Archived entries for Wisconsin Land Trusts

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.



Protecting the Mississippi — One Farm at a Time

Flowing 2,300 miles through the heart of America, the Mississippi River provides water, food, industry, habitat for wildlife and recreation for millions of people. Clearly this is one natural resource that affects all of us, everyday, and we need to be conscious of how we use it so we can preserve it as best we can for future generations.

That is exactly what farmer Charles Pearce is working on. Pearce has lived and worked on his family farm for decades and has been looking for ways to improve the health of the land and water around him and his farm. Lucky for Pearce his local land trust, Kettle Moraine Land Trust (KMLT), also recognized the importance of addressing water quality issues in the Walworth County area.

Pearce inspecting the cover crops on his farm. Photo by KMLT.


So, KMLT asked the National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) to become a partner in their Watershed Initiative Network. NRCS agreed, and through this partnership funding is now available through the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative.

How the partnership works is that KMLT requests funds from NRCS to help local farmers like Pearce implement conservation techniques that will improve the quality of water that eventually flows into the Mississippi River. Pearce is then able to plant cover crop on his fields to prevent soil erosion that protects nearby Lake Delavan.

Thanks to national programs like this and local land trusts like KMLT, landowners are able to reap the benefits of not only protecting their land but also entire watersheds, which we are truly grateful for, because they impact us all everyday.

Delavan Lake in Walworth County, WI. Photo by KMLT.


Cow Platter Stadium

We love when Wisconsin’s special places are preserved. What we love even more is hearing special memories people have from these treasured places.

We recently heard a story from Glacial Lakes Conservancy (GLC) about their 25-acre Grasshopper Hill Preserve. The story is told so descriptively that we’re not going to re-tell it, but you should check out GLC’s webpage and read the full version of the story here. It’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and bring you back to days when you too ran around with the neighborhood kids with band-aids, scrapes and mosquito bites.

Photo by Glacial Lakes Conservancy

Photo by Glacial Lakes Conservancy

“…today there’s not time for flying kites, catching grasshoppers, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, or feeling the wind blow us, arms spread at the peak of Grasshopper Hill. We leave the hilltop and follow Dad along the long glacial ridge extending to the west, finally descending to the vast meadow below - Farmer Fischer’s Field!

The kids assemble in the field with growing anticipation, and Dad says, “Welcome to Cow Platter Stadium! Batter Up!”

I’m sure you can deduce what these guys are about to use as bases for their baseball game!

Thanks to GLC for sharing this story with us. It puts smiles on our faces and reminds us again why land conservation is an issue that is so near to all of our hearts.

Do you have any stories about a protected piece of property? If so, we’d love to hear them. You can share them with us at [email protected] or on our Facebook Wall.

Run for the Hill of it

The new and creative ways that land trusts come up with to raise awareness and support for their organizations never cease to impress us. We are excited to learn about Baird Creek Preservation Foundation‘s event this October - they are holding the inaugural “Run for the Hill of it” 5k Trail Run Presented by KI. We love that the land trust is getting community members out on the land PLUS giving them the warm fuzzies that come along with knowing that their registration fee for the run is helping to further improve the Baird Creek Parkway through initiatives such as:

  • Purchasing wetland property to aid in improving of water quality and providing natural habitat for public use
  • Erosion remediation near Christa McAuliffe Park
  • Oak Savanna restoration on east side of Parkway

So it’s time to dust off those running (or walking) shoes! Registration is now open for this event. It will take place rain or shine on October 12, 2013 starting at 8 a.m. The event will begin at Triangle Hill Chalet (500 Beverly Road) in Green Bay. Registration is limited to the first 40o registrants, so make sure you sign up today!


Early registration is $20 and day of race registration is $25. Along with the warm fuzzies mentioned above, you will also receive an official trail run t-shirt.

This is a great way to show your support for a local land trust and get those legs moving one last time before the snow falls. A map of the course can be found here.


Our Hats off To You!

Northwoods Land Trust and Ozaukee Washington Land Trust are accredited!

North Woods bw logoOzaukee Washington logo

After a rigorous review and verification of their practices, procedures, and documents, two Wisconsin land trusts have been newly accredited by the national Land Trust Accreditation Commission. This “good housekeeping seal of approval” is a big honor in our industry and we’re incredibly proud of the efforts of these organizations!

These two land trusts join six others in Wisconsin and are among only 207 nationwide.

Both Northwoods and Ozaukee Washington were participants in our Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program (LEAP) last year. Through the support they received through this program, together we conducted a guided organizational assessment, created recommendations for improvements and developed a plan to meet them, offered coaching and mentoring to implement these new practices, and awarded each land trust a cash grant to tackle one or more of their highest priorities.

While the credit is entirely in the hands of the staff and boards of these two land trusts, we’re sure proud to have been a part of the process! Seeing land trusts reap rewards like the accreditation seal is music to our ears at Gathering Waters.

Our heartfelt congrats to the staff and board members at Northwoods and Ozaukee Washington Land Trusts!




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


Your 2013 Land Trust of the Year

As this year’s Land Trust of the Year, The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) have truly earned their title. They have ensured the perpetuation and recovery of nearly 4,000 acres of native prairie, oak savanna and other associated ecosystems of the Upper Midwest through protection, restoration, management and education. Since TPE’s incorporation in 1987 when they purchased their first 13 acre property, TPE has closed countless projects and permanently protected thousands of acres of land.

TPE employs a strong grassroots approach throughout multiple states, working openly & cooperatively with private landowners and other private and public conservation groups, to carry out its mission. The structure of TPE’s chapters allows for local decision-making and priority-setting, which perpetuates its member-strong initiative. Their cooperative action with groups such as the WI DNR, US Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, as well as many others, helps them to stretch their mission to its limits and expand their reach to help communities and protect places that may not have been protected otherwise.

In addition to recognizing TPE, we are extending a special nod to Rich Henderson for his inspiring commitment and contributions to the organization. As one of the founding members of TPE, Rich has served in nearly every role on the Board of Directors and has served as President for nearly a decade. Rich has been instrumental in TPE’s development and has touched the souls of conservation-minded citizens across the Midwest.

Rich Henderson at a 2007 dedication ceremony for Schurch-Thomson Prairie.


Please join us as we honor The Prairie Enthusiasts’ many achievements at our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration from 5:30 to 8:30 on September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison.

And the Winners Are…

Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 Land Conservation Leadership Awards! We received a very competitive slate of nominations this year and the results are finally in.  Please join us in recognizing these inspiring leaders:

  • Land Trust of the Year – The Prairie Enthusiasts (with a special nod to Rich Henderson for his inspiring commitment and contributions to the organization) have ensured the perpetuation and recovery of nearly 4,000 acres of native prairie, oak savanna and other associated ecosystems of the Upper Midwest through protection, restoration, management and education. TPE employs a strong grassroots approach throughout multiple states, working openly & cooperatively with private landowners and other private and public conservation groups, to carry out its mission.
  • Policy Maker of the Year – Dick Steffes served WI’s Department of Natural Resources’ Real Estate program in various capacities for 39 years. His leadership and influence helped to preserve over 834,502 acres throughout Wisconsin, secure public recreational access, and ensure best management of the state’s forest resources. His achievements include some of the largest conservation purchases in Wisconsin’s history.
  • Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation – Dan Lemke, Plum Creek’s Senior Land Asset Manager, has played a key role in the permanent protection of more than 60,000 acres of Wisconsin timberland.  As working forests, these acres continue to produce sustainable forest products for the state’s timber industry and provide permanent public access and land protection for critical bird habitat.
  • Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation – Tom Lyon has been dedicated to farmland protection for over 25 years.  His many achievements include a successful partnership with the namesake of this award, Rod Nilsestuen, to establish the Working Lands Initiative and Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easements (PACE) program, which have resulted in the protection of thousands of acres of working lands, helping to reduce the trend of rapid farmland losses throughout the state.
  • Conservationists of the Year – Dale Buser & Andrew Struck, were essential in the creation of the Ozaukee Fish Passage Program, which reconnects existing, high quality fish and wildlife habitat throughout the Milwaukee River Watershed and drainage to Lake Michigan and supports public efforts to re-establish and encourage self-sustaining native populations of threatened, special-concern and game fish.
  • Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award – Howard & Nancy Mead have been an active and abiding presence in Wisconsin’s conservation community for more than 50 years.  In addition to educating the public about the richness of Wisconsin’s resources and heritage through their ‘Wisconsin Trails’ magazine, they have been instrumental in founding, as well as committed contributors to, key conservation organizations and efforts throughout the state.

Please join us as we honor these deserving conservation leaders at our 11th annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration from 5:30 to 8:30 on Thursday, September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison.

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