Gathering Waters: The Meaning Behind the Name

Wisconsin boasts miles of miles of beaches, soaring bluffs, and acres of ancient forests. The state was shaped by the world’s largest freshwater ecosystems, the mighty Mississippi and the last great glacial retreat.

In short, Wisconsin’s unique landscape is defined by water.

So in 1994, when it came time to choose a name for a new organization that would work to protect Wisconsin’s land and water, our founders sought to poetically reference the special place in which we would work. Since “Gathering of the Waters” was one of the meanings attributed to the word Wisconsin, they named there land conservation organization Gathering Waters Conservancy.

As our 20-year-milestone approached, we took a critical look at the way this organization has evolved from a land trust to an organization providing services to strengthen land trusts. While Gathering Waters became common place in the vocabulary of many conservationists across Wisconsin and the U.S., the word “Conservancy” became a misnomer, since the organization no longer directly protected land.

That left “Gathering Waters.” While the name was poetic and paid tribute to the organization’s roots, it was not descriptive and created confusion about our role in land and water protection.

On the 20th anniversary of the nonprofits incorporation as a 501(c)3 organization, leadership announced a small name change with major significance. Gathering Waters Conservancy became Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts.

As a service organization, Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts exists to help land trusts, land owners, and communities protect the places that make Wisconsin special.

The new name does not change any of the services we provide, but it helps define who we are and opens the door to more connections to the people who care about the places that make Wisconsin special.