Archived entries for The Nature Conservancy

Matt Dallman, 2014 Conservationist of the Year

Matt Dallman of Minocqua, has consistently demonstrated outstanding conservation leadership, ideas, and commitment to partnership. As The Nature Conservancy’s Director of Conservation for Northern Wisconsin, he has worked effectively and cooperatively with many groups, including local land trusts, and has a reputation for navigating challenging and divisive issues among stakeholders in a manner that respects everyone, while never deviating from his core principals and objectives. His experience and collective approach to solving difficult challenges has helped protect Wisconsin’s forests, countless special places, and many tens of thousands of acres. Matt’s focus on ensuring this state’s natural resources are managed in a way that will leave them in good shape for tomorrow, combined with his steadfast approach to finding solutions that benefit both people and nature has made an incredible impact.


Matt Dallman’s experience and collective approach to solving difficult challenges has helped protect Wisconsin’s forests, countless special places, and many tens of thousands of acres.

Included in the many tens of thousands of acres he’s helped to protect, over 80,000 of them are working forests. These forests will provide jobs and other economic benefits, protect wildlife habitat, as well as air & water resources, and provide countless opportunities for public enjoyment. The results of Matt’s long-time efforts have been exceptional and have left a truly lasting legacy of important lands throughout northern Wisconsin, conserved for all future generations.

But Matt is known for more than just his incredible conservation achievements. Those who know him and have worked with him herald a similar praise regarding his character:

“Simply put there are few people who work as tirelessly and humbly to protect and preserve the natural places that make Wisconsin special. His integrity, commitment, and skills are unrivaled. Most remarkably, Matt manages to navigate extremely challenging and highly divisive issues among diverse stakeholders in a manner that respects all the players, while never deviating from his core principles and objectives.” (Tia Nelson, Executive Secretary, Board of Commissioners of Public Lands.)

For all of these reasons and more, Gathering Waters is thrilled to honor Matt Dallman with a Conservationist of the Year Award, on September 25th, at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Find out more about this event or RSVP on our website!

One Heckuva (True) Fish Tale

Protected Land, Healthy Water, Happy Fish….

Each year Wisconsin’s Northern Pike begin an annual migration to reach their spawning grounds in temporary shallow wetlands. This fascinating pilgrimage is not new, but the challenges pike face along the way certainly are.

Our partners at Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust are helping pike get to prime spawning areas as wetlands are drained and converted to other uses.

As wetlands are being drained and converted for other uses and streams are bisected by road crossings–sometimes blocking this migration–Northeast Wisconsin Land Trust (NEWLT) is ensuring that these amazing creatures reach their spawning grounds. Last year, NEWLT purchased 34 acres of ephemeral wetland property along Green Bay’s west shore that plays a critical role in the area’s pike migration.

Now when adult pike leave the waters of Green Bay, they swim up these and other tributary streams to find places to lay and fertilize eggs. Once hatched, pike fry also spend time in these wetlands growing strong before beginning their journey back to Green Bay. Pike spawning is a short-lived, almost magical, event to witness.

This new preserve is now open to the public and thanks to NEWLT and partners that include The Nature Conservancy, public agencies, foundations, and local residents, we can all enjoy the magic of pike spawning–and the benefits it provides our  communities– for years to come.

This fish tale is just one of the inspiring stories that will be featured in our Fall edition of our newsletter, Crosscurrents, highlighting the important work land trusts are doing throughout the state, fulfilling needs and enriching their communities! Keep your eyes open for the newsletter, coming this November.

Stewardship begets salamanders, clean water

A special thank you to John Torinus, who so eloquently states the importance of the Stewardship Program in this post, which originally appeared on his blog,

“Doctor Herp” called about 6 p.m. on a cold and rainy night recently and asked if we wanted to check out salamander matings in an ephemeral pond on a choice piece of Kettle Moraine land.

I declined and headed for the hot tub, but my wife Kine, educated as a biologist and a hugger of all species, said yes. She donned her waders and joined Gary Casper, the state’s best-known herpetologist, for what they considered an ideal outing.

They happily reported that the wet spring had a positive effect on biological processes and that there will be an abundance of small herptiles later in the season.

Of note, the property is owned by the Cedar Lake Conservation Foundation and was purchased with a grant from the Wisconsin Stewardship Fund. Critics of conservation efforts may sneer at the preservation of friendly environs for salamanders, but they are misguided. If the salamanders, toads and frogs are in trouble, we are in trouble, too.

Let us count the ways that preserved lands and the Stewardship Fund make a difference in our lives:

• Hundreds of cross country skiers use the same land east of Big Cedar Lake during the winter months on trails groomed by volunteers from the Fox Hill Nordic Ski Club. They make for a healthier community.

• Even more hikers, birders and dog walkers use the trails in the other three seasons. Open access is guaranteed under Stewardship rules.

• The ephemeral ponds allow for slow absorption of rain and snow melt back into the underlying aquifers and filter the run-off to Cedar Creek, the Milwaukee River and eventually Lake Michigan. Those would be our drinking waters.

• Any absorption upstream reduces flooding downstream.

• The lands surround Fox Hill, one of the finest kames in the Kettle Moraine, thus protecting its scenic contribution to our county.

This encounter with the salamanders may not seem pivotal in the grand affairs of mankind, but it embodies some larger issues that we need to be thinking about. And it is a timely issue because a group of accounting types in the Republican Part have raised the possibility of deleting all the funds for the Stewardship program.

The fund, which was created by bipartisan cooperation between Democratic Gov. Gaylord Nelson and Republican Gov. Warren Knowles, has spawned the creation of 55 land trusts in Wisconsin. These trusts, along with other organizations like Trout Unlimited, Pheasants Forever and The Nature Conservancy, have been providing the matching funds to protect lands that can be used for hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing and all manner of recreation.

One of the most active has been the Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, which has protected more than 5000 acres, much of it along the banks of the Milwaukee River. Along with funds for absorption areas from the Department of Natural Resources and the Metropolitan Milwaukee Sewer District, Stewardship dollars have mitigated downstream flooding. That indirectly helps to cut raw sewage outflows into Lake Michigan.

The Republicans cut the funding for Stewardship from $83 million to $60 million for the very tight 2011-2013 budget. It was necessary because of the huge deficit entering that biennium. But the economy is stumbling to higher ground, so the austerity argument no longer applies. (In comparison, the Republicans in Madison are dumping more than $600 million in new dollars into the under-managed Medicaid program.)

Meanwhile, we’re not doing so hot when it comes to protecting our natural resources. West Bend is down to 700 feet for drinking water; it was 50 feet in the old days. Germantown is drilling down to 1200 feet. And Waukesha’s wells are sucking radon. A lot of municipalities are considering a default to Lake Michigan water.
Lake Michigan levels are at all time lows.

And Milwaukee Riverkeepers gave the Milwaukee River Basin a Grade “D.”

Here’s are pieces of the assessment: “Generally, turbidity readings in the two watersheds (Kinnickinnic and Menomonee) were very poor; dissolved oxygen and chloride grades were only mediocre; and both received failing grades for phosphorous, conductivity and indicators of bacteria.”

As for the Washington County parts of the assessment, “The Milwaukee River Watershed, consisting of the North Branch, East and West Branch and South Branch watersheds. as well as the Cedar Creek sub-watershed, dropped from a B- to a C in 2011. “ Some of the metrics were OK, but the whole watershed received an “F” for conductivity, phosphorous and bacteria.
Filtration helps all of those issues, which is why the land trusts have been accepting easements and buying lands along the riverbanks.

I have always had a hard time figuring out why conservatives in the GOP have gone anti-conservation. Conserving valuable resources, like our drinking and recreational waters, is a conservative thing to do. It should be looked at as an investment, not spending.

Conservation is also good politics. All polls show that a large majority of Americans, including hunters and anglers, are pro-conservation.

The GOP shouldn’t let short-sighted accountants drive the bus.

Can City-Dwellers Be Conservationists?

Does living in a city mean you’re less connected to the natural world? A scientist from The Nature Conservancy tackled this question recently on TNC’s website feature, ‘Ask the Conservationist’:

Rob McDonald, the Nature Conservancy’s senior scientist for sustainable land use, explored the question as to whether or not city-dwellers can be conservationists and how connected a person can be with the natural world if they do not experience it often.

“The key is making sure that every child has at least some formative experience in nature.”

Surely city-dwellers realize the benefits of nature - fresh air, clean water - but do they realize exactly where their food comes from? They most likely have less knowledge about how a forest system works  than a logger does, but does that mean that they don’t care?

History suggests otherwise; the major victories for the environmental movement - The Clean Water Act, The Clean Air Act, The Endangered Species Act, The Montreal Protocol - were all advocated for primarily by city-dwellers. People living in urban areas realize that their cities need nature to thrive and that protecting the environment is in their own best interest.

However, recent evidence suggests that having valuable experiences with nature is correlated to caring about the environment.

How can conservationists make sure that city-dwellers end up caring about the environment?  The Nature Conservancy says that “the key is making sure that every child has at least some formative experience in nature”.

This is where Gathering Waters Conservancy and Wisconsin’s land trusts fit in: The more places we protect and make available to adults and kids, the more opportunities we can provide to connect people and nature.

What do you think?  Let us know here.

Post-Election Rundown

With the November elections behind us, we’re now focused on the upcoming state budget process here in Wisconsin and several important issues in Congress.  We will continue our non-partisan approach to our public policy work, reaching out and connecting land trusts with elected officials across the political spectrum.

One notable take-away from the recent elections is that conservation continues to be a high priority for citizens across the country, with 46 of 57 conservation-related ballot measures passing nationwide (an 81 percent success rate).  Through these measures, communities across the country approved more than $2 billion in conservation funding.

At the state level, we’ve been preparing for the next state budget process, which will formally begin with the release of the Governor’s Executive Budget proposal in January.  According to the Wisconsin Department of Administration, the state begins the 2013 fiscal year with a $342.1million surplus which is the largest opening balance since fiscal year 2000-01.

We are focused on our two top priorities – the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program and the statewide Purchase of Agricultural Conservation Easement (PACE) Program.  The Stewardship Program is authorized at $60 million annually through 2020, and we will be working with the Governor’s office, the Department of Natural Resources, and leadership in the Legislature to maintain this funding and to ensure that the program operates efficiently, and with the utmost transparency and accountability.  The Stewardship Program continues to be strongly supported by the public and provides direct support to the state’s tourism and forestry sectors, while enhancing the quality of life in communities throughout the state.

The statewide PACE program remains on the books but is currently unfunded and we are partnering with the American Farmland Trust and a broad Friends of Farmland Protection coalition to advocate for the program and identify possible sources for future funding.  Early this year, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection released a PACE Evaluation Report, which provides a good basis for stream-lining and improving the program.

On the federal front, we are currently in a 45-day sprint to renew the enhanced tax incentive for the donation of easements and to pass the Farm Bill before Congress adjourns.  We’ve been working with partners like the Nature Conservancy, the Land Trust Alliance, and land trusts throughout the Great Lakes region to move these important conservation priorities forward.  Learn more.

As the negotiations on the “fiscal cliff” begin to ramp up, we’ve also been hearing that Congress may be looking to cap charitable deductions.  This issue is much larger than land trusts and would impact the broader nonprofit community nationwide, but it could have a very real impact on our work.  Learn more.

Please contact your elected officials to tell them how important these issues are for your organization and your community.  Here is contact information for state officials and for Wisconsin members of the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate.

Stay tuned to the Conservation Policy section of our website for further updates.

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!


Preserving the Northwoods in Forest County

A strong, supported Stewardship Fund is one of Gathering Waters Conservancy’s most important policy priorities.  And now one of Wisconsin’s leading manufacturers has used the Stewardship Fund to permanently protect thousands of acres in Forest County. Working with The Nature Conservancy, the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest and the State of Wisconsin, Connor Timber & Associates has reached a deal that will protect more than 19,000 acres of working forestland outside of Laona, WI.

Since 1872, Connor Timber & Associates has owned the forest tract that includes much of the shoreline of Lake Riley and Lake Wabikon.  Because the Connors never clear cut their forest, choosing selective harvesting and sustainable forest management practices instead, the forest has supported the lumber and hardwood industries in Wisconsin for more than 100 years.

Today, the forests of the Wabikon Waters & Woodlands Preserve support more than 200 jobs at Nicolet Hardwood and WD Flooring.  Using $8 million from the Stewardship Fund, the State of Wisconsin was able to purchase a working forest conservation easement from Connor Timber.  This easement will sustain the more than 200 independent loggers who work the forest.  It will also ensure lumber for companies like WD Flooring, which has produced more than 12 million board feet of flooring from lumber taken from the forest.

Use of the Stewardship Fund will open the land to the public for birders, hunters, bikers, anglers, and campers.  While industry will continue to benefit from the natural resources protected by this deal, Wisconsinites will now be able to capitalize on the 15 wild lakes, 16 river segments, and abundant wildlife habitat newly opened to public.

Nicolet Hardwoods’ Woodlands Manager, Steve Guthrie, praised the project and emphasized the need for continued support of the Stewardship Fund, saying “It’s critical that we see [Stewardship] funding continue through the Legislature.  There’s always pressure to balance State budgets & I don’t think there’s a better use for State money than to see these resources conserved.”

For more on the project, listen to WPR’s excellent piece.

Some New Usual Suspects

Thankfully, there was plenty dessert

To all those of you who attended, thanks for helping make the 2010 Land Conservation Leadership Awards event the biggest yet!

When you coincidentally give three awards to Madison area honorees at a Madison-held event, turns out you draw a pretty big crowd.  We had to order more food! We maxed out the room! Those are good problems to have.

It also happens, when you throw a party for conservation leaders in Wisconsin, that the room is full of  a tightly woven community of people who work together regularly, have served on the same boards, have been employed by two, even three organizations represented in the room.

Evan Eifler, the photographer, and Gene Roark, a Lifetime Achievement Award Winner

It might feel, to some, as if land conservation is the project of just a few usual suspects doing the same things they’ve done together for years.  Our party was a festive reminder that the conservation movement is populated by some leaders with long careers yet ahead.

This year we held a photo contest.  Early this summer, we joined a high school field trip to Lulu Lake Preserve, and encouraged those students to enter.  One of them did, and he won, and his photo became the award we gave our Lifetime Achievement Honorees.  Evan Eifler, now a UW-Madison Conservation Biology major, has been an intern for The Nature Conservancy chapter that our Awardee Gene Roark helped found.

Perhaps Evan will be the 2061 Lifetime Achievement Award Winner, himself?

Our Policy Maker of the Year Alderman Nik Kovac passed comprehensive river protection legislation as a freshman member of Milwaukee’s Common Council.  As his photo reveals (he’s the one on the right), he’s, how should we say this…young! He  has years of conservation leadership ahead before it will be fitting to nominate him for his lifetime of conservation achievement.

Some of the Milwaukee River Work Group with Nik Kovac, the 2010 Policy Maker of the Year

Our newsletter will be out soon with more detail about all five award winners.

It’s not too early to nominate winners- both young and, um… wise - for the 2011 Land Conservation Leadership Awards.  If you’ve got ideas, email [email protected]

And Save the Date.  The 2011 Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration will be Thursday, September 29th.

Envelope Please….

… and the winners are:

Congratulations to the 2010 Land Conservation Leadership Award Winners! Now in its 8th year, GWC’s annual awards honor Wisconsin’s most influential and inspiring individuals, policy makers and land trusts that are working to protect the state’s most valuable land resources.

Here is this year’s outstanding cast of awardees:

Land Trust of the Year: Natural Heritage Land Trust

In a region with dynamic boundaries between urban, suburban and rural places, NHLT has been a strategic champion of critical watersheds, an innovator for farmland preservation, and a respected partner of federal, state and local agencies alike. NHLT has become a model and mentor for land trusts statewide.

Policy Maker of the Year: Alderman Nik Kovac

Alderman Kovac is a determined leader, whose accomplishments include passing one of the strongest urban river conservation laws in the country. A freshman member of Milwaukee’s Common Council, he deftly championed the agenda of the Milwaukee River Work Group to protect 800 acres of greenway in the heart of Wisconsin’s largest urban center.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Dr. Noel Cutright

A legendary citizen scientist, Dr. Cutright has made notable contributions to land conservation through his achievements as an ornithologist. As an Ecosystem Manager for We Energies and a renowned ornithologist, Dr. Cutright has raised both awareness and thousands of dollars for bird habitat protection in Wisconsin.

Lifetime Achievement Award: Gene Roark

Gene’s environmental protection and land conservation leadership in Wisconsin spans 60 years and has touched dozens of organizations. Roark helped found the Wisconsin office of the Nature Conservancy, and has served countless other organizations, including: Dane County Conservation League, Wisconsin Wetlands Association, Wisconsin Woodland Owners Association and the Natural Heritage Land Trust.

Harold “Bud” Jordahl Award: The Baraboo Range - Highway 12 Preservation Team

This partnership of non-profit land trusts, two counties, and the DNR leveraged $5,000,000 from the Department of Transportation to permanently protect 13,000 acres of a globally unique landscape—one of the most creative and successful cooperative conservation efforts in the state.

We will celebrate these honorees at our annual Leadership Awards Celebration on Thursday, September 30, 5:30pm-8:30pm at the Monona Terrace in Madison. Care to join us? RSVP by September 24!

In the Company of Future Conservation Hall of Fame Inductees

I had a meeting “in the field” scheduled the day of Bud Jordahl’s memorial service.  I contemplated cancelling it, since I would have liked to sit among Bud’s admirers and be reminded of him. But the more I thought about it, the more I thought Bud would approve of my previous engagement and encourage me not to change my plans.

My “meeting” was with a high school environmental science class touring the Lulu Lake Preserve.  Anyone concerned about Nature Deficit Disorder among Wisconsin youth can be reassured that at least a few teenagers in Wales, WI are outside and loving it.

This is Cathy Chybowski

These are some of her students

The first portion of the Lulu Lake Preserve was purchased by the Nature Conservancy in 1986.  Thanks to the Conservancy, the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Fund and several surrounding private landowners, the preserve today includes the lake and surrounding 1,450 acres.

Students from Kettle Moraine High School AP Environmental Science (aka APES) visit Lulu Lake every fall to sample water quality near the headwaters of the Mukwonago River, collect prairie seed and study the ecology of bogs, fens and oak savannahs. Many of them return as volunteer invasives warriors during winter months.  Then, in the spring, after the AP test is over, they come back to Lulu Lake for a sort of victory lap field day.

That’s when we (myself and Gathering Waters’ intern Val Klessig) joined them.  In four hours, here’s some of what Mrs. Chybowski and APES students taught us:

  • That during the last glaciation, a block of ice broke off a main glacier, melted and formed a kettle that is now Lulu Lake.
  • Because of the geology and hydrology, there is an unusual combination of plant communities thriving here, including nearly 70 acres of oak savanna, one of the most endangered native plant communities on the continent.
  • A fen is a wetland fed from groundwater and the surrounding watershed, while a bog receives its water from the top-down, mostly as rainwater.  Fens are alkaline, bogs acidic, so the plant communities in each are pretty different.
  • A turtle with a bright yellow throat is a Blanding’s turtle, not a painted turtle.
  • At the time of our visit, robins had already fledged one brood and were laying the next set of eggs of the spring.
  • If you pick it early enough, garlic mustard makes a reasonably tasty pesto.

And even though these kids DID all just study for the AP Environmental Science exam, they weren’t just parroting test-prep facts.  They know this stuff.  And they like it.

We stopped often as excited kids announced bird sightings (I’m a birding novice, and this group of teenagers showed me: a bluebird, rose-breasted grosbeak, an oriel and a migrating warbler).

Garret, a hunter and avid outdoorsman ,was the first to spot a deer across the bog before it bolted.  He told me,  “this class is so cool…It makes you aware of all the things going on, good and bad, …and it’s up to you if want to take action or not.”

We met Tori, who said she’s not planning on any sort of science major in college, but that she wants to continue promoting good stewardship, maybe by joining an environmental club.  She was candid about what she doesn’t like about Lulu Lake:  “ticks, I really don’t like ticks. … but everything else is amazing, … and Mrs. Chybowski is so informed about everything, it makes it ten times more incredible.”

From just a few hours watching her interact with her students (admittedly, a scientifically small sample size), we’re ready to confirm that Cathy Chybowski is an extraordinary teacher.

Lulu Lake, she pointed out, is only 30 minutes from their school and a gem—almost unique in the world.  Even so, without a little encouragement  (like a required field trip), her students might never know it was there.  “… They would never choose to go out on their own, and if they have not had experiences as a family to expose them to the outdoors and the really neat things out here, by the time they get to high school they don’t have sensitivity for those things, it’s a challenge to show them and help them appreciate what’s here. Because it’s the appreciation that leads to environmental sensitivity, and sensitivity, of course, is what we need.”

I believe her that fostering environmental interest among busy teenagers is a challenge, but it’s one Mrs. Chybowski seems to have overcome handily.  She’s exceeded it, really.  In addition to current APES students, a handful of alum come back to the Lulu trip each year, on what’s become a kind of annual pilgrimage.

Mrs. Chybowski and Evan, an APES alum

Current and former students were unanimous:  Mrs. Chybowski makes APES one of the best classes of their lives.  Jenna, now a UW-Madison freshman, laughed and told me, “Oh, Mrs. Chybowski will never admit it but she’s the most amazing woman in the entire world, and she is so modest but she inspires so many people I know.  I’ve always had an interest in the environment but taking APES has just made me want to continue with that, and Mrs. Chybowski is a huge, huge reason why.”

Jenna’s got her sights on environmental law, but she’s going to spend the summer restoring wetlands in New Orleans where damage from Katrina caused saltwater infiltration into freshwater systems.

Evan, another alum and avid birder, interned at Lulu Lake last year and this year is working on a grassland bird research project through UW.  He’s a Conservation Biology and Botany major at and is certain that he’s headed for a conservation career somehow.

Megan, also an alum, said she is still deciding between Microbiology and Zoology.  If it weren’t for this class, she said, she probably would not have chosen a science field at all.

When I commended her on her fledged alum, Mrs. Chybowski was humble.  “Our future land stewards have to come from some place, and whether these people go on in some environmental or natural resource career really doesn’t matter to me, what matters is that I know they will have some sensitivity for the environment through these experiences at Lulu.”

Students paddling up the Mukwonago

Not every one of Cathy Chybowski’s APES graduates will become conservation biologists, environmental advocates or champion green lawmakers, but it’s easy to be optimistic that they’ll all carry with them a sense of stewardship that their teacher and Lulu Lake helped define.   Maybe one of them will someday fill Bud Jordahl’s shoes, and we’ll all have people like Mrs. Chybowski, great land trusts like The Nature Conservancy, and the extraordinary places they protect, like Lulu Lake, to thank.

— posted by Pam Foster Felt

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