Archived entries for Why Gathering Waters

Why Gathering Waters: I Love the Land I Grew Up On

“Why Gathering Waters” is a special blog series that tells the stories of our supporters and why they support Gathering Waters. Our fourth blog post of this series was written by Marisa Olson, Program Intern at Gathering Waters. Continue reading to learn what Gathering Waters means to Marisa.

My name is Marisa Olson and I recently joined Gathering Waters as their new Program Intern. I am studying Community and Nonprofit Leadership with a certificate in Business at the University of Wisconsin – Madison, so the position at Gathering Waters is a terrific fit for me.

Throughout my life I have always found that I get the best night’s sleep when I am under the stars instead of in a bed. My annual trip to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with my father, cousin, and her father has helped me create a relationship with the outdoors that has grown into a need to preserve it. Protected places like the BWCA are what make Wisconsin so great and Gathering Waters makes protecting them possible; this is what attracted me to their organization.


A photo of me on Three Mile Island in the BWCA.

By helping to support Gathering Waters I will be exposed to the inner workings of a nonprofit driven to help conserve our environment. This incredible learning experience will help me develop invaluable skills that I would not have been able to inside a classroom. After graduation these skills will enable me to keep protecting the natural beauty of our land and preserving it for future generations. I try to live my life with this idea in mind, “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children”.

Why Gathering Waters?: I Serve to Advance My Tribe’s Beliefs & Goals

“Why Gathering Waters” is a special blog series that tells the stories of our supporters and why they choose to support Gathering Waters. Our third blog post of this series was written by Jeff Crawford, Gathering Waters Conservancy board member and a member of the Potawatomi Tribe. Continue reading to learn what Gathering Waters means to Jeff.

My name is Jeff Crawford and I have served as the Attorney General for the Forest County Potawatomi Community in Milwaukee since 1997.  I am also a member of the Forest County Potawatomi Tribe. Prior to my current role, I was an associate at Robins, Kaplan, Miller, & Ciresi and then an attorney for General Mills. More recently I have served Wisconsin as a member of the board of the Governor’s Task Force on Global Warming and as a board member at both the Wisconsin Business Council and Gathering Waters Conservancy.

Through my work with the Potawatomi, I have spent considerable time on land preservation and trust issues.  Throughout the 1800’s, much of the Potawatomi land holdings were taken.  Since then, the tribe has been trying to reacquire lands to fulfill its desire to live in accordance with its beliefs. These beliefs include the existence of special places in Wisconsin that need to be preserved, protected, and treated with respect.  I chose to join the GWC board because I recognized an organization with shared beliefs, and the opportunity to advance those beliefs outside the tribal context was appealing to me.

The Potawatomi is working to manifest its land ethic through the tribal land process, just like GWC works with local land trusts and engages government and private partners to pursue its mission.   Because of our shared goals, we have opportunities for information sharing, goal setting and building strategic partnerships.  I am proud to be a part of such a strong organization – both the board and the staff are excellent – through which I can work to advance the goals of my tribe and help to protect the special places in Wisconsin.

A (Cleaner) River Runs Through It

There are countless benefits to land preservation and conservation; the hard work our member land trusts do every day. Examples of these benefits are often hidden from view or difficult to demonstrate. Fortunately, sometimes they are obvious and elegant. It rained heavily in Green Lake County during the afternoon of May 3rd. Bur Zeratsky, president of Green Lake Conservancy (GLC), was on the east end of the lake when he noticed two remarkably distinct streams of water flowing side-by-side from the Silver Creek estuary to drain into the lake. The north side stream was clear and clean-looking. The south stream was brown, muddy, and loaded with runoff silt.

Clear and a silty streams come together to drain into Green Lake

That murky stream largely stemmed from Dakin Creek, which flows through farming operations that include tillage into or very near the stream bank. The “clean” stream came from Silver Creek which flows through several GLC-protected properties that use better farming practices.

A stark example of effects of land use practices on water quality

Bur admits he had a bit of an ‘A-ha!’ moment.  As part of their mission, GLC is dedicated to land conservation that improves water quality and is also working to consider the greater community impact in the Green Lake watershed. To meet this end, GLC wanted a bigger, better tool belt, so to speak.

GLC decided to apply to Gathering Waters Conservancy for customized LEAP services to help professionalize their organization. Over the past two years Gathering Waters conducted a guided assessment using land trust standards and practices, developed an implementation plan to address the recommendations from the assessment, and determined a targeted goal for improving board member communication and record-keeping through development of an online database. As a result, LEAP is helping GLC conform to best practices for the land trust industry and assisting them with meeting their broader goals.

According to Bur, “While my observations would have occurred regardless, my ability to explore action to address the underlying concerns is greatly enhanced due to Gathering Waters’ expertise and generous support. Thanks for all the ongoing support as the Green Lake Conservancy ‘grows up.’”

 To see Bur Zeratsky’s narrated video of the water flowing under the bridge from Silver Creek inlet into Green Lake, please click here.

Why Gathering Waters?: My internship inspired my professional goals

“Why Gathering Waters” is a special blog series that tells the stories of our supporters and why they support Gathering Waters. Our first blog post of this series was written by Valerie Klessig, a former communications and outreach intern at Gathering Waters. Continue reading to learn what Gathering Waters means to Valerie.

My name is Valerie Klessig, and I am a UW-Madison senior majoring in journalism and Spanish and graduating this May. I was a communications and outreach intern at Gathering Waters in 2010. The experiences, knowledge and skills I acquired at Gathering Waters are invaluable and have helped shape the young woman I am today. Above all, my internship helped to reinforce in me the values of sustainability and land conservation that I grew up with, affirming my desire to pursue work that I love.

I am part of the sixth generation born on my family’s dairy farm in Cleveland, Wis., where I developed my love for the land and learned that milk, cheese and corn are not, in fact, made at the grocery store but rather come from a process much more complex and interesting. My grandfather, who had Aldo Leopold as a professor, instilled in his children and grandchildren the desire to be good stewards of the land. I am proud to be a part of this legacy, but I didn’t fully understand how I wanted to build upon that legacy until my time at Gathering Waters.

As a graduating senior, I was recently offered some career advice: consider what really makes me feel alive and pursue that. I can tell—just from my five hours a week in the Gathering Waters office and the occasional field trip with GWC staff—that their work truly makes them feel alive. They are such passionate advocates of rural Wisconsin and all her residents who care about the land. I have many dreams about the potential career paths I may travel down. Perhaps I’ll pursue a communications-related job within the agriculture industry or work in the nonprofit sector to enhance rural Wisconsin. Yet, my biggest dream is to do something that makes me feel alive, just like the Gathering Waters staff does working to protect Wisconsin.

Two adages that ring true to me come from two people whom I admire.  A good family friend once told me that our land is our petroleum, and not enough people carefully consider the fact that we are not making any more land! That could be what Franklin Delano Roosevelt had in mind when he said that “the history of every nation is eventually written by the way in which it cares for its soil.” I believe that land is our most valuable resource, so it is wonderful to know our state has progressive leaders like Gathering Waters and the rest of the land trust community. It is because of those conservation values and the inspiration I got during my internship that I so strongly support Gathering Waters.



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