Archived entries for the Prairie Enthusiasts

Food, drinks, hiking, and land trusts: Is there a better way to spend a Saturday?

Each year, as we welcome another glorious Wisconsin spring, we invite you to our annual Land Legacy Gathering. This event is a celebration of the incredible impact that Wisconsin land trusts have on local communities, as well as all the ways those communities (you!) make it possible for us to continue Wisconsin’s incredible land legacy. It’s a celebration of the ways we are all making a difference, advancing the land trust movement locally and statewide.

Our event co-hosts: the Ice Age Trail Alliance and Chippewa County Land Conservancy, played a key role in the protection of the Krank Nature Preserve.

To make this year’s event extra special, we are partnering with land trusts throughout the northwest region of the state. Our 2014 co-hosts are the Chippewa County Land Conservancy (CCLC) and the Ice Age Trail Alliance (IATA). These two land trusts played a huge role in the protection of the Krank Nature Preserve (the beautiful location of this year’s event) through their collaborative efforts with a pair of landowners (Bernard & Beverly Krank), the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the National Park Service.

Chippewa County Land Conservancy’s mission is to preserve the scenic quality, rural character and natural landscape of Chippewa county. The Ice Age Trail Alliance’s mission is create, support and protect a thousand-mile footpath tracing Ice Age formations across Wisconsin- the Ice Age National Scenic Trail.  Because of these two land trusts’ hard work, dedication and collaboration, the Krank Nature Preserve is just one of many special places that will remain an undeveloped part of Wisconsin’s heritage, forever.

This event features a hike and reception on the Krank Nature Preserve.

Additional partners for this event are other land trusts that protect special places in Northwest Wisconsin, helping to grow healthy communities throughout the region:

  • Bayfield Regional Conservancy‘s mission is to protect the natural lands, waters, forests, farms and places of scenic, historic, and spiritual value in the Bayfield Region.
  • Kinnickinnic River Land Trust‘s mission is to work with the community to protect the natural resources and scenic beauty of the Kinnickinnic River watershed.
  • North Central Conservancy Trust‘s mission is to protect, worthy scenic, working lands and environmental resources for the benefit of the people of central Wisconsin.
  • Standing Cedars Community Land Trust‘s mission is to establish a farm and river greenway that can demonstrate a model for protecting and restoring field and forest, and supporting community life along the lower St. Croix River.
  • The Conservation Fund‘s mission is to save land for future generations.
  • The Prairie Enthusiasts‘s mission is to ensure the perpetuation and recovery of prairie, oak savanna, and other associated ecosystems of the Upper Midwest through protection, management, restoration, and education.
  • Trust for Public Land‘s mission is to bring land to people.
  • West Wisconsin Land Trust‘s mission is to promote land conservation of family farms, forests, wetlands, rivers, lake shores, bluffs and prairies in Wisconsin.

    Let’s gather to grow the community of people protecting the places that make Wisconsin special!

More information about this event is available on our website. Space is limited, so if you’re interested in attending, please be sure to RSVP by April 28. We hope you’ll make plans to join us as we gather to grow the community of people protecting the places that make Wisconsin special.

It Starts With YOU: Our Thanks to George Varnum

As we enter the season of giving we’re touched by the many ways that individuals have cared for the land. Indeed, we’re grateful that so many participate in this work with us — Land conservation starts with YOU.

As is the case with the recently celebrated George Varnum, a landowner who has worked to protect his land for decades, it starts from the ground-level.  Back in the 1990s, Varnum began the process of documenting all the unique plant species on the 61-acre property near his home. He started to reach out to the community in 1997 about this special piece of prairie and this led to efforts by the Mississippi Valley Conservancy to preserve the property.

Thanks to George Varnum for playing a key role in protecting such a special place in his community. Photo by Dave Skoloda.

Thanks to George Varnum for playing a key role in protecting this special place in his community. Photo by Dave Skoloda.

Today the town of Holland owns the property and Mississippi Valley Conservancy holds a conservation easement on it, meaning it will stay as it stands today for future generations. Now and forever, the prairie is open for the public to enjoy.

Holland Sand Prairie

Holland Sand Prairie

Varnum recently received a plaque for his role in prairie preservation. The plaque says Varnum, “helped care for the property. Mississippi Valley Conservancy and the Friends of the Holland Sand Prairie share in thanking George for the important role he played on behalf of the prairie and its hundreds of species and the people who now enjoy them in any season, forever preserved.”

We’re grateful for community leaders like George Varnum who take notice of critical habitats for wildlife and plants, develop partnerships, and assist in preserving these places for future generations to enjoy.

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.



Your 2013 Land Trust of the Year

As this year’s Land Trust of the Year, The Prairie Enthusiasts (TPE) have truly earned their title. They have ensured the perpetuation and recovery of nearly 4,000 acres of native prairie, oak savanna and other associated ecosystems of the Upper Midwest through protection, restoration, management and education. Since TPE’s incorporation in 1987 when they purchased their first 13 acre property, TPE has closed countless projects and permanently protected thousands of acres of land.

TPE employs a strong grassroots approach throughout multiple states, working openly & cooperatively with private landowners and other private and public conservation groups, to carry out its mission. The structure of TPE’s chapters allows for local decision-making and priority-setting, which perpetuates its member-strong initiative. Their cooperative action with groups such as the WI DNR, US Fish & Wildlife Service, The Nature Conservancy, as well as many others, helps them to stretch their mission to its limits and expand their reach to help communities and protect places that may not have been protected otherwise.

In addition to recognizing TPE, we are extending a special nod to Rich Henderson for his inspiring commitment and contributions to the organization. As one of the founding members of TPE, Rich has served in nearly every role on the Board of Directors and has served as President for nearly a decade. Rich has been instrumental in TPE’s development and has touched the souls of conservation-minded citizens across the Midwest.

Rich Henderson at a 2007 dedication ceremony for Schurch-Thomson Prairie.


Please join us as we honor The Prairie Enthusiasts’ many achievements at our annual Land Conservation Leadership Awards Celebration from 5:30 to 8:30 on September 26th at the Monona Terrace in Madison.

LEAPing on Over to Rally

GWC is proud to announce that we’ve awarded scholarships to eight of our land trust members to attend Rally, 2011, the national land trust conference in Milwaukee this fall.

The land trusts receiving scholarships include:

We’re awarding these scholarships as part of our commitment to making land trusts stronger through the Land Trust Excellence & Advancement Program (LEAP).  These scholarships have been awarded through our LEAP universally-available services.  We’re also working on customized services with six land trusts right now and plan to bring more into the program later this year.

Now more than ever we’re committed to standards of excellence in land trust work.  Click through to support our efforts to help land trusts protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

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.

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