Archived entries for from the field

Years in the Making

Local land trusts are in the business of conservation in perpetuity so by their nature they must practice patience, and have compassion for the land AND the people in order to meet their missions successfully. We’re pleased to share just one example of this type of patience and compassion to kick off our year.

Indeed, the passion of a single individual can impact so many lives, and over such span of time. In the last moments of 2013, Helen Boley made an agreement to conserve her land with Driftless Area Land Conservancy.


Helen Boley donated a 637-acre conservation easement to Driftless Area Land Conservancy on her very special property in northwest Iowa County.

This beautiful property is roughly 1 ½ miles west of the 781-acre Dry Dog conservation easements - also protected by DALC - and two miles due south of the 80,000+ acre Lower Wisconsin Riverway.

Boley's land is located within the Blue River Watershed

Boley’s land is located within the Blue River Watershed

This unique landscape, which includes Driftless Area outcrops and rock features, unique pine relict communities and over 6,000 feet of a Class 2 trout stream, the Sand Branch, is a paradise for local nesting birds and wildlife.

Helen Boley with Dave Clutter, Executive Director of Driftless Area Land Conservancy

Helen Boley with Dave Clutter, Executive Director of Driftless Area Land Conservancy

“I donated a conservation easement and also willed my property to Driftless because I’m concerned with the changing whims of government agencies and how they view land. I love my land and I want to see it protected forever.  This is the right thing to do.

 According to Dave Clutter, executive director with Driftless Area Land Conservancy, a Gathering Waters member and LEAP participant, Helen spent over two years communicating with loved ones and advisors and carefully thinking through a range of different options for her property.  In the end Helen donated a conservation easement and willed her property the Conservancy. 

The conservation community is incredibly grateful for Helen’s generosity, foresight and gift to posterity. To know that her special land will be protected forever is truly a wonderful gift to all of us as as we kick off the New Year.

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. 


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.

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.

Floating Bridge Opens Up Marsh for Visitors at Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve

Last week, the Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust held a dedication ceremony to open a floating platform in their 48 acre Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve. The Preserve is situated along the west shore of Little Lake Butte des Morts and bordered on the north by Mud Creek at the point of its convergence with the Fox River as it travels northeast into Lake Michigan’s largest bay, Green Bay. This new platform will allow Fox City residents and visitors to venture into the marsh all the way from the upper flood plain to the water’s edge. The ability of the platform to float makes this area accessible from March through May when the annual spring floods come in as well as at other times when the water level is lower.

This wetland is home to a variety of wildlife. In the fall one can see thousands of Canadian Geese coming and going as well as otters gliding through the waters. In the summer one might see hundreds of ducks or handfuls of White Pelicans in the water. This area has always been an important preserve, and now people can really explore and experience what this 48 acres has to offer.

Not only is the Guckenberg-Sturm Preserve a beautiful scenescape, it is also an important area for health reasons as well. In a 2005 Clean Water Testing Report, it was concluded that this “marsh is a healthy, highly functioning filter for the Fox Valley’s soil and water cycle”. Because the Fox River Valley is one of Wisconsin’s most urbanized and industrialized areas, it is important that this wetland maintain its health in addition to its beauty.

Photo Credit: Northeast WI Land Trust

You can visit this beautiful spot!  Find out more at Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust’s website.

A 34 Acre Purchase Creates Unique Recreation Opportunities in Northeast Wisconsin

Spring seems to have officially sprung! All signs of winter have disappeared quickly and haven’t shown any hint of returning. The quickly melting snow and ice have allowed Northern Pike to begin spawning early this year. There have already been sightings of these fish in streams along Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust’s newly completed preserve of 34 acres of wetlands along the West shore of Green Bay.

This preserved area is an important spawning location for the Northern Pike. The fish use the network of streams in the preserved area to travel inland from the Bay each year to spawn. Once the new fish hatch they return to the Bay and the streams once used as their travel routes dry up.

“If we care about the waters of the Bay and the quality of our fisheries, land conservation on the west shore of Green Bay is crucial. The health of Green Bay and also Lake Michigan is very much determined by what we do on the land here, in northeastern Wisconsin,” said Deborah Nett, Executive Director of NEWLT.

This area should be open to the public late this summer.  More information on recreational opportunities in northeast Wisconsin can be found by contacting Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust.

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.

Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy, a Gem for Future Generations

While volunteering with Gathering Waters Conservancy during his winter break from college, our friend Will Erickson wrote the following story about a terrific land trust accomplishment close to his heart.

A new agreement between the Village of Williams Bay and the Geneva Lake Conservancy will permanently protect the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. This agreement ensures that the 215-acre conservancy will not be subdivided or otherwise developed, a goal a long time in the making.

The Village of Williams Bay originally purchased the land from private owners in 1990.  The land consists of natural undisturbed woodland, wetlands, and prairies, with many trails for observation of birds, wildlife and native plantings.  And now thanks to a conservation easement held by Geneva Lake Conservancy, the land will be protected forever.

For many years Williams Bay had been turning down development proposals that would have had a detrimental impact on Williams Bay and Geneva Lake.

In 1989, following a citizen outcry regarding another more extensive project, the Williams Bay Board took the initiative and purchased this site for preservation.  In July of 1990 the board created the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy to “ensure the protection of this fragile shoreland-wetland area for future generations”.

My late grandfather, Herb Erikson, was one of many concerned Villagers in 1989 when extensive development offers were coming into the Bay.  It is with great pride and gratitude that I, one of the children of “future generations,” may still enjoy the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy.  To be able to appreciate this shoreline as my grandparents knew it is truly a gift, both to my generation and the health of Williams Bay and Lake Geneva.


The Largest Easement Donation to a Wisconsin Land Trust

On December 1, 2011, the Winter Park Pines Nature Preserve was established with the granting of a perpetual conservation easement by Ken and Carolyn Aldridge to the Northwoods Land Trust.  This 3,195 acre property -nearly  five square miles - includes about 43 kilometers of cross-country ski and snow shoe trails at the core of the Minocqua Winter Park Nordic Center’s trail system.  This project is the largest conservation easement ever donated to a land trust in Wisconsin.

Minocqua Winter Park is regarded as one of the premier cross-country ski trail systems in the Midwest.  The ski chalet is located on 40 acres of land owned by the Town of Minocqua and managed for public use under an agreement with the Lakeland Ski Touring Foundation, Inc.  The Winter Park Pines Nature Preserve surrounds the chalet property.

Through the land protection agreement, the Aldridges have granted skiers perpetual access to the existing trails, allowed for sustainable forestry, and limited land fragmentation and development which will keep the land in its natural state.  Through the Aldridge’s generosity, the land will remain forever open to the public for winter sports including cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and skijoring (skiing with dogs).

The conservation agreement also protects over 13 miles of natural shorelines on the Squirrel River, Yukon Creek, Howard’s Creek, and other small, un-named streams and ponds.  In addition, the land provides natural habitat buffers around and adjacent to the Squirrel River Pines State Natural Area.

The public is invited to the dedication of the new  Winter Park Pines Nature Preserve on  Thursday, December  29th at 11 a.m.  at the chalet.  

To get to Minocqua Winter Park, take Hwy. 70 about 6.5 miles west of Minocqua, turn south on Squirrel Lake Road for about 4 miles, and follow the signs east ¼ mile on Scotchman Lake Road to the entrance drive.   For more information on the preserve or dedication, contact land trust Executive Director Bryan Pierce at (715) 479-2490.   

Squirrel River, Northwoods Land Trust Photo

Celebrating Frog Bay

On Friday, November 18th, Bayfield Regional Conservancy closed on a superb property with the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.  The following post is excerpted from an article by Dennis McCann in BRC’s newsletter

David Johnson remembers that when he bought a prime piece of Lake Superior frontage at public auction in 1980 he learned from a county clerk that the Red Cliff tribe had wanted the land but could not afford to put in a bid. It made him feel a bit funny to obtain onetime tribal land in such a way, he said recently, but not enough that he considered turning the property, which he knew would someday have much greater value, back to the tribe.

From left: Travis Olson, Ellen Kwiatkowski, Larry McDonald, Tia Nelson, Bryan Bainbridge, and Chad Abel. Photo by Marcy Olson

But fast-forward more than 30 years and that is exactly what is happening. In a move applauded by tribal officials, Johnson and his wife, Marjorie, are selling the property to the Red Cliff Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, in partnership with the Bayfield Regional Conservancy. The acquisition will protect the now 88.6 acre property, including Johnson’s original 40 acres and an adjacent piece he added later, along with keeping in its pristine state the nearly quarter mile of sandy and pebble beaches offering views of five of the Apostle Islands.

Rose Gurnoe Soulier, tribal chairperson, said Red Cliff residents are elated at being able to again have access to a site that holds cultural and spiritual significance and which historically was within the reservation boundary and in tribal ownership.

Even better, that new access to what Soulier calls “this gem” will soon be enjoyed by more than just tribal members. In an unprecedented move for a Wisconsin Indian tribe, Red Cliff officials are planning to repurpose the property as Frog Bay Tribal National Park, open to both tribal and non-tribal members for hiking, birding, beach use and other recreational opportunities. The tribe will also use the property for gathering medicinal plants, nature-based educational activities and traditional and spiritual ceremonies, uses that will both protect the property and help preserve tribal traditions and way of life.

To further ensure long-term protection of the property, the Bayfield Regional Conservancy will hold a conservation easement on the land that will permanently restrict uses that are not compatible with protection of its conservation values, including subdivisions, development, excessive logging and more.

How the transfer came about involved more than a bit of serendipity. The Johnsons were longtime close neighbors and even closer friends with former Sen. Gaylord Nelson and his family. It was Nelson, of course, who is deemed the father of the Apostle Islands, and the view from the Johnsons’ Frog Bay property was of islands managed as part of the Gaylord Nelson Wilderness. It was Nelson’s daughter, Tia, who said Marjorie Johnson was “like a second mother to me,” who put the Johnsons’ in contact with Ellen Kwiatkowski at BRC and initiated discussions that led to tribal acquisition.

“One of things that I really like about this project is it brings so many groups together,” said Kwiatkowski. The purchase is being funded by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency’s Coastal and Estuarine Land Conservation Program which provides funding for local units of government to acquire important coastal lands. This will be the first time that a Native American tribe receives funding from that program to reclaim coastal lands. The Wisconsin Coastal Management Program also provided a lot of technical support to help bring the project to fruition. Kwiatkowski noted, “This is our first partnership project with the Red Cliff Tribe and we see many opportunities for future collaboration. Our mission of land conservation is very much in alignment with the Native vision of land stewardship that looks seven generations into the future to evaluate sustainable land use.”


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