Land Conservation Leadership Award Winners Honored in 2021

Photo collage of the 2021 Land Conservation Leadership Award winners.

Gathering Waters had the honor of presenting five Land Conservation Leadership Awards in 2021.

The awards recognize the outstanding accomplishments and contributions of individuals and organizations that devote their time and talents to protect Wisconsin’s land, water, and wildlife. Their outstanding commitment to conservation will leave a lasting positive impact on Wisconsin as they pass the love of the land on to the next generation.

Gathering Waters was pleased to present most of the awards this summer and fall at events held in each winner’s community.

“It was a privilege for me to attend locally hosted events honoring each of the Land Conservation Leadership Award winners,” said Mike Carlson, executive director of Gathering Waters. “Many times, the winner’s family and friends attended the events and took part in the celebration. It is such an honor to recognize people who have invested a good deal of their lives to protect the places that make Wisconsin a healthier place to live, work, farm, and play.”

The first presentation of the summer was made to John Gehl, founder of the Faye Gehl Conservation Foundation. John was the distinguished winner of the 2021 Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation. He received his award on July 29, 2021 at an event hosted by Tall Pines Conservancy on its Eschweiler Lavery Conservation Easement in northern Waukesha County.

This year, we presented two Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Awards to people who have dedicated their lives to conservation.

Tom Eddy was recognized for his efforts to protect lands surrounding Green Lake, especially the Tichora Conservancy project. Green Lake Conservancy hosted a luncheon in Green Lake on September 2, 2021 to honor Tom’s lifetime of work and present the 2021 Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award.

Susan Foote-Martin and Mark Martin also received the 2021 Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award during an outdoor celebration held on September 15, 2021 in their honor. Seventy-five of their friends and colleagues attended the event, which included monarch tagging and dinner at Madison Audubon’s Goose Pond Sanctuary in Arlington, Wisconsin.

The final presentation of the year occurred on September 30, 2021 at a discreet ceremony honoring 2021 Land Legacy Award winner, the Paul E. Stry Foundation. The presentation, hosted by Mississippi Valley Conservancy, took place on the top of Miller Bluff in La Crosse. The Paul E. Stry Foundation has helped to protect many areas in the Driftless Area, keeping with the wishes of Paul E. Stry, who created the foundation to protect and preserve five acres of family land outside La Crosse, now known as the Paul E. Stry Preserve.

Looking ahead, the presentation of the 2021 Conservationist of the Year Award to honor Don Pluemer of Montfort will be scheduled in 2022. Don has spent thousands of hours improving nearly 18 miles of coldwater streams and trout habitat in southwest Wisconsin.

Catching up on a 2020 award presentation that was delayed due to the pandemic, the Making Allies for Healthier Communities partnership received their 2020 Rod Nilsestuen Award for Working Lands Preservation at Ozaukee Washington Land Trust’s Pairings on the Preserves event on September 25, 2021. Making Allies for Healthier Communities partners include Ozaukee Washington Land Trust, The Fondy Food Center, the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District, and The Conservation Fund. These organizations formed a partnership to protect farmland and provide a livelihood and the opportunity for land ownership for immigrant or beginning farmers.

In 2022, Gathering Waters plans to recognize another 2020 award winner whose celebration was delayed. Peter McKeever was awarded the 2020 Harold “Bud” Jordahl Lifetime Achievement Award for his passion for land protection and his skills as an attorney. Peter has made an extraordinary and lasting contribution to the land conservation community across Wisconsin.

Nominations for next year’s Land Conservation Leadership Awards will open in early 2022. Stay tuned, and start thinking about who you will nominate!