Town of Dunn Honored With 2022 Working Lands Preservation Award

A small group of people standing together outside in front a big field with some trees off to the right.

The Town of Dunn received the 2022 Working Lands Preservation Award from Gathering Waters on Wednesday, July 27, 2022 during the Town of Dunn Food Cart Night, hosted by Groundswell Conservancy. This special night was also the kick-off event for Wisconsin Land Trust Days! The event was held on a beautiful property owned by Carole and Don Schmidt, which is forever protected with a conservation easement through Groundswell Conservancy and the Town of Dunn’s Purchase of Development Rights Program (PDR).

The Town of Dunn in Dane County has been protecting working agricultural lands for 26 years through its PDR program, becoming the first community in the state to do so. Through the PDR program, landowners voluntarily agree to restrict land use on their property, ensuring the land will be permanently protected from development. Rather than imposing restrictions on landowners, the PDR program allows landowners to opt in to land protection.

The Town has partnered with Groundswell Conservancy to co-hold conservation easements that specify land uses. Together, they protected the first property, a 174-acre farm, through the PDR program on Earth Day in 1997. 

The Town of Dunn’s efforts were led for many years by former Town Chair Ed Minihan, who passed away in August 2021. His legacy and vision live on through the Town’s current Board members. The Town now holds conservation easements on just over 3,800 acres, working with Groundswell Conservancy and other organizations to protect 18 percent of the Town’s land base.

The Town of Dunn is an inspiration to other communities, and the Town’s commitment to land protection certainly deserves to be celebrated! Working lands are vital to our economy, our way of life, and our natural environment.

Protecting working agricultural lands from development is more important than ever, especially in a fast-growing area like Dane County. The Town of Dunn’s PDR program has clearly been and continues to be a resounding success.

About the Land Conservation Leadership Awards

The Land Conservation Leadership Awards recognize the outstanding achievements and contributions of people who devote their time and talents to protecting Wisconsin’s land, water, and wildlife. The awards are presented annually to conservation leaders by Gathering Waters.

About the Working Lands Preservation Award

The Working Lands Preservation Award recognizes individuals or organizations that exhibit extraordinary commitment to the preservation of Wisconsin’s working lands.

Cover photo provided by: Town of Dunn showing members of the Town of Dunn Land Trust Commission at Sinaiko Park, overlooking the first farmland preserved through a Purchase of Development Rights program in Wisconsin. Pictured left to right: Greg Delwiche, Kevin Oppermann, Terry Parisi, Don Schmidt (Sinaiko Park prairie caretaker), and Diane Farsetta. Not pictured: Chair Tom Shepherd, Mike Carlson, Porter Martin.