Gathering Waters Land Trust Membership: Celebrating 30 Years

A forest of trees with text overlaid in a green box about Gathering Waters Land Trust Membership.

2024 marks an exciting milestone—Gathering Waters’ 30th anniversary! A lot has changed over the last three decades, but our mission has remained a constant: we help land trusts, landowners, and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

As a statewide alliance, Gathering Waters supports Wisconsin’s 40+ land trusts through our membership program. Our member land trusts make a critical difference in protecting Wisconsin’s special places. Together, we can accelerate the pace and scale of land conservation, adapt to emerging challenges, and defend against threats to lasting land conservation.

In 2024, your land trust’s organizational membership will support these priority initiatives.

  • Training & networking: We start the year with a series of Winter Workshops for land trust staff and board members. Sessions include: leveraging GIS tools for conservation planning, using the Wisconsin model conservation easement, and developing an action plan for diversity, equity, and inclusion. In February, we are launching a risk management program designed to help land trusts face inevitable uncertainties. Throughout the year, we foster connections across the land trust community through monthly online peer conversations.

  • Advocacy for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program & exploring alternative forms of conservation funding: The Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program remains Wisconsin’s best source of conservation funding. This year, we will be gearing up for the next state budget debate in early 2025, which will include a reauthorization of the Stewardship Program. We’ll work closely with the Governor’s office to develop a robust reauthorization proposal, and will continue to push for meaningful reforms to the grant-making process. We’ll also build on previous research about alternative forms of conservation funding to determine what other options may be practical and politically feasible in Wisconsin.

  • Legal expertise and assistance: The Land Conservation Law Program, heading into its second year, will continue to offer legal services directly to Wisconsin land trusts. New in 2024, we will present a series of trainings, including Continuing Legal Education courses for attorneys on conservation-related practices designed to broaden the field of attorneys and other professionals familiar with land conservation law.

  • GIS tools & resources: Access to the GIS database of land trust holdings is a benefit available to all land trust members. We also recently rolled out a GIS decision support tool that can provide insights about property portfolios and inform priorities for future acquisitions. This year, we’ll release an updated version of the tool with more data, even better filters, and an improved user interface.

Thank you to all of our member land trusts for your contributions and commitment, and for all you do day-in and day-out. We are grateful and honored to be your partners in land conservation.

If your land trust is not already a member, we hope you consider joining our community! Visit our Land Trust Membership page to learn more.

For information on these initiatives, or questions about membership, contact Meg Domroese.