Ben Niemann: Winner of the 2019 Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award

An older white man with white hair and mustache sitting at a table.

Ben Niemann of Sawyer County has been improving conservation practices and outcomes in Wisconsin for over 50 years. He was a true pioneer in using technology to guide conservation decision-making. Using his background as a landscape architect and as Director of the Land Information and Computer Graphic Facility (LICGF), Niemann harnessed the power of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) to make informed decisions about land use, planning, and conservation. The application of these technologies has preserved innumerable acres throughout the state, including his most notable project, the establishment of the Lower Wisconsin Riverway. For these efforts, Ben was named the 2019 Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award by Gathering Waters.

Since 1964, Ben has spent his career as a professor of the Department of Landscape Architecture and the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Over decades of teaching new generations of conservationists through the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies and UW Cooperative Extension, he has made very significant contributions to both practices and policies that support land conservation. Leaders who learned from Ben can be found throughout local, state, and national government and in industry. Influenced by him, they now share land resource information and use geospatial information to make sound environmental management decisions. In this way, Ben Niemann created a land conservation legacy that stretches far beyond his classroom.

Ben’s life has been overwhelmingly marked by a passion for putting theory into practice. His efforts to establish the Wisconsin Land Information Program (WLIP), which provides public access to natural resource data, now generates over $13 million annually in public funding to Wisconsin counties for the modernization of local land records. Ben has represented the public interest by protecting natural areas in his roles on the public projects like the Sawyer County Land Information Program and Town of Round Lake Comprehensive Land Use Plan. He has also worked privately to protect our natural places as he did in his role as a Board Member of the Couderay Waters Regional Land Trust when he, with Citizen Planners, helped to secure a DNR Grant for the Moose Lake Legacy Initiative.

An essential part of Ben’s conservation legacy has been his incredible work/life relationship with his wife and colleague, Sondra (Sue) Niemann. Sue was an editor of the Wisconsin Land Information Association’s Land Records Quarterly. Together she and Ben co-authored reports and books. Ben and Sue live on Moose Lake with Drake, their Wirehaired Pointing Griffon, where they collectively pursue the lake’s walleyes and muskies in addition to its waterfowl and searching wild rice on neighboring rivers and Ruffed Grouse in the adjacent public forests. They also enjoy snowshoeing across the lake and forests as well as canoeing, sculling, and kayaking on their lake and its neighboring public trust waters.

Ben will receive the 2019 Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award at Gathering Waters’ Land Conservation Leadership Award Celebration at the Monona Terrace in Madison, Wisconsin on September 26, 2019.