Archived entries for Wisconsin Land Trusts

With Many Thanks, to You

With 2013 winding to a close, we’ve been thinking about all that’s happened over the course of the last year and one theme pops up time and time again: all the ways that you, our supporters, are enriching the lives of countless Wisconsinites− including those of future generations. This awareness fills us with an incredible sense of gratitude; thank you.

Because of your support over the last year alone:

We fought successfully to maintain Knowles- Nelson Stewardship Program funding at $12 million annually, available for land trusts to protect the special places that make Wisconsin such a wonderful place to live, work, and play – for everyone. Protecting these special places supports tourism and the quality of life in our communities, and is beneficial to business and job growth.

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Over 700 staff and volunteers in the land trust community received education through training, workshops, mentoring and advising. These staff and volunteers do the on-the-ground, daily work to ensure the protection of our trails, forests, scenic vistas, family farms, and urban green spaces.

IATA Gibraltar Seg. Fall 2013 (82)

Together, we increased awareness and understanding of the value land trusts bring to their local communities, playing a key role in the quality of life and the economy of local communities. Understanding that land trusts protect values we all cherish is important to building support for their work, and enlivening the community of people whose lives have been touched by the magic of the outdoors.


These are examples of the value you bring to our mission through your continued support and are a direct result of your vision, dedication, and generosity. Together, we’re helping to protect the places that make Wisconsin special. Again, thank you.

You heard it here first…

The Big Wild Radio Program broadcasts from Middleton, WI and reaches stations throughout Wisconsin, Nebraska, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, North and South Dakota.

Hosts Gundy and The Greek dish out a weekly fix of timely information about hunting and fishing, interesting recipes and politically incorrect humor. Some of their regular guests include Jeff Foxworthy, Bill Engvall, Jeff Daniels, Babe Winkelman, Charlie Daniels and Bill Dance. And recently, our very own Mike Strigel was invited to the show, to talk about what land trusts are and how Gathering Waters Conservancy supports them.

Our Executive Director, Mike Strigel, sharing some time outside with his family.

You can listen to the interview here to hear, directly from Mike, what GWC does, the importance of land to communities, and finding a balance between conservation and development to strengthen the economy.


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. 


Kids, wellness, agriculture, and water… thank you!

Whether its creating outdoor classrooms, promoting health and wellness, preserving our agricultural economy and local food base, or enhancing flood protection and water quality, land trusts across Wisconsin are having a significant impact on the communities they serve through innovative partnerships, creative problem solving, and hard work.

Who is making these things possible? Our supporters and the supporters of Wisconsin’s land trusts. In other words, you.

What follows are just a few examples of the community needs being met because of the good work of local land trusts, the support land trusts receive from GWC, and the generosity of our committed members.

Connecting Kids to the Land

Recently, a 220 acre private piece of land, that many citizens of Argyle, Wisconsin had already been using over the years, went up for sale and the Driftless Area Land Conservancy jumped at the chance to keep that piece of land available for the community to continue to enjoy.

View on the Erickson property. Photo by Driftless Area Land Conservancy.

The Erickson property is unique in that it is adjacent to the Village of Argyle Park and the Argyle K-12 School. This land is extremely valuable with the potential for being used as an outdoor classroom and giving additional space beyond the current park for hiking, skiing, canoeing, swimming, fishing, hunting, and viewing wildlife. The location of this property will also provide opportunities for kids to be more connected to the natural world, which contributes to quality of life and, as studies have shown, will make them more likely to develop a passion for land and conservation later in life.

Wellness and the Land

Another project we are really excited about is Door County Land Trust‘s partnership with a group of Ministry Door County Medical Center physicians. These two have teamed up to provide a series of hikes through 2015 that (in addition to providing an enjoyable form of exercise!) expose people to the beauty and tranquility found in preserved lands, as well as offer health and wellness tips.

Three Springs Nature Preserve. Photo by J. Schartner.

With health issues becoming more prominent in everything we do, it’s exciting to see this partnership offering preventative care and tools for making lifestyle changes, to improve physical and mental wellness through a connection with nature.

Preserving Farmland

“We wanted to be proactive and take responsibility for this land.” That was the sentiment expressed by John and Dorothy Priske, farmers who have lived on and farmed their land in Columbia County for nearly 30 years. To accomplish their conservation goals, the Priskes have worked with their local land trust, the Natural Heritage Land Trust and were able to conserve their land partly through the Wisconsin’s Purchase of Conservation Easements (PACE) program which allows farmers to receive funding for conserving their land while still retaining ownership and management decisions.  The Priskes have preserved their farmland and are known throughout the community for their commitment to farming and sustainability.

John and Dorothy Priske and their land. Photo by Jim Klousia of Edible Madison

Protecting a Valuable Resource

Land Trusts also play a vital role in protecting our water resources; for instance, take a look at the innovative project made possible as a result of a partnership between the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District and the The Conservation Fund:

Stormwater management is becoming an increasing problem as more undeveloped land is becoming developed and more pavement goes down around us. When the absorption of stormwater is impeded by prolific pavement and development, it pools and runs to the closest open ground or body of water, often collecting pollutants along the way — and ultimately leads to the pollution of our water resources and contributes to flooding.   However if this stormwater is stored and filtered where it lands or before it reaches a body of water, many of these negative effects can be mitigated.

Through this innovative project, The Conservation Fund purchases properties in the Milwaukee, Menomonee, Oak Creek and Root River watersheds, where future development would otherwise most likely occur. The properties, which are found along streams, shorelines and wetlands, will absorb runoff, preventing flooding and the pollution of water sources.


A stormwater management property in Wisconsin. Photo by Nick Bristol from The Conservation Fund website.

This initiative not only assures that stormwater will be managed more sustainably, but also preserves wildlife habitat and provides countless recreational opportunities for the public to enjoy.

Children, health, sustainable farming and water management- these are just a few of the reasons we want to thank you. Wisconsin’s land trusts and we, couldn’t do it without your support!





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.

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.


Rooting Kids in Conservation

Do you remember your first job? Perhaps it was bagging groceries, babysitting, or mowing a neighbor’s lawn. These early experiences may not lead directly into dream jobs, but they do build a strong foundation of basic job skills and work ethic that help us fulfill our later career goals.

Land trusts like the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) are working to provide similar types of job training opportunities to young adults in the Milwaukee area.

RRF is a land trust that works diligently for environmental conservation, public access, and recreation in Milwaukee’s river watersheds. Since 2008, it has also provided opportunities for area high school and post-graduate students to gain exposure to the natural world and job experience as part of the city’s Earn & Learn Community Work Experience Program.

Broderick and Dontrell, two of the young adults involved in Earn & Learn.

Executive Director Kimberly Gleffe describes the importance of this experience, “Connecting urban youth to nature in the city through employment as ecological restoration interns not only instills a sense of stewardship of our natural resources but teaches job skills as well, providing a firm foundation of experience that carries with them.”

Guided by student mentors from UW-Milwaukee, program participants learn to identify plants, remove non-native species, plant natives, and lead guided hikes on trails they have cared for. There is a daily connection with the outdoors, fostering excitement about the city’s green spaces.

Through Earn & Learn, RRF and other non-profit organizations are providing Milwaukee’s youth with work-readiness skills while starting them on the path to achieving their dreams.

The crew and their mentors out on a canoe trip.

According to Marcell, one Earn and Learner, “This experience will help me get other jobs. I learn basic job skills and how to follow rules. I hope to be a music producer in the future. Earn & Learn helps me get the basic skills I need to do that.” From conservation to making records, that’s music to our ears.

This is just one of the inspiring stories that will be featured in our Fall edition of our newsletter, Crosscurrents, highlighting the important work land trusts are doing throughout the state, fulfilling needs and enriching their communities! Keep your eyes open for the newsletter, coming later this month!

Photos by the River Revitalization Foundation

Building Trails, Cultivating Values

Here’s the story of some very smart schools that recognize the importance of environmental education and are taking advantage of opportunities provided by their local land trust, to get their students out of the classroom and into the natural areas in their communities:

Over 165 students and staff members from Gibraltar Charter School, Lodi Elementary and Ouisconsing School of Collaboration participated in the Ice Age Trail Alliance’s service-learning event, which focused on building new Ice Age National Scenic Trail, leading to the bluff of the iconic Gibraltar Rock.

Students used the tools of the trade as they handcrafted exemplary hiking trail and restored native landscapes. Safety was a top priority for the event - Lodi students participated in up to two days of work without incident, staying true to priorities. Participants worked hand-in-hand with volunteers from across the Upper Midwest, reaching across generations, social stratification, and schools for a common cause.

Such excellent models of respect, patience, collaboration and work ethic were exhibited by both staff and students, that the event was a complete success. This was a great opportunity for a number of young Wisconsinites to create a relationship with the land as well, learn important lessons and perform an invaluable service for their own community.

Thank you Ice Age Trail Alliance, for providing such an excellent opportunity for these future leaders to get out and make this special place their own! We’re proud to say that our support of Wisconsin’s land trusts helps make great ideas like this one, a reality.

One Heckuva (True) Fish Tale

Protected Land, Healthy Water, Happy Fish….

Each year Wisconsin’s Northern Pike begin an annual migration to reach their spawning grounds in temporary shallow wetlands. This fascinating pilgrimage is not new, but the challenges pike face along the way certainly are.

Our partners at Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust are helping pike get to prime spawning areas as wetlands are drained and converted to other uses.

As wetlands are being drained and converted for other uses and streams are bisected by road crossings–sometimes blocking this migration–Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust (NEWLT) is ensuring that these amazing creatures reach their spawning grounds. Last year, NEWLT purchased 34 acres of ephemeral wetland property along Green Bay’s west shore that plays a critical role in the area’s pike migration.

Now when adult pike leave the waters of Green Bay, they swim up these and other tributary streams to find places to lay and fertilize eggs. Once hatched, pike fry also spend time in these wetlands growing strong before beginning their journey back to Green Bay. Pike spawning is a short-lived, almost magical, event to witness.

This new preserve is now open to the public and thanks to NEWLT and partners that include The Nature Conservancy, public agencies, foundations, and local residents, we can all enjoy the magic of pike spawning–and the benefits it provides our  communities– for years to come.

This fish tale is just one of the inspiring stories that will be featured in our Fall edition of our newsletter, Crosscurrents, highlighting the important work land trusts are doing throughout the state, fulfilling needs and enriching their communities! Keep your eyes open for the newsletter, coming this November.

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.

Birds of a Feather: Linking Land Trusts, Birds, and Vibrant Communities

The news we’ve been hearing over the last few weeks has certainly shown us something interesting about the city of Madison - Madisonians are bird lovers! In Dane County and in Madison specifically, Madison Audubon Society plays a large role in protecting birds and their habitats. This land trust has been especially busy over the past few weeks delivering and receiving awards and recognition, garnering some cool press in the process:

Lincoln Elementary Honored

This fall, Madison’s Lincoln Elementary was awarded the “Conservation Scholar” award from Madison Audubon. The honor was bestowed for this school’s tradition of placing importance on teaching kids about the environment. Lincoln Elementary houses a unique and long-standing nature trail/wilderness walk on school grounds.

This year, teacher Laurie Solchenberger took the next step and involved Lincoln students in the Great Wisconsin Birdathon. As part of this initiative, each student was assigned a Wisconsin bird. The students studied their bird species and then, at the project’s culmination, taught the rest of the class about the bird.

Lincoln Elementary students loved all they learned by participating in the 2013 Birdathon!

Lincoln Elementary students loved all they learned by participating in the 2013 Birdathon!

The “Conservation Scholar” honor comes with a small cash award, which the school will most likely use to purchase binoculars to promote birding and other nature-viewing activities as part of the school’s environmental tradition. Judging by the thank you notes and drawings from the students to Eagle Optics (for the temporary use of their binoculars), it seems that this will be money well spent!

The City of Madison Honored

With help from the Madison Audubon Society, Madison was recently deemed a ‘Bird City’ through Bird City Wisconsin- a program of the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. This honor was imparted because of Madison’s outstanding community-based efforts to protect bird populations through conservation, meeting criteria for education, habitat management, species management, and limiting or removing hazards to birds. The Madison Audubon Society played an important role in these efforts.

A Madison Bird City celebration was held at Warner Park where the city was presented with official Bird City flags, plaques, and street signs.

Charles Schwartz, State Coordinator of Bird City, presents Bird City flags to Madison and Maple Bluff. Photo from Madison Commons.

Charles Schwartz, State Coordinator of Bird City, presents the Bird City flag to Madison. Photo from Madison Commons.

Its no wonder that Madison Audubon has been making the news! This land trust has clearly been working hard, enriching the communities they serve while forwarding their mission to educate their members and the public about the natural world and the threats that natural systems are facing, to engage in advocacy to preserve and protect these systems, and to develop and maintain sanctuaries to save and restore habitat. We certainly are proud of them. Well done!

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