Archived entries for meetings and conferences

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.


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!


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

New LEAP Peer Learning Opportunities – Join Us!

We at GWC are very excited to announce a new offering through the Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program and our partnerships with the Land Trust Alliance Midwest Program and the Heart of the Lakes in Michigan. 

Building on the success of the Peer-to-Peer Mentoring program piloted in Michigan in 2010,  we are teaming up to offer a peer-to-peer mentoring program in Wisconsin and Michigan in 2012.  Due to the generosity of our LEAP funders, participation in the program is free and available to all land trust members of Gathering Waters!

What is the Peer-to-Peer Mentoring Program?

This is an organized effort to match peers of similar experiences throughout Michigan and Wisconsin to learn from one another as a component of both ACE (Accelerating Conservancy Excellence) and LEAP (Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program).  This mentoring program will foster relationships and advance learning and sharing opportunities within the land trust community.  In addition to individual visits there will be group learning opportunities throughout the year and we will reimburse peers for making one trip to visit another peer.

 Is it right for me?

We hope so!  The program is designed for staff and board members of land trusts in WI and MI that are willing to share their expertise as well as learn from others doing similar work.  The requirements of the program are that participants make one trip between March 1 and October 31, 2012, and be willing to host peers at their land trust.

 How do I apply?

Applications are due by January 20, 2012 and should be submitted electronically to MaryKay O’Donnell, Kate Zurlo-Cuva, AND Julie Stoneman.


Call or e-mail Kate Zurlo-Cuva  (608-251-9131, ext. 12).

Rally Training – It’s the Real Deal

We’re home and recovered from a long weekend of intensive seminars, workshops, field trips, and receptions at Rally, the Land Trust Alliance’s annual training event.  This year, we were proud to host the thousands of participants in our great state and enjoyed the opportunity to learn from land protection experts from around the country.

We got the latest information from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, participated in conversations that will help us take climate change into account with our work, were joined by several top attorneys and land trust leaders to ask ourselves, “are we doing the right thing” with perpetual conservation easements, and convened our Wisconsin land trust council to discuss future programming for our community.

We were especially excited to celebrate our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program with a reception sponsored by our board member Art Harrington and Godfrey & Kahn.  We are nearly one year in to this signature partnership program with the Land Trust Alliance and are proud that it was highlighted at Rally this year.

Rally is always a unique opportunity to learn from those around us.  The workshop sessions were incredibly useful as were the conversations in the hallway.  The energy was palpable in the conference center and though we left exhausted, we left filled with a sense of elation for what we do.

Next year’s Rally is in Salt Lake City on September 29-October 2.  See you next time in the mountains!

We’re Packing Our Bags for Rally 2011!

At last count over 25 Wisconsin land trusts have registered for Rally in October.  We’re really excited that so many of our member land trusts are seizing this excellent opportunity to learn from each other and the national faculty that make it all possible.

As we announced on this blog last week, Gathering Waters Conservancy was able to offer eight Rally scholarships this year.   We’re pleased to report that we’ve added to this number through our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program partnership with the Land Trust Alliance.  The following groups received an Alliance scholarship:

All told, at least 17 Wisconsin land trusts are receiving some well-deserved assistance with Rally costs. Thanks go to the generous donors who make LEAP possible.

We can’t wait to see each of these Wisconsin land trusts and more at Rally in Milwaukee on October 13-16.  You’ll have endless opportunities to learn in workshops, get outside together, share with colleagues, and hear some pretty spectacular plenary speakers including Milwaukee’s own Will Allen while we’re there.

If you haven’t already, here’s your chance to register.

We promise you’ll get your money’s worth and feel reminded of why we love our important work.

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.

Federal Tax Incentive Needs Our Support

Legislation to make the federal tax incentive for the donation of conservation easements permanent has an incredible 260 co-sponsors in the House (H.R. 1964)!  That’s more co-sponsors than any other bill that’s currently pending before Congress.  The Senate version of the tax incentive bill has 11 co-sponsors (S. 339).  The Land Trust Alliance has spearheaded the advocacy effort on this legislation nationally, but they always need help at the state and local level.  See this fact sheet for more information.

Wisconsin’s Congressional delegation really needs to hear from land trust leaders and their constituents on this important issue – Representatives Kind, Baldwin, and Moore have signed on to the bill, but Representatives Ryan, Sensenbrenner, Petri, Duffy and Ribble have not.  Neither of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senators – Johnson or Kohl – are cosponsors either.

You can reach Members of Congress by calling the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121.  When you get through to a Member’s office, ask for the staffer who handles tax issues, and let them know how important this tax incentive is to land conservation in your local community and to your conservation work.  If landowners in your area have benefited from the easement incentive, please share their stories!

The enhanced federal tax incentive for conservation easement donations is set to expire at the end of 2011, unless it is extended or made permanent.  A permanent tax incentive would create predictability for landowners who are trying to plan for the future, and would significantly bolster private land conservation nationwide.

We know that land trusts are strategic with their time and resources, particularly when deciding to engage in public policy advocacy, but every land trust – large or small, staffed or all-volunteer – can help the broader conservation community by developing relationships with their elected officials.  In an effort to enhance the role of land trusts as policy advocates, Gathering Waters recently partnered with the Land Trust Alliance to host a one-day training in La Crosse, Wisconsin, called Advocating for Success – How do I get from here to there?  This workshop provided land trust leaders with an opportunity to learn from LTA and GWC staff, to hear from an in-district staffer for Representative Ron Kind, and to talk to their peers about making their advocacy efforts more efficient and effective.  Stay tuned for more opportunities like this in the future.

We’re Awarding Six Wisconsin Land Trusts with Capacity-Building Grants

On May 11th, we announced that we’ve awarded six capacity-building grants to land trusts in Wisconsin as part of our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program (LEAP).

LEAP, a three-year initiative carried out with our national partner the Land Trust Alliance, provides universal and customized services to every land trust in Wisconsin (50 independent organizations) to grow their capacity and sustainability, ensure that they are legally and financially sound, and ultimately, speed the pace of private land conservation across the state.

Beyond the universal services, these six land trusts will receive customized services in the coming year including a guided organizational assessment, implementation plan, individualized mentoring and coaching, and a discretionary grant for use on a major project such as preparation for national land trust accreditation status.

The six land trusts receiving grants include:

For 17 years, we have provided a variety of universal services to land trusts.  LEAP builds on and enhances this tradition of quality support to land trusts.  In fact, next Thursday all land trust staff and board members are invited to attend a Webinar on board member evaluations, and an in-person workshop on Tax Benefits for land trust work will be held on June 21st in Madison.  We will be unveiling more of our universal services through LEAP in the next year.

Our next round of customized services applications will be announced later this fall and we’ll continuously update and refine our universal services to land trusts.

We are thankful to the following organizations for their support of LEAP: The C.S. Mott Foundation, The Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation , The Forest County Potawatomi Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and Wisconsin Energy Foundation.

News from the Road: GWC at the Land Trust Alliance’s Midwest Land Conservation Conference

Four GWC staff recently embarked on a road trip to the Buckeye State—Columbus, OH to be exact—to meet and mingle with conservation leaders from across the region for the annual Midwest Land Conservation Conference, hosted by the Land Trust Alliance, GWC’s national counterpart.

In addition to road-trip games galore and our first (and second) tastes of Columbus’ famous Jeni’s ice cream, highlights included:

  • Sharing knowledge at the Conservation Defense Network breakfast, hosted by LTA’s Conservation Defense Director Leslie Ratley-Beach.  We gained a lot from the discussions on issues related to amending conservation easements and LTA’s Conservation Defense Insurance program, and we also had the opportunity to give Leslie some new ideas about how the Conservation Defense Network can help land trusts in Wisconsin.
  • Solidifying our partnership with the Land Trust Alliance through our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program (LEAP).  This initiative, which we’ll be rolling out in the coming year, will help participating land trusts become stronger stewards with opportunities to work on specific improvement projects, tools for a future Accreditation application, or support for better organizational introspection.
  • Accepting some recognition for our successful campaign to see the Working Lands Initiative passed into law in Wisconsin—a significant example of land trusts’ influence over public policies affecting land conservation.

In October, we’ll be hitting the road for Hartford, CT to attend the Land Trust Alliance’s 2010 national conference, which is sure to be an equally fruitful journey, though we’ll be awfully surprised if anything in Hartford can top that Columbus ice cream.

–posted by Kate Zurlo-Cuva, Mike Carlson & Sara Dekok

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