Archived entries for from the field

Celebrating Our Partnerships this Fall with the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust

In October, Ozaukee Washington Land Trust sponsored  a unique opportunity to showcase its partnerships to the Land Trust Alliance’s Rally conference participants.  OWLT has been innovative with neighboring industries including the Fondy Food Market, Mequon Nature Preserve, and Sprecher Brewery.  Follow along as the participants make a few stops along their beautiful fall hike.  Or, better yet, head to Milwaukee’s north side and re-create the journey yourself!

Hikers start off at the Mequon Nature Preserve

OWLT executive director Shawn Graff addresses LTA Rally field trip participants at the Mequon Nature Preserve

Steve Petro of the Fondy Market takes pride in the field trip lunch presentation. Fresh vegetables prepared for the lunch were grown just ½ mile from the Forest Beach Migratory Preserve in a partnership with Afterglow Farms.

Field trip participants end the day with smiles at the Sprecher Brewery. Here the group gets a tour before sampling the wares.

This is the third of a three-part series featuring the terrific field trips offered at Rally in Wisconsin last month.  We hope they inspire you to get outside and love the places that make Wisconsin special.

The Milwaukee River Basin Like You’ve Never Seen It

We were so impressed by the field trips our member land trusts offered at the Land Trust Alliance’s Rally that we’re giving you a glimpse of the action.  Last week we featured some gorgeous shots of the Ice Age Trail in the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest near Parnell Tower and today it’s a trip along the Milwaukee River with the River Revitalization Foundation.  Join the lucky Rally participants and see what this organization has done for the Milwaukee’s riverfront!

The Milwaukee river basin was a bit windy but the weather was excellent, crisp and sunny.

During the 2+ hour hike, we worked our way through a 2.5 mile loop from the east to the west bank, including stops at the Urban Ecology Center and Riverside Park.

From this magnificent location, hikers walked back along the estuary to Milwaukee’s Ale House on the river for a beer and some cheer.

These photos are part of a three-part series.  Check back next week to see our final set of highlights from Rally in Wisconsin.

The Northern Kettles in All Their Fall Glory

Attending the Land Trust Alliance’s Rally gives us a few key reminders about our work.  That we are here to uphold perpetual land conservation, that we have lots to learn from each other, and that our landscapes are stunning and worth protecting for our grandchildren’s grandchildren.  If you were lucky enough to join in on a field trip with Kevin Thusius of the Ice Age Trail Alliance, you got to witness this scenery.

Lucky Rally Participants Along the Ice Age Trail
Hikers enjoy the Northern Kettles
View of the Northern Kettle Moraine State Forest


These photos are part of a three-part series.  Check back to see more of highlights from Rally in Wisconsin in the coming weeks.

Tall Pines Conservancy Concert on the Farm

On Saturday, October 1st, Tall Pines Conservancy hosted its first ever Concert on the Farm as part of their annual Fall Harvest festival.  For the past 3 years Tall Pines has been gathering at a local barn to celebrate the results of their work over the previous year.

This year, the Fall Harvest is at one of the first 16 farms chosen to participate in the PACE program to highlight the importance of working lands in Southeastern Wisconsin and across the state.  The inaugural Concert on the Farm was held at the Zwieg Maple Acres farm.  Zwieg Maple Acres is a 6th generation Dairy farm operating in Ashippun and Lebanon since 1856.

After Tall Pines worked to establish an Agricultural Enterprise Area in the Towns of Ashippun and Oconomowoc, Joe Zweig was the first landowner to step up to enroll in the PACE Program.  “He and his son, Kyle, contacted me and said they wanted to preserve their farm and do it with Tall Pines and through the PACE program,” notes Susan Buchanan, Tall Pines’ executive director.  Kyle is the 6th generation working on the farm and plans to continue the agricultural tradition.

Adds Buchanan, “This family just gets the importance of combining working lands with conservation to protect Wisconsin’s specialness.  They have an absolutely picture perfect 250-acre working farm that is a great model for PACE and, with three generations currently living on the farm, they are great spokesmen for the program.  They have hosted a variety of meetings and events on their farm for us, including our “Ride to the Barns” for the last two years.”

This year’s event featured a book signing and concert by Michael Perry and the Long Beds.  Michael was the perfect fit for an event like this.  His books, most recently, Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting, chronicle the highs and lows of farm life in rural Wisconsin.

Additionally, Fall Harvest showcased local food prepared by a local chef in the town of Lebanon.  Bodhi Personal Chef and Catering specializes in sourcing local & seasonal food and in 2010 Bodhi won the Milwaukee Iron Chef Competition.  One of this year’s features will be beef burgers made from Scottish cattle raised in the area and seasonal vegetable salads.

We at Gathering Waters are very excited to announce this marquee event for Tall Pines Conservancy.  It is just another example of the great work being done by Wisconsin’s land trusts and another reminder that we can all play a role in helping protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

All In An Excellent Day’s Work

On July 28th we packed the GWC staffers into a minivan and headed up to the West Bend area to do some field work on one of Ozaukee-Washington Land Trust’s fee-title properties.  We feel lucky to work with and for land trusts, whether it’s in our offices finding solutions to administrative and strategic issues or by pulling thistles and burdock in former pastures.  To us it represents another way people can help land trusts do their work better.

On this particular steamy Friday we all benefited from the experience; the land trust gained a few more volunteers and we spent a terrific day amongst friends getting our hands dirty.  We see as much value in protecting land as in stewarding it.  To be able to participate in this work is an honor and also fun.

OWLT has a full calendar of volunteer activities and events all summer long.  They’re also our pick for Land Trust of the Year and will be coming down to Madison on September 29th to celebrate with us.  One way or another, we encourage you to join us in celebrating this organization’s great work protecting the places that make Wisconsin special in Ozaukee and Washington Counties.

LEAP is Underway!

By Kate Zurlo-Cuva

In January we kicked off the Land Trust Excellence and Advancement Program and are pleasantly surprised by the tremendous positive momentum we have garnered in the land trust community.  Our two years of preparation and development are coming to fruition this summer – we’ve kicked off our first round of customized services grants and have made new trainings universally available to Wisconsin land trusts.

MaryKay O’Donnell from the Land Trust Alliance (our program partner) and I have been furiously aligning our resources for services with the six land trusts receiving an assessment, implementation plan, and a grant to reach a major goal.  Just this past week alone we had the pleasure of beginning an implementation plan on a gorgeous sunny day for the Green Lake Conservancy with a porch-side view of Green Lake itself, began the guided organizational assessment process for the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, and initiated a path to accrediting the Ice Age Trail Alliance.

Green Lake Conservancy board members, Kate, & MaryKay celebrate planning success over lunch

Each of these organizations is the recipient of a multi-year commitment from GWC and the Land Trust Alliance for mentoring, coaching, and improvement activities – these services total nearly $20,000!  The land trust community has collectively pledged a commitment to perpetual land protection and we take this very seriously.  We feel striving for excellence is the key to our future success.

We’ll continue to develop new opportunities to learn from experts in the field as well as our peers in the Wisconsin land trust community.  And, we’ll open up a new period for applications to the customized suite of services for land trust excellence at the end of the year.

Later this year, we’ll head to Lac du Flambeau to tackle a few goals with the Northwoods Land Trust. We’ll also carry out guided organizational assessments with Natural Heritage Land Trust and the Prairie Enthusiasts.

Please support our efforts to strive for excellence in the land trust community.  Your contribution can make the difference in a land trust becoming nationally accredited, contribute to vital trainings to bring land trusts up to industry standards, and assist us with meeting our mission of protecting the places that make Wisconsin special.

Deer Lake Conservancy Awarded for Work as Environmental Stewards

Guest Columnist: Julie Hildebrandt, St. Croix River Association

Buck Malick awarding Jim Miller of Deer Lake Conservancy

At the St. Croix River Association’s annual dinner on April 5th our Bob Burns Stewardship Award was presented to Gathering Waters Conservancy member Deer Lake Conservancy. This is the 11th year that this award has been presented to a group or individual that has demonstrated good stewardship of the natural resources of the St. Croix River and/or its tributaries.

Deer Lake Conservancy was organized in 1995 with the purpose of preserving the lake and the surrounding land that contributes to the natural, scenic, recreational and productive value of the lake. A principal goal of the Conservancy has been to work for improved water quality of the lake, and particularly the reduction of phosphorous. The Conservancy is managed and operated by volunteers, apart from, but often in cooperation with, a much older Deer Lake Improvement Association of lakeshore owners.

Deer Lake is located about 5 miles east of St. Croix Falls in Polk County. It drains into the Balsam Branch River, then into the Apple River, a tributary of the St. Croix River.

During its relatively short existence the Conservancy has made dramatic strides in improving the water quality of Deer Lake based on recommendations by professional consultants, primarily by acquiring nearly 162 acres of land in four areas through which agricultural runoff flows to the lake; and by constructing holding ponds and planting prairie grasses and flowers in those areas. The conservancy has now installed water control structures in the nine largest watersheds draining into the lake. The prairie plantings have been unique, having been done with local ecotype seeds collected within 50 miles from the lake, and including as many as 100 varieties.

The resulting improvement in lake water quality has been dramatic. Runoff of phosphorous into the lake was reduced by over half in the decade from 1997 through 2006. The lake has transitioned from eutrophic (nutrient rich with profuse and unsightly algae bloom and aquatic weeds) to mesotrophic. Deer Lake is one of only two lakes in Wisconsin where this has occurred, the other being Mirror Lake, surrounded by park land.

The Bob Burns Stewardship Award was named for Bob Burns, a dedicated volunteer working to protect the St. Croix. Mr. Burns was an enthusiastic member, and past chair, of the St. Croix River Association; served on the Minnesota-Wisconsin Boundary Area Commission for nine years; was instrumental in ensuring adequate federal funding for implementation of the first long-range management plan for the Lower St. Croix, and led the establishment of land use plans for subdivisions in the valley. He passed away in June of 1997.

Explore New Places this Weekend

The warm weather is here and it’s time to get outdoors!  We’ve compiled a collection of events happening all summer and fall on land trust-protected properties and you’re invited to attend.  We call it our Parade of Preserves and we hope you’ll join us!

Land trusts work hard to protect our state’s special places.  They also host field trips, tours, work days, and educational events for everyone who loves Wisconsin. There’s something afoot almost every day in the coming months.  Next weekend alone you can help the Ice Age Trail Alliance build trail, take a Door County lighthouse walk with the Ridges Sanctuary, or picnic on the prairie with Caledonia Conservancy.

Join us in celebrating the places that make Wisconsin special.  And, check back in.  We’re constantly updating our list of land trust excursions and events, just for you.

The Kinni Has Heart

Gathering Waters’ Executive Director, Mike Strigel, and Government Relations Director, Mike Carlson, braved the snow on I-94 last night to attend the Heart of the Kinni Fall 2010 Reception in River Falls.  More than 50 people came together for the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust (KRLT) event to celebrate the past year’s conservation successes.  Nelson French, Executive Director of KRLT, spoke about the importance of the $7 million Protect the Kinni Campaign.  The project will protect eleven properties on the river and KRLT is working closely with State agencies and private donors to complete the effort.

Natural Resources Board Member Gary Rohde looks on as Senator Sheila Harsdorf addresses the reception.

Senator Sheila Harsdorf, once a KRLT board member, was on hand to discuss the great work KRLT does.  The Republican Caucus Vice Chairwoman also expressed support for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and the Working Lands Initiative.

Mike Strigel had the opportunity to address the reception.  He celebrated the KRLT’s conservation efforts and those of Wisconsin’s 50 land trusts.  This year’s Heart of the Kinni reception was an excellent opportunity to see friends, share stories about the Kinni, and discuss conservation opportunities in the year ahead.

They saved paradise and demo-ed a parking lot

An update to our Beerline Bash post on 11/2…

Good news for all of you urban land conservation enthusiasts.  The Wheelhouse, an abandoned restaurant on prime riverfront property in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, was purchased by the River Revitalization Foundation (RRF) in 2009.  Yesterday, the demolition of the building got underway.  They’re one step closer to future butler’s garter habitat and a waterfront park!  For information on how to help RRF with site restoration, visit

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