2023 Wisconsin Land Trust Highlights

Graphic with a blue snowflake border and text "2023 Year in Review"

Here are some of our highlights of the year at Gathering Waters. 

In celebration of what Wisconsin land trusts can accomplish together, we offer these with thanks and best wishes for 2024!

Land trusts gathered online and in-person for learning and networking in the winter and spring.
Winter Webinars convened more than 100 participants to learn about: using mapping tools to prioritize land protection and management, communicating land trust finances, and exploring strategic partnerships and mergers. In May, more than 70 land trust professionals and volunteers met in La Crosse for the Wisconsin Land Trust Conference. The program included: leadership skills, conservation funding, fundraising, criteria for land acquisition, GIS tools for conservation planning, community engagement, and improving access and belonging in the outdoors. There was also plenty of networking and fun!

The GIS Decision Support Tool went statewide in June.
It started with a comprehensive database of land trust holdings in Wisconsin and an easy-to-use interactive viewer. From there, Gathering Waters developed a sophisticated GIS Decision Support Tool land trusts can use to identify potential conservation lands, to evaluate current holdings through robust conservation lenses, or simply to explore a wealth of conservation data organized for easy use. Take a closer look and stay tuned for more data, even better filters, and an improved interface—in response to land trust feedback.

The Land Conservation Law Program celebrated one year in July.
The program provides legal services directly to Wisconsin land trusts with a subscription-based hotline to answer conservation transaction questions, as well as a menu of legal services, such as conservation easement drafting and title review. In 2023, land trusts sought advice on dozens of issues to bolster the strength of conservation agreements. 

Gathering Waters launched a new website over the summer.
The new design features a section focused on Wisconsin land trusts—with information for and about land trusts—as well as sections devoted to advocacy and ways to support conservation. People interested in land conservation can search for a land trust and find a list of our favorite places. We also post jobs land trusts are hiring for, the latest land trust news, and cross-share information about land trust events. In addition, we have information specifically for land trusts, including details about membership and resources for land trust staff and board members.

This year marked our biggest and best Land Trust Days celebration to date.
We are so inspired by our land trust members and their creativity. In 2023, 21 land trusts hosted 43 events during the sixth annual Land Trust Days, which officially expanded to three months from July to September! Read the highlights in this blog article.

Knowles-Nelson goes to court.
Because of advocates like you, and all of our Team Knowles Nelson partners, the Stewardship Program will have its day in court. At the end of October, Governor Evers sued the Wisconsin Legislature for violating the constitution by refusing to release Knowles-Nelson funds. Thank you for making your voice heard! If the Supreme Court agrees to take the case, we’ll be ready with materials for the court that detail how the broken review process has stymied good conservation efforts for years.

We celebrated land conservation leaders.
Gathering Waters presented six Land Conservation Leadership Awards this year throughout the summer and fall. We love this opportunity to celebrate conservation leaders and share success stories in the land trust community.

Land trusts show up for each other all year long!
Land trust work has its unique challenges, but Wisconsin land trusts don’t go it alone. Meeting monthly via Zoom with folks in similar roles, land trust staff take it to heart that everyone has something to share and something to learn. And that makes our community stronger from leadership to land protection and stewardship, to communications and fundraising, and operations and finance.