Archived entries for Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration

Green Lake Conservancy- the 2015 Land Trust of the Year!

Green Lake Conservancy (GLC) is an important partner in a collective and strategic effort to preserve and protect Big Green Lake, Wisconsin’s deepest natural inland lake and a magnificent natural resource for the surrounding community and beyond. GLC has provided lake and watershed protection for the past 20 years by working with landowners to preserve their lakefront properties.

LT retreat 2014 (1013)

Photo by Bur Zuratsky

To date, 17 properties and over 700 acres of watershed lands have been protected. These properties have become an integral part of a network of public lands, serving as a showcase of restoration and preservation, offering trails, boardwalks and even a “water trail” to the public. Without Green Lake Conservancy there would be little public land near Big Green Lake. The existing county and city parks are designed for boats and beaches not natural sites.

GLC is also incredibly efficient with its resources. Being an all-volunteer-based organization, it has leveraged its impact by forging a partnership with other organizations to form the “Green Team”—offering up monthly outings to community members, including field trips, canoe/kayak floats, maple sugar making, winter moonlight walks, bicycle tours and other family-oriented activities. These activities are not only fun for all, they also help strengthen the bond between the land and its people, cultivating a sense of ownership and stewardship in those who will be responsible for protecting this special place well into the future.

Spring field trip tour at Mitchell Glen

Photo by Tom Eddy

As Ken Bates, Superintendent of the Green Lake School District says, “We are fortunate to have so many properties that give us public access to the diversity of our natural areas. Green Lake Conservancy has made a difference that will last for generations to come.” For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Green Lake Conservancy with the prestigious Land Trust of the Year Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

Harold Friestad earns Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award

Harold Friestad, from the Village of Williams Bay, was essential to winning a decades-long battle to purchase and then protect and restore a very special 231-acre parcel on Geneva Lake. Indeed, for 5 years, Harold worked with other Village of Williams Bay residents to fend off development of their lakefront. Eventually, as Village President, he was able to convince the rest of the Board to purchase the 231 acre parcel and partner with Geneva Lake Conservancy (their local land trust) to put a protective easement on the property, forever securing its existence as the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy.

easement with Geneva Lake Conservancy

After the signing of an easement, permanently protectiing the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy (left to right): Robert Klockars, State Sen. Neal Kedzie, Harold Friestad, Charles Colman, John Marra and Lynn Ketterhagen. Photo from

Twenty-five years later, Harold continues to actively manage the preserve as its Chairman, organizing work days and events, gaining the support of numerous local Geneva Lake area civic groups, schools, volunteers and donors, and inspiring students to make this special place their own.


Folks from the community, enjoying one of the many events organized and hosted by Harold and the Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. Photo from the KNC facebook page.

As Richard Boniak from George Williams College of Aurora University points out, “Harold’s passion for this project is electric, and many students choose to work with him as part of their service projects. Many students have been engaged with Harold and the nature conservancy way beyond their required hours. Students also engage with other community members, removing invasive species, brush clean up, seed collection, and planting. All these activities are organized and supervised by Harold. He is always willing to take the time to teach others about the land and its beauty.”


Harold after completing a 5k (which he helped organize) at the Kishawuketoe Nature Conservancy with tons of other community members. Photo from the KNC facebook page.

Through his leadership, Kishwauketoe remains the largest intact wetland on Geneva Lake, moderating flood flow, improving water quality, recharging ground water, and housing a variety of plants and animals—all while providing recreational, educational, and scientific opportunities.

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Harold Friestad with a Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award, on September 24th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website! 

2014 Land Trust of the Year: The Conservation Fund

The Conservation Fund is a national land trust that has had a significant impact in Wisconsin. Known for its collaborative approach, the Fund’s conservation efforts serve to enhance and protect air and water quality, wildlife habitat and public recreation areas that preserve connections to our natural, cultural and historical heritage—all while creating opportunities to enhance economic opportunities for nearby communities and sustain local jobs in the forestry industry.

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The beautiful Brule St.-Croix Legacy Forest will benefit the region in many ways, forever. Photo courtesy of The Conservation Fund.

Since the Fund opened its Upper Midwest office in 2005, it has nurtured partnerships for the protection of large-scale forest and watershed conservation. Notably, the Fund played an integral role in the permanent protection of the Brule-St. Croix Legacy Forest, which represents the largest conservation project in Wisconsin’s state history. Each year, the Legacy Forest provides more than 1000 Wisconsin jobs and brings in $34.1 million through employment, timber sales and taxes. The Legacy Forest also provides habitat for several threatened and endangered species, plays a critical role in protecting the region’s water supply, and is open to the public for hiking, fishing, trapping, cross-country skiing, hunting, and bird watching.

Without the collaborative efforts led by the Fund, vast tracks of land like this one would be at risk for development, forever changing our Northwoods landscape and quality of life. Nearly 76,000 acres have been protected in Wisconsin as part of the Fund’s Upper Midwest initiative. This work, accomplished in less than 10 years, is absolutely phenomenal.

The Conservation Fund will be recognized for the tremendous impact they are having in Wisconsin, as the Land Trust of the Year at Gathering Waters’ 12th annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!

Door County icons Roy & Charlotte Lukes, earn Lifetime Achievement Award

Roy and Charlotte Lukes are treasured Door and Kewaunee County naturalists and conservation icons. They have worked as a team for over 40 years educating countless children and adults on the wonders of the natural world and the tremendous importance of protecting Wisconsin’s wild places.

photo by Len Villano

The Lukes have been huge contributors to the Door County Peninsula’s educational curriculum, designed to help people better understand the area’s history, geology, plants, and wildlife.

Roy was the first Chief Naturalist and Manager of The Ridges Sanctuary, has written over 1600 nature essays for area newspapers, and five books on The Ridges, Toft Point and the flora and fauna of Door County. Charlotte has identified more than 550 species of mushrooms in Door County and is working on putting her information into a book. Together, they have led hundreds of hikes in Door County, early morning bird outings and workshops for residents and visitors. The Lukes have been huge contributors to the Door County Peninsula’s educational curriculum, designed to help people better understand the area’s history, geology, plants, and wildlife. In fact, in 2000, Roy and Charlotte founded the Friends of Toft Point, to help preserve and educate others about the Toft Point State Natural Area.

“One doesn’t have to look far to appreciate the wonderful conservation work that has occurred in Door County during the past couple of decades – and in almost every case (if not every case) Roy and Charlotte have had a positive influence on the people responsible for these accomplishments.” - Robert W. Howe, Ph.D., Professor, Natural & Applied Sciences (Biology) and Director, Cofrin Center for Biodiversity, U.W. Green Bay

The Lukes are certainly deserving of the Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award, which will be presented to them at Gathering Waters’ 12th annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!

2014: An Exciting, New Year

Hopefully your 2014 is off to an excellent start…. We at Gathering Waters are definitely looking forward to all that this new year has to offer— we’re launching our new and improved three-year strategic plan and it’s our 20th anniversary!

Here’s an overview of the great things we have planned this year:

In the public policy & advocacy arena:

  • Education, education, education! With the state budget coming up a year from now and the Gubernatorial election set for this fall, we’ll be working hard to make sure legislators know exactly how important it is that the Knowles Nelson Stewardship Program remains strong and that the Gubernatorial candidates are keenly aware of the important role land conservation and land trusts play in their communities.
  • Partnerships. The Healing Our Waters – Great Lakes Coalition  is accomplishing such great things, we’ll definitely continue working with them to ensure that local, state and federal officials continue to make Great Lakes restoration a priority.
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We’ll be working hard to ensure the best interests of our land trusts are being represented in the political arena.

Providing direct services & technical assistance:

  • Staying true. True to our core objective that is- to strengthen Wisconsin’s land trusts, ensuring that they have the resources, tools, and know-how to meet community needs and protect the places that make Wisconsin so special.
  • More partnerships. We will we bring land trusts together to create efficiencies through shared staff, pooled resources, and joint funding opportunities. We’ll also continue our work with the Lake Michigan Shorelands Alliance to help identify, protect, restore and manage lands that protect the water quality, wildlife habitats, and the scenic integrity of Wisconsin’s Lake Michigan Basin.
  • Retreat! Our annual Land Trust Retreat this October will offer an unparalleled opportunity for learning, networking, and fun among land trust peers and conservation experts from around the state.
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We’ll be doing all we can to ensure our land trusts have what they need, to meet community needs and protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

Spreading the good word:

  • Turn up the volume. You may not realize the extent of the value your local land trust brings to you and your loved ones. We’re going to do a better job of making sure you know.
  • Put it in writing. This fall, in honor of the twenty years we have been working to strengthen land trusts, we will be publishing a collection of stories, highlighting the many ways land trusts benefit Wisconsin’s collective health, economy and education.
  • Let’s Party! Our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration is happening September 26th. It’s definitely the place to be if you’re interested in Wisconsin land conservation. And on May 3rd, we’ll be honoring you and others who make it possible for us to continue Wisconsin’s incredible land legacy, at our annual Land Legacy Gathering. Better save the dates and grab your party shoes.
Table Bluff - July by Kate

We’ll be spreading the word of our land trusts’ successes and of the countless opportunities and benefits they provide.

As you can see, it’s going to be an incredible, busy year.  We’re looking forward to it and appreciate all of the feedback and help we can get. Feel free to shoot us an email with your thoughts or support the work we’re doing with a tax-deductible gift.  Cheers, to this wonderful new year!

Remembering Dr. Noel Cutright

We are saddened to report that Dr. Noel Cutright passed away peacefully on the evening of November 10, at his home outside West Bend, with his loving and devoted wife Kate at his bedside after they had spent the weekend with all three of their children.

We were honored to present Dr. Cutright with a Lifetime Achievement Award at our 2010 Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration.

In honor of his legacy, we would like to share this obituary, prepared by his family:

Noel Jefferson Cutright, 69, died Sunday night at his home in northern Ozaukee County. A well-known and beloved Wisconsin ornithologist, he devoted his life to bird conservation and citizen science. Twice president of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, he was the founder of the Riveredge Bird Club in Newburg and the Western Great Lakes Bird and Bat Observatory in Belgium. He was instrumental in the creation of the Bird City Wisconsin program. He was co-author and senior editor of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas.

Noel worked for WE Energies as senior terrestrial ecologist for 29 years until he retired in 2006. He continued to serve WE Energies in an emeritus position until the time of his death. He served on the boards of many non-profit environmental organizations like the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, Riveredge Nature Center, the Urban Ecology Center and the Mequon Nature Preserve. He recently retired as a board member and historian of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology.

He received numerous awards for his tireless work on bird conservation projects, including a Lifetime Award for Citizen-based Monitoring from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in 2007, Lifetime Achievement Award from Gathering Waters Conservancy in 2010, several achievement awards from the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology, the first annual Lorrie Otto Memorial Award from the Milwaukee Audubon Society in 2011, and a DNR Special Recognition award in 2013.

Noel was the only child of Harvey and Mabel Thomas Cutright, both deceased, of Hillsboro, Ohio. He grew up in southern Ohio on Fort Hill State Memorial, an Ohio State Historical Society property near Sinking Spring. He met botanists and ornithologists who did research in the park and he helped his father, who was the memorial’s superintendent, maintain the property. He attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio and was awarded master’s and PhD degrees from Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y.

Noel was an avid birder who loved introducing newcomers to the wonders of birding. He gave programs about bird and environmental issues to bird clubs around the state. He participated in hundreds of Christmas Bird Counts and federal Breeding Bird Surveys and served as Wisconsin coordinator of the Great Backyard Bird Count. He was best-known to many as one of the voices on Wisconsin Public Radio’s holiday call-in show about birds.

In presenting a recent award to Noel, DNR Lands Division Administrator Kurt Thiede honored his “outstanding service, leadership and passion for conserving Wisconsin’s bird populations and their habitats.” Added his WPR co-host, Bill Volkert: “The people of Wisconsin are certainly so much better informed about birds because of the work that Noel has done. And I have to say that I believe that the birds of Wisconsin are better off because of his contributions to both education of our wildlife resources and certainly the conservation of birds and their habitats in the state. He’s really made a mark on this state, and for that, all the bird watchers, the bird lovers and the birds themselves are thankful for all Noel has done for us.”

Noel is survived by his wife, Kate Redmond; his children, Robyn Cutright (Drew Meadows) of Lexington, Ky., Seth Cutright of Port Washington and Laurel Cutright of Milwaukee; Kate’s sisters, Molly Redmond (Steve Ring) of St Paul, Minn., Gail Redmond of Kennan; a nephew: Michael Ring (Flannery Clarke); first cousins, Mike (Ronnie) Zindorf, of Richmond, Va., Karen Fuson (Jim Hall) of California, Dede (Art) Agosta, of Scottsdale, Ariz., and John (Jan) Thomas, of Cincinnati, Ohio, and many wonderful friends in the birding community.

Dr. Cutright, you will be missed, but your memory and legacy will live on.


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.



Sustaining the Lifeblood of Our Great State: A Thank You to Dan Lemke

“Wisconsin’s forestlands are the lifeblood of our great state. They provide us with clean air and water, vital fish and wildlife habitat, countless recreational opportunities, and a supply of natural resources that boost our economy and create jobs.”


Congressman Mark Green (8th Congressional District) used these eloquent words to describe one of Dan Lemke’s signature land protection projects in Wisconsin.

Dan, Plum Creek’s Senior Land Asset Manager and one of our 2013 winners of the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation, shows not just a true commitment and dedication to growing and preserving Wisconsin’s forested lands but also a flexible and creative drive that makes him stand out in a crowd of eminent conservationists statewide. Some of Dan’s most notable conservation efforts include his work on a Wolf River conservation easement that permanently conserved 18,500 acres of working forest for recreational use and wildlife habitat and a Chippewa Flowage conservation easement that protected more than 18,000 acres of hardwood forest in Northern Wisconsin.

Dan has played a key role in the permanent protection of more than 60,000 acres of Wisconsin timberland.

Dan 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.  These unique conservation easements help to support Wisconsin’s two largest industries while conserving lands that have great value – whether for scenic, wildlife, or recreation.

Dan’s hard work has helped not just the forestry and tourism industry flourish, but transformed the northwoods into the beautiful and cherished gem that defines it today. His continued dedication to helping preserve important and valuable forest lands for generations to come is truly an asset and we thank him for his dedication.

Please join us in celebrating and honoring Dan’s many achievements at our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Ceremony on September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison, WI.

On behalf of Wisconsins farms, natural resources and ag economy: Thank you, Tom!

Tom Lyon, one of this year’s winners of the Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Land Preservation, has been dedicated to farmland protection for over 25 years.  Tom was a successful agribusiness leader who built a breeding cooperative in Shawano into an international success. Tom also served on the board of American Farmland Trust and remains a trusted advisor to this day. Through his efforts, American Farmland Trust re-established a presence in the state and raised tens of thousands of dollars to support that effort.

Tom was a visionary who saw the urgent need to preserve working lands and understood that they were a critical natural resource, fundamental to life itself and to the state’s most basic industry. He realized that the wasteful destruction of these lands would have grave consequences for our economy, society and environment and thus he began to work on a toolkit that would enhance Wisconsin’s farmland protection.

His work on this toolkit took place in a successful partnership with the namesake of this award, Rod Nilsestuen, which established the Working Lands Initiative and Purchase of Agricultural Easements (PACE) program. Together, they built the program from the ground up, seeking input from citizens all across the state at forums, workshops, and listening sessions. PACE has resulted in the protection of thousands of acres of working lands, helping to reduce the trend of rapid farmland losses throughout the state.

Tom continues to be active in farmland protection efforts, serving as a key member of the Friends of Farmland Protection Coalition, which was assembled by American Farmland Trust, and 1000 Friends of Wisconsin, a group that promotes wise land use.

Please join us in celebrating and honoring Tom’s many achievements at our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Ceremony on September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison, WI.

Giving a Voice to the Land for Over 50 Years

Howard & Nancy Mead, the winners of this year’s Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award, have been an active and abiding presence in Wisconsin’s conservation community for more than 50 years. As the publishers of ‘Wisconsin Trails’ from 1961 to 1998 they specialized in helping others tell their stories about special places and people in Wisconsin — which, in turn, that helped others to learn more about the land and how they might care for it.

Howard and Nancy on their 55th Aniversary

In addition to educating the public about the richness of Wisconsin’s resources and heritage through ‘Wisconsin Trails’ magazine, they have been extremely active in numerous conservation organizations throughout the state. Howard and Nancy were instrumental in the founding of the Sandy County Foundation, the Leopold Memorial Reserve, and the Aldo Leopold Nature Center and work closely with many other organizations (including serving on the board of GWC for many year!)

It has been said that on a good day, conservationists provide voices for the land itself. Howard and Nancy Mead have spent more than 50 years speaking for the land with eloquence, passion and commitment. They have given people the chance to form a bond with nature through the stories that they share and have been responsible for enlisting hundreds of citizens to the cause of conservation.

Please join us in celebrating and honoring the Meads’ many achievements at our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Ceremony on September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison, WI.

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