Archived entries for Wisconsin Land Trusts

A New Piece of the Puzzle in Green Bay

The Baird Creek Parkway continues to grow by leaps and bounds, most recently because of a 34-acre acquisition on the eastern edge of the park within the city of Green Bay. For folks living in the city, this is a big deal — the Parkway provides access for fishing, a place to hike and bike, solitude from the day, economic value to the community, safe places for kids to play and learn, and natural beauty for all to enjoy.


Since 1997, the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation has been focused on connecting and enhancing this terrific place for Green Bay and the surrounding area. Now, “We’re close to becoming contiguous,” notes Charlie Frisk, president of the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation.

“The goal is to have it from Danz Avenue to Grandview Road, and it’s going to happen in the next 10 years. It’s going to be huge. Then, a hiker can go starting at one end and he’s looking at a good four- to five-hour hike, because the trails are far from straight.”

This latest parcel was acquired through a partnership with the City of Green Bay and using Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program funding. There’s already a trail that runs half the property, as well as mature woods and interesting topographies, with slopes up and down along abandoned stream channels.

“This property puts us almost all the way out to the city limits,” Frisk adds, “It’s exciting.”

The Foundation acquires land as it becomes available in an urban setting, meaning conversion of the property to parkland has been piecemeal, with gaps of privately-owned land interrupting the preserved property. But, little by little the Foundation has been working to close those gaps and complete the puzzle. And, that’s exciting news for those who love having nature in their backyards.


Recently, the Green Bay Press Gazette published a story about this project and you can find a map of the parcel and details about hiking it at the Baird Creek Preservation Foundation’s website.

At Gathering Waters, we work to support land trusts like Baird Creek by advocating for the Stewardship program, an essential tool for land trust projects like this one. And, this fall, provided the Foundation with a grant to assist them with becoming more sustainable in perpetuity. 


Remembering Dr. Noel Cutright

We are saddened to report that Dr. Noel Cutright passed away peacefully on the evening of November 10, at his home outside West Bend, with his loving and devoted wife Kate at his bedside after they had spent the weekend with all three of their children.

In 2010 we were honored to present Dr. Cutright with our Lifetime Achievement Award.

We were honored to present Dr. Cutright with a Lifetime Achievement Award at our 2010 Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration.

In honor of his legacy, we would like to share this obituary, prepared by his family:

Noel Jefferson Cutright, 69, died Sunday night at his home in northern Ozaukee County. A well-known and beloved Wisconsin ornithologist, he devoted his life to bird conservation and citizen science. Twice president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, he was the founder of the Riveredge Bird Club in Newburg and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory in Belgium. He was instrumental in the creation of the Bird City Wisconsin program. He was co-author and senior editor of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas.

Noel worked for WE Energies as senior terrestrial ecologist for 29 years until he retired in 2006. He continued to serve WE Energies in an emeritus position until the time of his death. He served on the boards of many non-profit environmental organizations like the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Riveredge Nature Center, the Urban Ecology Center and the Mequon Nature Preserve. He recently retired as a board member and historian of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.

He received numerous awards for his tireless work on bird conservation projects, including a Lifetime Award for Citizen-based Monitoring from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 2007, Lifetime Achievement Award from Gathering Waters Conservancy in 2010, several achievement awards from the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, the first annual Lorrie Otto Memorial Award from the Milwaukee Audubon Society in 2011, and a DNR Special Recognition award in 2013.

Noel was the only child of Harvey and Mabel Thomas Cutright, both deceased, of Hillsboro, Ohio. He grew up in southern Ohio on Fort Hill State Memorial, an Ohio State Historical Society property near Sinking Spring. He met botanists and ornithologists who did research in the park and he helped his father, who was the memorial’s superintendent, maintain the property. He attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and was awarded master’s and PhD degrees from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Noel was an avid birder who loved introducing newcomers to the wonders of birding. He gave programs about bird and environmental issues to bird clubs around the state. He participated in hundreds of Christmas Bird Counts and federal Breeding Bird Surveys and served as Wisconsin coordinator of the Great Backyard Bird Count. He was best-known to many as one of the voices on Wisconsin Public Radio’s holiday call-in show about birds.

In presenting a recent award to Noel, DNR Lands Division Administrator Kurt Thiede honored his “outstanding service, leadership and passion for conserving Wisconsin’s bird populations and their habitats.” Added his WPR co-host, Bill Volkert: “The people of Wisconsin are certainly so much better informed about birds because of the work that Noel has done. And I have to say that I believe that the birds of Wisconsin are better off because of his contributions to both education of our wildlife resources and certainly the conservation of birds and their habitats in the state. He’s really made a mark on this state, and for that, all the bird watchers, the bird lovers and the birds themselves are thankful for all Noel has done for us.”

Noel is survived by his wife, Kate Redmond; his children, Robyn Cutright (Drew Meadows) of Lexington, Ky., Seth Cutright of Port Washington and Laurel Cutright of Milwaukee; Kate’s sisters, Molly Redmond (Steve Ring) of St Paul, Minn., Gail Redmond of Kennan; a nephew: Michael Ring (Flannery Clarke); first cousins, Mike (Ronnie) Zindorf, of Richmond, Va., Karen Fuson (Jim Hall) of California, Dede (Art) Agosta, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and John (Jan) Thomas, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and many wonderful friends in the birding community.

Dr. Cutright, you will be missed, but your memory and legacy will live on.


It Starts With YOU: Our Thanks to George Varnum

As we enter the season of giving we’re touched by the many ways that individuals have cared for the land. Indeed, we’re grateful that so many participate in this work with us — Land conservation starts with YOU.

As is the case with the recently celebrated George Varnum, a landowner who has worked to protect his land for decades, it starts from the ground-level.  Back in the 1990s, Varnum began the process of documenting all the unique plant species on the 61-acre property near his home. He started to reach out to the community in 1997 about this special piece of prairie and this led to efforts by the Mississippi Valley Conservancy to preserve the property.

Thanks to George Varnum for playing a key role in protecting such a special place in his community. Photo by Dave Skoloda.

Thanks to George Varnum for playing a key role in protecting this special place in his community. Photo by Dave Skoloda.

Today the town of Holland owns the property and Mississippi Valley Conservancy holds a conservation easement on it, meaning it will stay as it stands today for future generations. Now and forever, the prairie is open for the public to enjoy.

Holland Sand Prairie

Holland Sand Prairie

Varnum recently received a plaque for his role in prairie preservation. The plaque says Varnum, “helped care for the property. Mississippi Valley Conservancy and the Friends of the Holland Sand Prairie share in thanking George for the important role he played on behalf of the prairie and its hundreds of species and the people who now enjoy them in any season, forever preserved.”

We’re grateful for community leaders like George Varnum who take notice of critical habitats for wildlife and plants, develop partnerships, and assist in preserving these places for future generations to enjoy.

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.

A Spiritual Haven Saved

We all know that Wisconsin is something special. Just drive north of Highway 29 and you’ll see trees and undeveloped land for miles.   In fact, few places hold the same place in people’s hearts as the northwoods of Wisconsin – a place where people come together or get away; and reconnect with with old friends, traditions, and the land.

Roland Rueckert is a landowner in Oneida County who knows that his land is a special place and wants to keep it that way for generations to come. When speaking about his land, Roland says, “It’s a spiritual place. I come here for sustenance.” By looking at the picture below, we clearly see what Roland is talking about!

Photo of Pelican River from NWLT

Photo of Pelican River from Northwoods Land Trust

Northwoods Land Trust (NWLT), a recently accredited land trust, helped Roland protect this land on Pelican River. In addition to Roland’s property, the land trust has protected almost 10,000 acres of woodland and shoreland in northern Wisconsin to benefit people and wildlife alike, this generation and the next.

“People are looking at the land as a long-term family legacy,” says Bryan Pierce, the Executive Director of the NWLT. And by working with their local land trusts, that is exactly how people like Roland are making sure their land is preserved for forever.

You can watch and read the full story by Ben Meyer and WJFW TV-12 and see for yourself how a family’s legacy has been honored.


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.



Innovative Milwaukee Program Garners National Attention

One of our very own has just received national recognition in the Wall Street Journal for the innovative work they are involved in.  You can read the full article here.

We applaud our member, the River Revitalization Foundation! The Foundation is one of six environmental groups in the Milwaukee area that is a part of the Conservation Leadership Corps.

The Conservation Leadership Corps is the brainchild of Johnson Controls in partnership with Student Conservation Association and Milwaukee Area Workforce Investment Board. The program aims to provide local youth with leadership training, a strong work ethic, and a sense of environmental stewardship through participation in new trail development, planting of native trees, grasses and flowers, invasive plant species removal, and erosion control.

The 60 Milwaukee-area high school students selected for the Corps are an elite crew chosen out of a 2 month interview process and over 250 applicants. Students are selected based on leadership, work ethic, civic engagement, and commitment to the environment.

First jobs don’t usually lead directly to dream jobs, but they do build a strong foundation of basic job skills and work ethic that will help these students fulfill their career goals later in life.

We’re so excited to learn that the River Revitalization Foundation is helping meet real needs defined by the Milwaukee community while at the same time instilling a sense of environmental compassion and advocacy in these young adults; they are after all, our future.

Photo: Johnson Controls

Photo: Johnson Controls


New Faces in the Wisconsin Land Trust Community

Land Trusts have been busy…hiring new talent! We’d like to welcome these fresh new faces and congratulate some familiar faces who have new roles in the land trust community:

Corinne and Meghan_BRC

Corinne Dawson (left) & Meghan Dennison (right)

Bayfield Regional Conservancy (BRC) just announced a promotion of Meghan Dennison to Executive Director. Meghan joined the Conservancy in 2011 as the Director of Development and Outreach before moving up to her current position. The Conservancy has also hired Corinne Dawson as its Conservation Director. Corinne joined the team from Wauwatosa where she was working as a research technician for the WI DNR. With both new hires and new leadership, BRC is growing stronger as they continue their work in northern Wisconsin. Welcome Corrine and congrats Meghan!


Gary Funk_Madison Audubon

Gary Funk feels passionate about serving his community by working in the field of conservation.

We’d like to welcome Gary Funk, the new Executive Director at Madison Audubon. Gary spent the first 20 years of his career working in public and higher education. Then, he joined the Community Foundation of the Ozarks as their Vice-President of Development and Affiliates before ultimately becoming their President and CEO. We can’t wait to see all of the innovative ideas that Gary will bring to Madison Audubon.



Jay Peterson has experience both as a consultant and staff fund-raiser.

Jay Peterson just joined the West Wisconsin Land Trust team as their Development Director…welcome Jay! Jay brings with him a broad base of non-profit development experience in both Wisconsin and Minnesota. Jay resides in Eau Claire and when he isn’t at work, truly values the time he is able to spend gardening, fishing, reading, and making or listening to music. We are so excited for the wealth of experience that Jay is going to bring to the land trust community!


Betsy Kerlin_NCCT

Betsy Kerlin’s previous experience includes work with one of Pennsylvania’s land trusts.

A warm welcome to Betsy Kerlin who is the newest Executive Director at North Central Conservancy Trust. Betsy comes to Wisconsin from Kentucky where she worked as a Senior Grants and Contracts Administrator in Northern Kentucky University’s (NKU) Office of Research. However, Betsy is no stranger to land trusts and cold climates; prior to NKU Betsy worked as the only full-time employee at the Land Conservancy of Adams County in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. We’re so happy to have you in Wisconsin, Betsy!



Cinnamon Rossman, Door County Land trust’s new Communication Coordinator

Welcome to Cinnamon Rossman who joined Door County Land Trust as  their Communication Coordinator in November 2012. Cinnamon has past experiences with non-profits in both Door County and Milwaukee. She received her BA  in English and Studio Art from Alverno College in Milwaukee. Cinnamon is a  Door County native and according to her, “I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!” We’re so excited to see all of the great work you’ll do in the place you love!




Tanya Bueter

We’d like to welcome Tanya Bueter as the newest member to River Revitalization Foundation‘s team. Tanya is their new Land Manager. She earned a BS in Natural Resource Management – Environmental Education from UW-Stevens Point in 2010. Since then, she has been working as a Restoration Supervisor where she designed and implemented various restoration techniques. We are so excited you decided to come to Milwaukee and continue making a difference in Wisconsin’s special places!


If you see any of these friendly faces around (especially at our Land Trust Retreat on August 8-10!), make sure you introduce yourself!  They have added a wealth of talent to the land trust community and we can’t wait to see all of the great things these fresh faces are able to do to help us protect the places that make Wisconsin so special.

Dairy Industry Family Protects Land Along the Kickapoo

The Babson family, who played a key role in modernizing dairy farming, recently gifted an additional tract of land along the Kickapoo River to Mississippi Valley Conservancy (MVC). With this additional 983 acres, almost 2,278 contiguous acres along the Kickapoo have been protected by MVC  (a majority of the remaining 1,295 acres were also donated by the Babson family).

Jean Babson’s family owned the Chicago-based Surge milking machine business for many years. Jean and her late husband James (former president of the Babson Brothers Company) bought farms in this area along the Kickapoo 35 years ago and consolidated them to create a place for upwards of 1,000 beef cattle to graze on.

Jean has many fond memories of her family and friends gathering at a cabin they built above the Kickapoo River. The family will still maintain ownership of the cabin and the conservation easement property.

According to Jean: “James Babson had vision, had a love of the land. The whole place meant a lot to (him)…not just the cattle, but being here. It’s such a beloved part of the country that meant so much to me and (my husband), and it’s nice to know it’s going to be in good hands.”

Babson Aerials 9-29-09 032 Tunnelville Rd-40perc

Ariel view of Babson property.

Out of the 2,278 total acres protected by MVC, 1,271 acres are open for public access, including hiking, hunting, bird watching, fishing, trapping, canoeing and cross-country skiing.

Protecting the Babson property, “is an astonishing and welcome gift that gives further protection to important ecological features and wildlife on this spectacular part of the Wisconsin landscape,” said Tim Jacobson, executive director of MVC.

Can City-Dwellers Be Conservationists?

Does living in a city mean you’re less connected to the natural world? A scientist from The Nature Conservancy tackled this question recently on TNC’s website feature, ‘Ask the Conservationist’:

Rob McDonald, the Nature Conservancy’s senior scientist for sustainable land use, explored the question as to whether or not city-dwellers can be conservationists and how connected a person can be with the natural world if they do not experience it often.

School to Nature5

“The key is making sure that every child has at least some formative experience in nature.”

Surely city-dwellers realize the benefits of nature – fresh air, clean water – but do they realize exactly where their food comes from? They most likely have less knowledge about how a forest system works  than a logger does, but does that mean that they don’t care?

History suggests otherwise; the major victories for the environmental movement – The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, The Endangered Species Act, The Montreal Protocol – were all advocated for primarily by city-dwellers. People living in urban areas realize that their cities need nature to thrive and that protecting the environment is in their own best interest.

However, recent evidence suggests that having valuable experiences with nature is correlated to caring about the environment.

How can conservationists make sure that city-dwellers end up caring about the environment?  The Nature Conservancy says that “the key is making sure that every child has at least some formative experience in nature”.

This is where Gathering Waters Conservancy and Wisconsin’s land trusts fit in: The more places we protect and make available to adults and kids, the more opportunities we can provide to connect people and nature.

What do you think?  Let us know here.

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