This year, we have shared many inspiring land conservation stories from across Wisconsin. From the largest conservation easement ever donated to a Wisconsin land trust to the patchwork of innovative partnerships protecting and restoring the natural areas in urban Milwaukee, each of these stories highlights the fact that effective and sustainable land conservation is not a one size fits all business. Each project requires leadership to engage relevant partners, employ various methodologies, navigate unforeseen hurdles, think strategically, and remain flexible.
This year, we are honored to present Ellen Kwiatkowski with the Conservationist of the Year award for the innumerable contributions she has made to Wisconsin conservation through the embodiment of these leadership skills. Ellen is someone who wears many hats in the conservation community. Prior to moving to Wisconsin, Ellen worked with The Nature Conservancy for 10 years, most recently as the Director of Conservation Programs for their Delaware Chapter. Today, Ellen resides in Bayfield where she and her husband manage an organic blueberry farm that has been protected through the Town of Bayfield’s Farmland Preservation Program.
In her professional life, Ellen has been a valuable advocate for the preservation of Wisconsin’s working lands and serves on the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements (PACE) Council, the advisory body to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection on the newly created land protection program.Ellen also currently serves as a Director on Gathering Waters Conservancy’s board, as well as Chair of Wisconsin’s Land Trust Council – an advisory body comprised of land trust leaders that counsels GWC on the needs, challenges, and preferences of the Wisconsin land trust community.
And last but certainly not least, Ellen is the Executive Director of Bayfield Regional Conservancy (BRC). During her time at BRC the organization has protected over 1,000 acres of land in northern Wisconsin and was awarded accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission – a distinction that recognizes land trusts that meet national standards for excellence, uphold the public trust, and ensure that conservation efforts are permanent.
This year, under Ellen’s leadership, BRC made history when they worked with the Red Cliff Chippewa in northern Wisconsin to permanently protect the nation’s first Tribal National Park. Stretching over ¼ mile along Lake Superior’s shoreline on the Red Cliff Reservation, Frog Bay Tribal National Park includes pristine sandy beaches bordered by primordial boreal forest identified to be of Global Significance by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and provides views of the Apostle Islands Gaylord Nelson Wilderness Area.
Wisconsin and its citizens are lucky to have such a talented and committed force for conservation. Not only is Ellen making a lasting difference on Wisconsin’s landscape, but she’s also setting an incredible example for other current and future conservation leaders. Thank you, Ellen, for all you do to protect the special places in Wisconsin!
Please join us on October 4 at the Monona Terrace in Madison when we recognize Ellen and the other winners of Gathering Waters Conservancy’s Land Conservation Leadership Awards.