Archived entries for Community Engagement

Don Hawkins, taking home the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation

Don Hawkins of Mineral Point spent 32 years as an exemplary teacher of agriculture at Mineral Point High School before retiring to become a shining example of community engagement.

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After retiring in 1983, Don contributed to the community through years of service on a number of boards. Then, in 1997 Don helped secure a lease on 200 acres in Iowa County where the soil had been exhausted by farming. By forming some new partnerships, including the recruitment of Iowa County jail inmates, he was instrumental in turning the former crop fields into one of the largest prairie restorations in Southwest Wisconsin. Eventually, another 230 acres was added to create the 430-acre Iowa County Recreation and Prairie Restoration—a beautiful retreat for all to enjoy.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page3

About that same time, Don began to lead two other restoration projects—ultimately transforming 20-acres of an idle-weed patch and small mixed-wood forest that are owned by local schools, into valuable assets for students, teachers and other community members. One of which, has appropriately been dubbed the “Don Hawkins Community Oak Savannah” while the other is now a beautiful tall-grass prairie.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page4

On top of this, Don has been leading a partnership between a high school ag and third grade class for eight years, starting prairie seed in a greenhouse and planting them in the savannas. He has brought many other grades and classes to the savannas as well, to learn and engage with the outdoors.

from Friends of the Oak Savanna fb page2

“Will Don ever slow down? It seems unlikely…. The satisfaction he gains from restoring the land and helping build community continues to beckon.” (Chuck Tennessen, Voice of the River Valley). For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Don Hawkins with a Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

*All photos courtesy of Friends of the Oak Savanna

The Climate Corner

The Climate Corner is a monthly column of the Peninsula Pulse, featuring a variety of writers from around the state and Door County, addressing various aspects of the challenges and opportunities climate change presents. Our Executive Director Mike Strigel recently wrote an article for the column, discussing the ways that land trusts are addressing this critical topic. You can read the full article here, or catch some of the highlights below:

In all that they do, land trusts must look to the future, constantly planning for the changes that may affect the health of the land under their stewardship and may alter its value to the community. Whether the change is caused by development in the area, an increasing population, or by the significant warming of average air and water temperatures that is occurring today, land trusts have to be prepared to manage their obligations to the land and the community effectively – in perpetuity.

Photo by Matthew Hester

Photo by Matthew Hester

Across the country more land trusts are including climate change in their strategic planning. Emerging research is helping to identify land that will be critical as our world changes. In some places land trusts are creating natural corridors to allow for plant and animal migration as changing habitat conditions force species to move in order to survive.

Sandhill Crane in prairie

Photo by Gary Shackelford

In coastal areas, land trusts are setting aside wetland and shore land buffers in ways that will protect against erosion and improve water quality in the event of more frequent and higher intensity precipitation or drought. In other cases, land trusts are restoring habitats with more climate resilient native species, as is critical in places such as working forests where a forest suffering from a change in climatic conditions could lead to the loss of not only habitat, but also of jobs. In addition, many land trust projects provide much needed carbon sequestration by preserving forests, helping to offset carbon emissions from burning fossil fuels.

Photo by Emily Jean

Photo by Emily Jean

Beyond these direct activities, land trusts are well-positioned to provide a forum for discussion and dialogue on issues such as climate change. The staff, boards of directors and members of local land trusts are politically diverse, but united by their commitment to a healthy environment through conservation. They represent a cross-section of the community. Business leaders, farmers, elected officials, and concerned citizens come together at land trust meetings and events to talk about what is most important for the places they all care about regardless of political affiliation. As a convener of civic leaders, land trusts can help to move climate change out of the partisan divide by focusing attention on how land conservation can help communities adapt to and lessen the impacts of a changing climate.

Communities thrive when they come together to define and actively confront challenges. Wisconsin land trusts have the opportunity to play a key role in meeting the challenges of climate change in Wisconsin. We already admire land trusts for the many ways they enrich our communities. Helping to mitigate the effects of a changing climate on our lands and waters is yet another reason to appreciate and support their work here on the Door Peninsula.

New and Improved

As we celebrate our twentieth anniversary this year, we look back at all we’ve accomplished. It makes us proud. And it makes us even more excited to begin the implementation of our new and improved Strategic Plan.  If you’d like to take a look at the plan, you can find a copy on our website. Otherwise, the 3 overarching themes of the plan are below. Either way, we’d love your feedback!

1) We make Wisconsin’s land trusts stronger

Our core objective, since the beginning, has been to strengthen Wisconsin’s land trusts. Our new strategic plan is a reaffirmation of that core objective. Through this plan, we seek to understand how that objective affects everything we do. We are only successful when land trusts see value in, and are strengthened by our programming.

We will provide land trusts with the training and resources they need to achieve excellence.

2) Collaboration is critical

This plan also brings to the forefront the importance of collaborations. Land trusts are demanding opportunities to collaborate-with each other and with other partners. In the past we have, and will continue to, promote collaboration through networking, shared trainings, and facilitation of joint programming. We will explore opportunities to more smartly deploy land trust resources through the pursuit of economies of scale, shared back offices, and mergers. We will also engage outside partners – traditional and nontraditional - who can be allies in our work.

We will help land trusts achieve even greater results through collaboration and partnerships.

3) Community engagement is key

Finally, as land trusts exist to provide value to communities through land conservation, we will increase opportunities to share the stories of the value that land trusts bring to creating healthy and whole communities. We will also explore opportunities to increase the impact and value of our work by better understanding community needs and examining how our core competencies may provide even more value to our land trust members and Wisconsin’s citizenry.

We will do an even better job of sharing the countless ways land trusts are  fulfilling needs and adding value to their communities.

We’re excited about where we are headed and believe it will provide more value to land trusts, the communities they serve across Wisconsin, and of course - you! Your support is what makes this work possible; Thank you!

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!

 

 

 

 



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