Archived entries for Bayfield Regional Conservancy

Return of a Lost Child

The Frog Bay area is an ecologically exceptional stretch of forest and shoreline located along Lake Superior in northern Wisconsin.  It features rare and endangered plants, pristine boreal forest, and a rich abundance of wildlife. Historically important to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, it’s an area where they once harvested wild rice and much more. Then, being privately owned for over a century, it was inaccessible to the tribe and everyone else.

Frog Bay along Lake Superior’s Shoreline. Photo by Grandon Harris.

When the property’s most recent owners, the late Dave and Marjorie Johnson, began to contemplate the future of this special place and decided they’d like to ensure its preservation and protection forever, a friend and neighbor put them in touch with their local land trust, Bayfield Regional Conservancy (BRC).

First, BRC reached out to the Red Cliff Tribe to see if they would be interested in owning and stewarding this place that was once theirs—and of course, they were.  But financing the purchase of this land was a major obstacle for them. The Johnsons did not have the means to donate the entire parcel, and neither the tribe nor the land trust could afford to purchase the land outright.

Frog Bay Vegetation. Photo by Grandon Harris.

Luckily, BRC was able to help the Tribe secure the needed funds through a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Estuarine Land Conservation Program and a few other sources. Brian Bainbridge, Vice Chairman of the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians, compares the reunion between this place and the Tribe as “the return of a lost child.”

And with the return of this place to the Tribe, it became a gift to us all, as the Frog Bay Tribal National Park.  “We’ve had people from all over the world to come visit” Bainbridge proudly shared.  And this place is more than a new destination spot; it’s an ecological treasure that plays an important role in protecting the water quality of Lake Superior and we will all benefit from this special place for generations to come.

Photo of Wisconsin Coastal Management Program Visit to Frog Bay

Photo of Wisconsin Coastal Management Program Visit to Frog Bay


Story by: Sandy Jensen

Food, drinks, hiking, and land trusts: Is there a better way to spend a Saturday?

Each year, as we welcome another glorious Wisconsin spring, we invite you to our annual Land Legacy Gathering. This event is a celebration of the incredible impact that Wisconsin land trusts have on local communities, as well as all the ways those communities (you!) make it possible for us to continue Wisconsin’s incredible land legacy. It’s a celebration of the ways we are all making a difference, advancing the land trust movement locally and statewide.

Our event co-hosts: the Ice Age Trail Alliance and Chippewa County Land Conservancy, played a key role in the protection of the Krank Nature Preserve.

To make this year’s event extra special, we are partnering with land trusts throughout the northwest region of the state. Our 2014 co-hosts are the Chippewa County Land Conservancy (CCLC) and the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA). These two land trusts played a huge role in the protection of the Krank Nature Preserve (the beautiful location of this year’s event) through their collaborative efforts with a pair of landowners (Bernard & Beverly Krank), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the National Park Service.

Chippewa County Land Conservancy’s mission is to preserve the scenic quality, rural character and natural landscape of Chippewa county. The Ice Age Trail Alliance’s mission is create, support and protect a thousand-mile footpath tracing Ice Age formations across Wisconsin- the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.  Because of these two land trusts’ hard work, dedication and collaboration, the Krank Nature Preserve is just one of many special places that will remain an undeveloped part of Wisconsin’s heritage, forever.

This event features a hike and reception on the Krank Nature Preserve.

Additional partners for this event are other land trusts that protect special places in Northwest Wisconsin, helping to grow healthy communities throughout the region:

  • Bayfield Regional Conservancy‘s mission is to protect the natural lands, waters, forests, farms and places of scenic, historic, and spiritual value in the Bayfield Region.
  • Kinnickinnic River Land Trust‘s mission is to work with the community to protect the natural resources and scenic beauty of the Kinnickinnic River watershed.
  • North Central Conservancy Trust‘s mission is to protect, worthy scenic, working lands and environmental resources for the benefit of the people of central Wisconsin.
  • Standing Cedars Community Land Trust‘s mission is to establish a farm and river greenway that can demonstrate a model for protecting and restoring field and forest, and supporting community life along the lower St. Croix River.
  • The Conservation Fund‘s mission is to save land for future generations.
  • The Prairie Enthusiasts‘s mission is to ensure the perpetuation and recovery of prairie, oak savanna, and other associated ecosystems of the Upper Midwest through protection, management, restoration, and education.
  • Trust for Public Land‘s mission is to bring land to people.
  • West Wisconsin Land Trust‘s mission is to promote land conservation of family farms, forests, wetlands, rivers, lake shores, bluffs and prairies in Wisconsin.

    Let’s gather to grow the community of people protecting the places that make Wisconsin special!

More information about this event is available on our website. Space is limited, so if you’re interested in attending, please be sure to RSVP by April 28. We hope you’ll make plans to join us as we gather to grow the community of people protecting the places that make Wisconsin special.

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 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 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’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.

New Opportunities for Recreation & Sustainable Forestry in Bayfield County

Folks in northern Wisconsin have new community forest in which to recreate and explore thanks to the work of Bayfield Regional Conservancy.

The Conservancy completed the purchase of a 400-acre forested property from Plum Creek Timber Co. in late December, and will convey the newly established community forest to the Town of Lincoln in late 2013 pending a majority vote by town residents to accept the gift.

This new community forest in will allow for public access for hunting, fishing, hiking, birding and other non-motorized uses, and it will also provide protection for two miles of Marengo River shoreline along a highly erodible section of the river, so that it remains pristine for fishing.

Bayfield Regional Conservancy became involved in the project after being alerted to the realty listing by a group of town residents who asked for help in preserving it.

In addition to offering public recreation, the property is intended to serve as an example of sustainable forestry and restoration. The Conservancy plans to hold field days in collaboration with other forest management organizations to further sustainable forestry tenets.  An additional management goal is to promote the prevalence of native tree species resistant to climate change, in order to ensure forest adaptability in response to climate change impacts expected for our region.

The land is largely forested, including a mosaic of forest types, and serves as habitat for state rare and endangered species, along with at least 145 species of birds. Other wildlife includes bear, deer, bobcat, fisher, American marten, grey wolf , wood turtle and more.

Already, a Friends of Lincoln Community Forest group has been formed to help with management of the property.  The Conservancy will participate in management of the property with a volunteer committee and promote school activities at the forest as well.

A Gathering Waters member, Bayfield Regional Conservancy is a non-profit land trust dedicated to preserving the places you love in northwestern Wisconsin.  Funds for the $673,000 purchase came from matching grants from the US Forest Service Community Forestry Program and the state of Wisconsin’s Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund administered by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.


Kettle Moraine Land Trust Earns National Accreditation

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission announced last week that 23 new land trusts around the nation have earned the accreditation seal, with one Wisconsin land trust among them.

Kettle Moraine Land Trust (KMLT) has become just the fifth Wisconsin land trust to earn this coveted recognition!  A Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program participant, KMLT joins Bayfield Regional Conservancy, Caledonia Conservancy, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, and Mississippi Valley Conservancy.  The Nature Conservancy, which works internationally and has a very active Wisconsin Chapter, was also awarded accreditation last week.

President Jerry Petersen with KMLT’s Accreditation Files

Why is this a big deal?  The accreditation seal is truly a mark of distinction for land trusts because it recognizes that they have met strict national standards for excellence, upholding the public trust and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.

Sue Heffron, a board member for the KMLT, expresses how important achieving accreditation is: “We learned that the steps to protecting and preserving land are not trivial, and must be done correctly. By achieving the seal of excellence through national land trust accreditation, we embrace the serious work of permanently preserving important lands in our community.” Operating with nonprofit excellence is increasingly important as Kettle Moraine Land Trust increases its pace of conservation work in Walworth County.

Congratulations on this supreme achievement!


2012 Conservationist of the Year

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.

GWC board members Tia Nelson and Ellen Kwiatkowski tour Frog Bay Tribal National Park with Congressman Duffy and Chad Abel with the Red Cliff Tribe.

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.

Highlighting Great Lakes Restoration and Protection Efforts by Wisconsin Land Trusts

In early August, we had two exciting opportunities to highlight the important work that Wisconsin land trusts are doing for Great Lakes restoration and protection in both the Lake Superior and Lake Michigan basins.

On August 6, GWC Government Relations Director, Mike Carlson, joined GWC Board members, Tia Nelson and Ellen Kwiatkowski, for a tour of the Frog Bay Tribal National Park with Congressman Sean Duffy.  The Frog Bay project, which protects over a ¼ mile of Lake Superior shoreline, involved a partnership between the Bayfield Regional Conservancy and the Red Cliff Tribe and utilized federal funding through the Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program (CELCP).  Congressman Duffy has demonstrated leadership by assuming the role as Co-Chair of the Great Lakes Task Force with the Northeast-Midwest Institute, and this tour provided an important opportunity to show the value of programs like CELCP and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), as well as the important role that land trusts can play in permanently protecting critical parcels along the Great Lakes.

It was a beautiful day on the shore of Lake Superior overlooking the Apostle Islands!

GWC board members Tia Nelson and Ellen Kwiatkowski tour Frog Bay Tribal National Park with Congressman Duffy and Chad Abel with the Red Cliff Tribe.

On August 10, we hosted the Great Lakes Restoration Tour:  Milwaukee Area Successes.  This tour was organized in partnership with the Healing our Waters Coalition (HOW), the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF), the Urban Ecology Center (UEC), and Ozaukee Washington Land Trust (OWLT) and emphasized significant conservation sites in southeast Wisconsin.  These sites highlighted progress, as well as ongoing needs and opportunities, in Great Lakes protection and restoration. The Milwaukee sites included the Milwaukee Rotary Centennial Arboretum, which is a GLRI restoration project adjacent to the UEC and Riverside Park, and RRF’s Wheelhouse parcel, which is a restoration of a blighted site in the Milwaukee River Area of Concern into a riverfront park. Both sites sit along the Milwaukee River and are part of the 800 acre Milwaukee River Greenway.  During the morning we heard from representatives from HOW, Rotary Club of Milwaukee, the Southeast Wisconsin Watersheds Trust, UEC, RRF, and the Conservation Fund.

Tour participants stand on the bank of the Milwaukee River and hear about the surrounding restoration work spearheaded by the Urban Ecology Center.

Just a mile down the River, and mile from where the River flows into Lake Michigan, tour participants visit the River Revitalization Foundation’s Wheelhouse property and hear about their restoration efforts and work to grant public access to the River.

In the afternoon, we visited the OWLT’s Forest Beach Migratory Preserve — a unique 116-acre site that was previously used as a golf course. The land trust is transforming the property into a major migratory bird stopover site and using GLRI funding to research bird and bat migratory patterns to determine the importance of stopover habitat along the Lake Michigan Migratory Flyway.  During the afternoon session, we heard from representatives from OWLT, the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory, and Ozaukee County.

Bill Mueller of the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory speak to tour participants at Ozaukee Washington Land Trust’s Forest Beach Migratory Preserve.

Tour participants enjoy a hike through the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve.

Tour attendees included community leaders from the Milwaukee and Ozaukee area; government officials from WI DNR and the Wisconsin Coastal Management Program; the Policy Director for the Healing Our Waters Coalition, Chad Lord; and many others.  In total, more than 60 people joined us for the day.  We were thrilled that Congresswoman Gwen Moore and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele agreed to participate in the tour and provide remarks, as they have both been long-time supporters of Great Lakes restoration.  Unfortunately, at the last minute, they both needed to attend the memorial service for the victims of the tragic Oak Creek shooting.  We missed them at the event, but appreciate their commitment to Great Lakes issues.

It was a great day, and we lucked out with near perfect weather!

And the winners are…

It’s our pleasure to announce the 2012 Land Conservation Leadership Award winners.  Thanks to the nominators and the Awards Selection Committee, the winners demonstrate the diversity of conservation success and effort across Wisconsin and inspire us all to continue protecting the places that make Wisconsin special.  Congratulations to all the winners:

Land Trust of the YearRiver Revitalization Foundation, Milwaukee’s urban rivers land trust since 1994,  has increased public access to Milwaukee’s rivers and enhanced the quality of life for residents and visitors alike. Its partnerships throughout the community provide opportunities for immersion into the natural world, educate about conservation in an urban setting, and illustrate the synergy between land conservation and urban development.   

Policy Maker of the Year – John Koepke, a member of the Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection board, as well as the Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement Council, has championed efforts to promote and defend the Wisconsin Working Lands Initiative.  His committed actions and voice as a farmer from Oconomowoc have proved invaluable to farmland protection in Wisconsin.

Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation – Dale Katsma, Department of Natural Resources Area Wildlife Supervisor in Plymouth, has spent the last decade quietly and successfully pioneering working lands preservation. His patient and persistent efforts to build relationships and trust between the DNR, landowners, and other conservation groups have played a pivotal role in the protection of 1,887 acres of farmland and 684 acres of wildlife habitat & natural areas in southeastern Wisconsin.

Conservationist of the Year – Ellen Kwiatkowski, the Executive Director of Bayfield Regional Conservancy, a valuable asset to the state’s PACE Council, chair of Wisconsin’s Land Trust Council, and co-owner of an easement-protected farm, has been an essential player in the permanent protection of over 1000 acres of land throughout northern Wisconsin and in successfully leading BRC through the national land trust accreditation process.

Harold “Bud” Jordahl Land Trust Pioneer AwardThe Ridges Sanctuary celebrates its 75th anniversary this year and was the first land trust in Wisconsin. Inspiring stewardship of natural areas through educational programs, outreach and research, The Ridges can undoubtedly be credited for positively impacting the history of land conservation throughout the state and laying groundwork for future conservation efforts throughout the Door Peninsula and beyond.

Please join us as we honor these deserving conservation leaders at our 10th annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration from 5:30 to 8:30 on Thursday, October 4th at the Monona Terrace in Madison.


Celebrating Earth Day with Tia Nelson

The following is excerpted from an op-ed piece featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Gathering Waters board member Tia Nelson.  We at GWC endorse Tia’s message below and the Conservation Easement Incentive Act.  Please join us and on this Earth Day, let’s give the Earth a tax break.

Here’s a new way to celebrate Earth Day: Urge your representatives in Congress to help pass the Conservation Easement Incentive Act.

This bill would restore a tax break to modest-income landowners who want to protect the valuable natural resource that is their property. It expired on Dec. 31, so landowners have less of an incentive today to donate a conservation easement - a voluntary agreement that limits uses of the land in order to protect its conservation values - to a land trust in their community.servation Easement Incentive Act.

But an amazing thing has happened in this year of partisan wrangling: 300 members of Congress have come together to support the restoration of this tax break, with majorities of both parties - 125 Republicans and 175 Democrats representing 47 states - supporting it in the House. Supporters include the chairman, ranking Democrat and 32 of 37 Ways and Means Committee members.

The Conservation Easement Incentive Act is a truly bipartisan bill. At a time when Democrats and Republicans seem miles apart on most environmental and tax issues, here is one place they have come together.

By giving landowners a decent incentive to place a conservation easement on their property, Congress would help preserve our vanishing forests and farmland and make available millions of acres for wildlife - and our kids and grandkids - to enjoy. Such a tax break is a proven success.

Since enacted in 2006, it has allowed landowners to deduct the fair market value of their donated easement up to 50% of their income. And forestland owners, ranchers and farmers have been able to deduct the full 100%. This boosted the amount of land preserved by easements by more than a third, to more than 1 million acres a year - about the size of Yosemite and Grand Teton National Parks combined - each year.

Privately owned and managed forestland, farms and ranches are essential to America’s great landscapes and the people, economies and wildlife that depend on them. And foresters, ranchers and farmers are taking the lead in permanently protecting the country’s best working lands. These landscapes not only provide incredible scenery, water quality and wildlife habitat but also produce wood, fiber and the safest, most reliable source of food in the world.

In Wisconsin, Mark and Pam Dryer protected 270 acres of sustainably managed forestland surrounding two miles of Marengo River shoreline with the Bayfield Regional Conservancy, protecting a high-quality water resource and habitat to rare and endangered species of wildlife. Riverbank erosion along the Marengo River is one of the biggest contributors to sedimentation, so protecting it from development also protects Lake Superior, which lies downstream.

Let’s give landowners the incentive to conserve their land, protect the fish and wildlife and the communities that depend on it and pass on this heritage to our children and their children.


Three More Wisconsin Land Trusts Receive National Seal

As we previewed last spring, we’re pleased to announce that Mississippi Valley ConservancyBayfield Regional Conservancy, and Caledonia Conservancy are officially accredited!  Our hats are off to you!

See a video we made about the process and hear testimonials from these land trust leaders.

The Land Trust Accreditation Commission was incorporated in April 2006 as an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance to operate a land trust accreditation program to build and recognize strong land trusts, foster public confidence in land conservation and help ensure the long-term protection of land. The Commission is governed by a board of diverse land conservation and nonprofit management experts from around the country. Commissioners volunteer their expertise to verify that a land trust is carrying out specific indicator practices from Land Trust Standards and Practices.

The accreditation seal is a mark of distinction in land conservation. It recognizes organizations for meeting national
standards for excellence, upholding the public trust, and ensuring that conservation efforts are permanent.

The invitation to apply comes after many months, often years, of work revising policy, updating records, and fund-raising to ensure perpetual agreements are upheld.

Previously there had only been one accredited land trust in WI, Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, so these three additions are significant!  Each of these organizations has had connections with and received services from GWC and the Land Trust Alliance as recently as this year.  As we look ahead to meeting our goals for the Land Trust Excellence and Advancement Program (LEAP), we’re proud to share with you these accomplishments that align so squarely with our commitment to land trust excellence.

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