whether its creating outdoor classrooms, promoting health and wellness, preserving our agricultural economy and local food base, or enhancing flood protection and water quality, land trusts across Wisconsin are having a significant impact on the communities they serve through innovative partnerships, creative problem solving, and hard work.

Who is making these things possible? Our supporters and the supporters of Wisconsin’s land trusts. In other words, you.

What follows are just a few examples of the community needs being met because of the good work of local land trusts, the support land trusts receive from GWC, and the generosity of our committed members.

Connecting Kids to the Land

Recently, a 220 acre private piece of land, that many citizens of Argyle, Wisconsin had already been using over the years, went up for sale and the Driftless Area Land Conservancy jumped at the chance to keep that piece of land available for the community to continue to enjoy.

The Erickson property. Photo by Driftless Area Land Conservancy

View on the Erickson property. Photo by Driftless Area Land Conservancy.

The Erickson property is unique in that it is adjacent to the Village of Argyle Park and the Argyle K-12 School. This land is extremely valuable with the potential for being used as an outdoor classroom and giving additional space beyond the current park for hiking, skiing, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hunting, and viewing wildlife. The location of this property will also provide opportunities for kids to be more connected to the natural world, which contributes to quality of life and, as studies have shown, will make them more likely to develop a passion for land and conservation later in life.

Wellness and the Land

Another project we are really excited about is Door County Land Trust‘s partnership with a group of Ministry Door County Medical Center physicians. These two have teamed up to provide a series of hikes through 2015 that (in addition to providing an enjoyable form of exercise!) expose people to the beauty and tranquility found in preserved lands, as well as offer health and wellness tips.

Three Springs Nature Preserve photo by J. Schartner.

Three Springs Nature Preserve. Photo by J. Schartner.

With health issues becoming more prominent in everything we do, it’s exciting to see this partnership offering preventative care and tools for making lifestyle changes, to improve physical and mental wellness through a connection with nature.

Preserving Farmland

“We wanted to be proactive and take responsibility for this land.” That was the sentiment expressed by John and Dorothy Priske, farmers who have lived on and farmed their land in Columbia County for nearly 30 years. To accomplish their conservation goals, the Priskes have worked with their local land trust, the Natural Heritage Land Trust and were able to conserve their land partly through the Wisconsin’s Purchase of Conservation Easements (PACE) program which allows farmers to receive funding for conserving their land while still retaining ownership and management decisions.  The Priskes have preserved their farmland and are known throughout the community for their commitment to farming and sustainability.

Photo by Jim Klousia, Edible Madison

John and Dorothy Priske and their land. Photo by Jim Klousia of Edible Madison

Protecting a Valuable Resource

Land Trusts also play a vital role in protecting our water resources; for instance, take a look at the innovative project made possible as a result of a partnership between the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the The Conservation Fund:

Stormwater management is becoming an increasing problem as more undeveloped land is becoming developed and more pavement goes down around us. When the absorption of stormwater is impeded by prolific pavement and development, it pools and runs to the closest open ground or body of water, often collecting pollutants along the way — and ultimately leads to the pollution of our water resources and contributes to flooding.   However if this stormwater is stored and filtered where it lands or before it reaches a body of water, many of these negative effects can be mitigated.

Through this innovative project, The Conservation Fund purchases properties in the Milwaukee, Menomonee, Oak Creek and Root River watersheds, where future development would otherwise most likely occur. The properties, which are found along streams, shorelines and wetlands, will absorb runoff, preventing flooding and the pollution of water sources.


A Greenseams property. Photo by Nick Bristol from The Conservation Fund website

A stormwater management property in Wisconsin. Photo by Nick Bristol from The Conservation Fund website.

This initiative not only assures that stormwater will be managed more sustainably, but also preserves wildlife habitat and provides countless recreational opportunities for the public to enjoy.

Children, health, sustainable farming and water management- these are just a few of the reasons we want to thank you. Wisconsin’s land trusts and we, couldn’t do it without your support!





Ancient pines, local food, and you! Thanks for a great day…

Each year, the Land Legacy Gathering is our opportunity to honor the people who make our work possible – the people without whom some of Wisconsin’s most special places wouldn’t be protected.  (Psst…we’re talking about YOU!)

This year was no different. On the first nice day of spring, we partnered with the Driftless Area Land Conservancy and met in Ridgeway to celebrate the great work that this land trust is doing in southwest Wisconsin.

The 6th annual Gathering began with a tour of the impressive grounds at The Malcolm Stack Foundation Headquarters. This property has been permanently protected by the Driftless Area Land Conservancy. Hikers were able to experience the beauty of this property…



View from Malcolm Stack Foundation Headquarters


As well as the Foundation’s ancient pine forest…


hike - web2

A common theme throughout the property – pines thriving on the edge.


After the hike, attendees gathered back at the Foundation Headquarters to enjoy tasty, local and sustainable food thanks to Enos Farms. Local wine and beer also flowed freely. Thank you to everyone who came out on this wonderful spring day to the 6th annual Gathering to celebrate all of the wonderful conservation work happening in Wisconsin!

A BIG thank you to our sponsors who made the event possible:



Bay Tek Games
Organic Valley
Sadoff Iron & Metal Company
Steep & Brew


Mike Jameson
Mark & Celine Lillie


Sherry & Douglas Caves
Kristine Euclide & Doug Steege
Barbara & Brad Glass
Jean & Walter A. Meanwell
Sandra Shane-DuBow


Anne W. Bolz
Mary Clare & D.J. Freeman
Lyn & Jay Carlson
Michael Dearing & Debora Morton
Jane Dennis & Bill Brooks
Jason Dinges
Judy Fossen
Sharon & Warren Gaskill
David Johnson
Rick & Katy Luedke
Stewart Macaulay
Marcia Mackenzie & Jerry Borseth
R.T. Melzer
David Musolf & Roger Packard
Nancy Nichols
Peter & Sharm Peshek
Gene & Jean Roark
Jeffrey Strobel
Mary & Roy Thilly
Gail & William Van Haren
Levi & Janet Wood

For more event photos, head over to our Facebook page.  And mark your calendars for next year’s Land Legacy Gathering, Saturday, April 26th, 2014!

Celebrate the Best of the Driftless Area with us this Spring

Our signature Land Legacy Gathering is approaching! This year the event will be held on April 27th at the Malcolm Stack Foundation in Ridgeway, WI – mark your calendars and make plans to join us!  The Malcolm Stack Foundation was established in 2001 to promote land conservation, education, and equestrian activities through scholarships, grant-making, educational opportunities, and use of its facilities.

The Foundation property, which has been permanently protected by the Driftless Area Land Conservancy, is situated in the beautiful driftless area of Iowa County and provides a unique ecosystem for a varied collection of plants and wildlife. Visitors of the land may see deer, red-tail hawks, bobcats, foxes, or even a bald eagle! In a sense, the driftless area is like a fossil: it shows how the entire Midwest looked before the glaciers altered the landscape. Because this land was spared from the glaciers it includes pine relics and oak savanna as well as dramatic rock outcroppings and natural prairie. On a clear day one can even see the Baraboo Hills from the Foundation property, which is one of the premier geological sites in Wisconsin and is home to Devil’s Lake State Park.


Some of the many rock outcroppings that can be found on the Foundation Property.

One of the most interesting aspects of the Foundation property is the story that is told by the valleys, caves, and rock outcroppings. Five-hundred million years ago Wisconsin, as well as most of North America, was sitting on the equator – about 13,000 miles from where it is now – under a shallow ocean. The solidified lime, mud, sand, silt, and shells that accumulated in this ancient ocean can still be seen today at the Foundation! These layers of rock are like pages in an ancient book, each page telling an exhilarating geological story.

Please mark your calendars and join us for the 6th annual Land Legacy Gathering in April where we will start off with a hiking tour of this special property and experience the story that it tells for ourselves.

LEAPing into 2013

Land trusts are impacting communities through our signature program!

For those of you not involved in land trust work day-to-day, it can be tough to stay on top of the lingo and acronyms.  LEAP, or Wisconsin’s Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program, is GWC’s signature program to deliver services to land trusts to help ensure their sustainability, effectiveness, and credibility.

We launched the program in 2011 in partnership with the Land Trust Alliance to address the growing challenges faced by our maturing land trust community.  Through small grants, customized support, trainings, and mentoring, we’re building land trusts’ capacity to continue to steward and protect the forests, farms, trails, rivers, and urban green spaces across Wisconsin.

We’re two years in to LEAP and already starting to see local, on-the-ground impact of this program.  Here’s one inspiring example…


With support from LEAP, the Driftless Area Land Conservancy is inspiring a lifelong love of nature through storytelling.

It is well documented that today’s youth are more disconnected from nature than ever before – a trend that more than one local land trust is working to reverse.  

Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC) is a small, yet powerful land trust working to protect the rugged beauty and ancient geology of southwest Wisconsin’s driftless area.  As a 2012 recipient of a special services grant through LEAP, DALC received support to enhance their work connecting local children to the special, natural places in their backyards.

For the younger set (ages 2 – 5), DALC is partnering with the local library on a nature and farm-based storytelling program to inspire a lifelong love of the land.  Kids ages 6 -11 have the opportunity to  experience nature, join in outdoor activities, and reflect on the natural world through the Driftless Explorers Club.

DALC is growing the next generation of conservation leaders in southwest Wisconsin and instilling in them the gift of a lifelong relationship with the land.  Thank you, DALC!

This is just one example of the myriad impacts that land trust are having on communities across the state — and we’re here to help enhance that impact.  Through LEAP, we’re proud to report that we’ve offered customized, one-on-one support to 34% of Wisconsin land trusts. In addition, we’ve:

  • Coached 750 land trust staff and board members through trainings, workshops, one-on-one assistance, and virtual learning opportunities.
  • Helped increase the number of nationally accredited land trusts in Wisconsin from one to six (while also helping several more in process).
  • Provided direct grants to land trusts to help them hire their first staff, improve outreach techniques to the community, or acquire valuable leadership development training.

GWC is currently accepting applications for a new set LEAP Standards & Practices grants.  Stay tuned for a forthcoming announcement of the land trusts joining the program in 2013!


Connecting Families and Kids to Nature in Wisconsin’s Driftless Area

Established in 2000, the Driftless Area Land Conservancy (DALC) works to protect the rural landscape and quality of life in southwestern Wisconsin including the protection of farms, forests, grasslands, wetlands, soils and the natural beauty of the region.

In just two years since joining DALC as the sole part-time executive director, David Clutter has ushered this land trust into a period of growth.  Following the recent hire of DALC’s third staff person, their new land protection associate, this organization is tackling some exciting new initiatives.

A New Project Brings Family Together
DALC’s most recent project involved the protection of Barbara Smith’s 58-acre property. Barb’s land (which includes beautiful and unique remnant prairie and oak savanna) is bridging the gap between the generations and providing her family with shared experiences that bring  them closer together.  In July of this year Barb and her family chose to permanently protect the parcel, while keeping it on the tax rolls so that it can be passed along to the next generation.

Connecting Kids With Nature
DALC recently kicked off a new project that focuses on creating positive and joyful outdoor experiences for kids ages 6-11. They based this program on research that shows kids are becoming more and more disconnected from the natural world and are unlikely to share a passion for the land and conservation. The Explorers program gets kids into nature, having fun, and hopefully finding that sense of wonder many of us felt as children . . . and still do as adults. If you have questions and/or know of someone with a child that could benefit from this experience, please feel free to contact the staff at Driftless.

To learn more or support this great organization, consult the Driftless Area Land Conservancy’s website.


LEAPing on Over to Rally

GWC is proud to announce that we’ve awarded scholarships to eight of our land trust members to attend Rally, 2011, the national land trust conference in Milwaukee this fall.

The land trusts receiving scholarships include:

We’re awarding these scholarships as part of our commitment to making land trusts stronger through the Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program (LEAP).  These scholarships have been awarded through our LEAP universally-available services.  We’re also working on customized services with six land trusts right now and plan to bring more into the program later this year.

Now more than ever we’re committed to standards of excellence in land trust work.  Click through to support our efforts to help land trusts protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

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