Archived entries for Land Conservation Leadership Awards

Ron Endres named 2016 Conservationist of the Year

Ron Endres is a private landowner and champion of native area restoration in Dane County. In addition to being a model steward to his and many of his neighbors’ lands, Ron is also an incredibly active volunteer with numerous area organizations. But what truly makes him special is far more unique. From July through December, Ron works almost every day collecting, drying and processing native forb and grass seeds to provide them free-of-charge, to local non-profits and private landowners.

Ron leading the United Way Day-Of-Caring Volunteers seed collecting

Ron leading the United Way Day-Of-Caring Volunteers seed collecting.

Ron’s land stewardship activities are truly inspirational. He has worked over the last 25 years to reconstruct a 21 acre prairie and spends much of his time maintaining the land, adding to its species diversity and fighting back invasive species. He helps many of his neighbors as well, burning their prairies, treating their invasives, and restoring their land.

Ron is also an invaluable volunteer for many area organizations such as Dane County Parks, The Prairie Enthusiasts, The Ice Age Trail Alliance, Holy Wisdom Monastery, Swamplovers, and many others. He leads school kids and adult volunteers, serves on a board, is a chain saw team member, leads prairie plantings and burns, as well as seed collection and processing.

Ron leading a prairie planting at Holy Wisdom Monastery

Ron leading a prairie planting at Holy Wisdom Monastery.

It is, however, what Ron does in addition to these stewardship and volunteer activities that makes him so unique. From July through December, Ron works almost every day collecting, drying and processing native forb and grass seeds—providing hundreds of pounds and more than 100 species of seed, free of charge, to nonprofits and private landowners each year.

Ron’s seed collecting for donation

Ron’s seed collecting for donation

From big projects like a 23 acre planting at Hickory Hill in Cross Plains, a 30 plus acre planting at Holy Wisdom Monastery, and countless acres of planting at Swamplover’s conservancy—to small projects like Kettle Pond in Madison, a municipal restoration in Beloit, and a neighborhood restoration at Odana golf course; Ron’s seeds have ended up in restorations all over the county. His unwavering commitment to native habitat restoration makes it Gathering Waters’ honor to award Ron the prestigious Conservationist of the Year award. Ron will be presented with his award at a Friends of Wisdom Prairie Dinner Lecture on November 2. Click here to learn more and register.

Kevin Shafer, 2016 Policymaker of the Year Award

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

Kevin Shafer - Photo from Milwaukee Magazine

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

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

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

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

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

Kevin Shafer-2015

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

Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust – 2016 Land Trust of the Year

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Green Lake Conservancy- the 2015 Land Trust of the Year!

Green Lake Conservancy (GLC) is an important partner in a collective and strategic effort to preserve and protect Big Green Lake, Wisconsin’s deepest natural inland lake and a magnificent natural resource for the surrounding community and beyond. GLC has provided lake and watershed protection for the past 20 years by working with landowners to preserve their lakefront properties.

LT retreat 2014 (1013)

Photo by Bur Zuratsky

To date, 17 properties and over 700 acres of watershed lands have been protected. These properties have become an integral part of a network of public lands, serving as a showcase of restoration and preservation, offering trails, boardwalks and even a “water trail” to the public. Without Green Lake Conservancy there would be little public land near Big Green Lake. The existing county and city parks are designed for boats and beaches not natural sites.

GLC is also incredibly efficient with its resources. Being an all-volunteer-based organization, it has leveraged its impact by forging a partnership with other organizations to form the “Green Team”—offering up monthly outings to community members, including field trips, canoe/kayak floats, maple sugar making, winter moonlight walks, bicycle tours and other family-oriented activities. These activities are not only fun for all, they also help strengthen the bond between the land and its people, cultivating a sense of ownership and stewardship in those who will be responsible for protecting this special place well into the future.

Spring field trip tour at Mitchell Glen

Photo by Tom Eddy

As Ken Bates, Superintendent of the Green Lake School District says, “We are fortunate to have so many properties that give us public access to the diversity of our natural areas. Green Lake Conservancy has made a difference that will last for generations to come.” For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Green Lake Conservancy with the prestigious Land Trust of the Year Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

Harold Friestad earns Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award

Harold Friestad, from the Village of Williams Bay, was essential to winning a decades-long battle to purchase and then protect and restore a very special 231-acre parcel on Geneva Lake. Indeed, for 5 years, Harold worked with other Village of Williams Bay residents to fend off development of their lakefront. Eventually, as Village President, he was able to convince the rest of the Board to purchase the 231 acre parcel and partner with Geneva Lake Conservancy (their local land trust) to put a protective easement on the property, forever securing its existence as the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy.

easement with Geneva Lake Conservancy

After the signing of an easement, permanently protectiing the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy (left to right): Robert Klockars, State Sen. Neal Kedzie, Harold Friestad, Charles Colman, John Marra and Lynn Ketterhagen. Photo from lakegenevanews.net

Twenty-five years later, Harold continues to actively manage the preserve as its Chairman, organizing work days and events, gaining the support of numerous local Geneva Lake area civic groups, schools, volunteers and donors, and inspiring students to make this special place their own.

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Folks from the community, enjoying one of the many events organized and hosted by Harold and the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. Photo from the KNC facebook page.

As Richard Boniak from George Williams College of Aurora University points out, “Harold’s passion for this project is electric, and many students choose to work with him as part of their service projects. Many students have been engaged with Harold and the nature conservancy way beyond their required hours. Students also engage with other community members, removing invasive species, brush clean up, seed collection, and planting. All these activities are organized and supervised by Harold. He is always willing to take the time to teach others about the land and its beauty.”

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Harold after completing a 5k (which he helped organize) at the Kishawuketoe Nature Conservancy with tons of other community members. Photo from the KNC facebook page.

Through his leadership, Kishwauketoe remains the largest intact wetland on Geneva Lake, moderating flood flow, improving water quality, recharging ground water, and housing a variety of plants and animals—all while providing recreational, educational, and scientific opportunities.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Harold Friestad with a Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

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

Representatives Loudenbeck, Kitchens, and Novak are the Policymakers of the Year

Representatives Amy Loudenbeck (R- Clinton), Joel Kitchens (R- Sturgeon Bay), and Todd Novak (R- Dodgeville) championed the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program in the last state budget – vocally supporting Stewardship with members of their caucus and actively participating in a working group that successfully negotiated a compromise restoring Stewardship funding to $33 million per year.

group for blog

Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

From early on in the state budget, Representative Kitchens engaged the land trust community—meeting with constituents and stakeholders at the Door County Land Trust office and communicating regularly with helpful insights about the state budget.  Rep. Kitchens voiced his strong support for Stewardship early and often in the process.

Kitchens for blog

Representative Joel Kitchens (R- Sturgeon Bay). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

Representative Novak, who also serves as the Mayor of Dodgeville, has been a consistent proponent of Stewardship during his first term in the legislature and is quick to articulate the program’s importance to his district, which includes popular areas like the Lower Wisconsin Riverway and Governor Dodge State Park.  Rep. Novak spoke at length with both opponents and proponents of Stewardship to help find middle-ground.

Novak for blog

Representative Representative Todd Novak (R- Dodgeville). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography

Representative Loudenbeck sits on the powerful Joint Committee on Finance and took the lead on natural resources issues in the state budget.  Rep. Loudenbeck engaged with a wide range of stakeholders including land trust leaders in her district.  She studied the details of the Stewardship Program and initiated a productive dialogue with her colleagues, working hard to find a compromise with fellow members of the Joint Committee on Finance. In her role, she was instrumental in the outcome of the state budget.

Loudenbeck for blog

Representative Representative Amy Loudenbeck (R- Clinton). Photo by Althea Dotzour Photography.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor these three outstanding leaders with Policymaker of the Year awards, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! IHeartStew

Dan Burke, 2015 Conservationist of the Year

Dan Burke, Executive Director of Door County Land Trust (DCLT), has been helping DCLT become a treasured and highly respected institution for nearly 20 years. Under his leadership, DCLT has preserved over 7,000 acres of land in one of the state’s most beautiful and ecologically diverse counties, and has grown its membership to over 2,200.

Dan Burke by J Schartner

Photo credit: J Schartner

His dedication and leadership skills have been crucial to DCLT’s success. He has led many challenging easement negotiations and spearheaded efforts to raise the funds needed to further the organization’s mission.  He’s built a talented and capable staff, and forged strong working partnerships with numerous conservation groups, enabling them to more effectively preserve Door County’s shoreline, wetlands, habitat and scenic areas through collaboration, leveraging each other’s skills and resources. This has strengthened land conservation as a whole in northern Wisconsin and it provides public accessibility to natural areas and outdoor recreation to thousands of people each year.

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Photo taken at Three Springs Preserve, a special place protected by Door County Land Trust. Photo credit: J Schartner

“While many people have contributed to the success of the Door County Land Trust, Dan’s visionary and dedicated leadership, and his ability to communicate, negotiate, structure, fund, and complete complex transactions, has been crucial. Dan’s ability to work cooperatively with land owners, communities, government officials and donors has resulted in a steady stream of truly great projects. Without Dan, and the Land Trust he has built, long-term preservation of this precious area would be very much at risk. Instead, it will benefit many generations to come.” Roy Thilly

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Dan Burke with a Conservationist of the Year Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

Melissa Cook, 2014 Conservationist of the Year

Melissa Cook, a Parks and Recreation Specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR), has dedicated the majority of her professional life to restoring the natural resources in the heart of Milwaukee, making those resources accessible to residents.

Through her leadership, Melissa has helped to develop a sense of ownership, stewardship and wonder among central city populations not often reached by typical environmental outreach efforts.

Melissa has demonstrated incredible vision and perseverance for over fifteen years, in the development, promotion, stewardship and enhancement of the Hank Aaron State Trail in the Menomonee Valley. This urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness, improvements to an important environmental corridor, rehabilitation of urban waterways, economic growth, and overall quality of urban life. Through her leadership, Melissa has helped to develop a sense of ownership, stewardship and wonder among central city populations not often reached by typical environmental outreach efforts.

Menomonee River in 1999, and Menomonee River and Hank Aaron State Trail in 2011. What a difference!

Menomonee River in 1999

“Melissa’s vision, leadership and unwavering perseverance are a primary reason why a once forgotten stretch of river cutting though a vacant brownfield is today filled with neighborhood children walking river paths, anglers catching salmon, bikers from throughout SE Wisconsin, and an array of native flora and fauna re-establishing along the Menomonee River.” (Laura Bray, Executive Director, Menomonee Valley Partners)

Bray & MVP - letter of support2

Menomonee River and Hank Aaron State Trail in 2011. What a difference!

Over the last fifteen years, Melissa has coordinated events such as the Hank Aaron run/walk every August, river clean ups, volunteer days to plant native species along the trail and public events to educate the community about this great asset. She also helped to create Stew Crews – businesses, schools, and neighborhood organizations who have adopted sections of the Trail and help with its maintenance.

Among other things, this urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness, including an annual run/walk, coordinated by Melissa Cook.

Among other things, this urban state trail provides opportunities for recreation and fitness- including an annual run/walk, coordinated by Melissa Cook.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Melissa Cook with a Conservationist of the Year Award, on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!     

Your 2013 Land Trust of the Year

As this year’s Land Trust of the Year, The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) have truly earned their title. They have ensured the perpetuation and recovery of nearly 4,000 acres of native prairie, oak savanna and other associated ecosystems of the Upper Midwest through protection, restoration, management and education. Since TPE’s incorporation in 1987 when they purchased their first 13 acre property, TPE has closed countless projects and permanently protected thousands of acres of land.Prairie Enthusiast logo

TPE employs a strong grassroots approach throughout multiple states, working openly & cooperatively with private landowners and other private and public conservation groups, to carry out its mission. The structure of TPE’s chapters allows for local decision-making and priority-setting, which perpetuates its member-strong initiative. Their cooperative action with groups such as the WI DNR, US Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, as well as many others, helps them to stretch their mission to its limits and expand their reach to help communities and protect places that may not have been protected otherwise.

In addition to recognizing TPE, we are extending a special nod to Rich Henderson for his inspiring commitment and contributions to the organization. As one of the founding members of TPE, Rich has served in nearly every role on the Board of Directors and has served as President for nearly a decade. Rich has been instrumental in TPE’s development and has touched the souls of conservation-minded citizens across the Midwest.

Rich Henderson at a 2007 dedication ceremony for Schurch-Thomson Prairie.

 

Please join us as we honor The Prairie Enthusiasts’ many achievements at our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration from 5:30 to 8:30 on September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison.



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