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Resources for Wisconsin Land Trusts

May 3-5, 2023
Stoney Creek Hotel & Conference Center,
La Crosse, WI

Overview

The Wisconsin Land Trust Conference is a biannual networking, training, and inspirational event especially for land trust staff, board members, and conservation partners.

The 2023 conference was Wednesday, May 3 to Friday, May 5 at the Stoney Creek Hotel in La Crosse.

We covered the future of conservation funding in Wisconsin, inclusion in the outdoors, and the anatomy of a land deal. We delved into tools for strategic conservation planning and fundraising. And practiced essential skills for collaboration and communication—for personal growth, team building, and stronger community connections.

Read more about our takeaways from the 2023 conference.

Other activities included an evening gathering at the conference center on Wednesday and a field trip to Greens Coulee Nature Preserve on Thursday.

The next conference is tentatively expected to be offered in 2025.

Join Us

Registration IS CLOSED

Online registration is now closed. Please contact Rhianon Morgan, info@gatheringwaters.org or 608-251-9131 X16, if you would like to attend. Space permitting, we may be able to accept additional registrations.

$250 member*, $300 non-member, $115 student

* Board and staff members of a Gathering Waters member land trust, and individual members of Gathering Waters are eligible for the member rate, a savings of $50

One-day rates are also available
$130 member*, $155 non-member, $75 student

Online registration closes April 18

Scholarships

The deadline to apply for a registration scholarship has passed.

Wednesday, May 3

Day One

People are at the heart of land trust work. You make conservation happen! Whether you’re new to land trusts or have been at this for years, practicing some essential skills will improve your ability to navigate interpersonal relationships, communicate effectively, focus your attention on priorities, and make meetings matter. Enhance your success in work…and life!

This is part one of a two-part session. Join us in the afternoon to continue working on the skills you didn’t cover in the morning.

Continue the discussion from the morning, switching which skills you focus on.

Facilitators: Jennifer Wilson, New Leaf Coaching and Consulting; Meg Domroese, Gathering Waters

Panelists: MaryKay O’Donnell, Land Trust Alliance; Matt Reetz, Madison Audubon; Angela West Blank, Groundswell Conservancy

What does access and belonging look like in outdoor recreation on land trust properties? Through expert briefings and small group discussions, we will reflect on these concepts in land trust spaces and programs. Together, we will generate and share strategies that reduce barriers, improve access, and promote belonging.

Gather on site at Stoney Creek for networking, dinner, drinks, and fun.

The Dessert Potluck Competition is on! Drop off desserts to share (and any necessary utensils) when you check in for the Conference. We will provide napkins, plates, forks & spoons.

Thursday, May 4

Day Two

Staying at Stoney Creek Hotel? Breakfast is included with your stay, open 6:30 – 9:30 am.

Light breakfast available for those staying off-site or just arriving.

Jason Stein, Wisconsin Policy Forum
Charlie Carlin, Gathering Waters
Mike Carlson, Gathering Waters

The future of conservation finance in Wisconsin raises many questions. What is the outlook for the Knowles-Nelson Stewardship Program? How do other states fund conservation? Are there creative solutions that could be brought to Wisconsin?

We will present findings from a new report on conservation finance by the Wisconsin Policy Forum and discuss political and advocacy strategies for funding conservation and fixing Knowles-Nelson.

Charlie Carlin, Gathering Waters
Kari Kirschbaum, Northwoods Land Trust
Mike Koutnik, Consultant

GIS tools can put an enormous amount of data at your fingertips. Organized and harnessed well, those data can help you communicate the conservation value of your land trust’s holdings and make informed decisions about projects to pursue next.

Learn how Wisconsin land trusts have developed and utilized GIS-based decision support tools to further their conservation efforts.

For hands-on experience with the tool, attend Part 2 at 1:30 pm.

Co-hosts:
Sara Norman, Landmark Conservancy
Tony Abate, Groundswell Conservancy

Bring your experiences, ideas, and questions to a peer discussion on community engagement.

Charlie Carlin, Gathering Waters
Mike Koutnik, Consultant

Test drive a new statewide GIS decision support tool that can provide insights about your current property portfolio and inform priorities for future acquisitions.

This tool builds on those developed for individual land trusts and for the southeast region of WI. Try out the new tool and provide feedback that we’ll incorporate as we refine and make it accessible to Gathering Waters’ members.

Part 1 at 10:30 am will provide valuable context for this hands-on session.

David Allen, Development for Conservation

Every board member should play a role in fundraising, but not everyone has to add to the equation in the same way. The “Triple-A” model (created by Kaye Sprinkel Grace) provides a way to talk about each member’s interests and competencies and how to utilize these as part of an organization’s development team.

Gain insights and tools to assess the mix of ambassadors, advocates, and askers on your board, and to identify where further training and recruitment could be helpful.

Gather your gear to go outside on the field trip.

Enjoy a field trip to Greens Coulee Nature Preserve owned by the City of Onalaska, protected by Mississippi Valley Conservancy.

Connect with your people—in similar roles, or with similar goals or conservation priorities— for a cold drink at the onsite bar, a walk, or dinner on the town.

Friday, May 5

Day Three

Staying at Stoney Creek Hotel? Breakfast is included with your stay, open 6:30 – 9:30 am.

Light breakfast available for those staying off-site.

Moderator: MaryKay O’Donnell, Land Trust Alliance

Panelists: Terrie Cooper, Door County Land Trust; Chris Gutschenritter, Gathering Waters; Rick Remington, Landmark Conservancy

What everyone at a land trust needs to know. Discuss strategies to respond to trends facing land trusts during the land acquisition process, from board composition to monitoring.

Carol Abrahamzon, Mississippi Valley Conservancy; David Allen, Development for Conservation; Kristin Thompson, Landmark Conservancy; Creal Zearing, Gathering Waters

Whether advancement, conservation, communication, or something else, working across roles at a land trust is important for building relationships and trust in your community. It can enhance the work of your land trust in dealing with donors, investigating land gifts, planned gifts, legacy planning…and more.

More information coming soon!

The conference begins on Wednesday, May 3 at 10 am and concludes at noon on Friday, May 5. Join us to learn, network, and celebrate successes.


The program will feature topics of interest for all. Whether your role is managing land, people, or finances, or securing funding, there is something for you.

Our Speakers

Session presenters. panelists, and moderators bring perspectives from their varied experiences across Wisconsin land trusts and beyond. Learn more about the people who led 2023 conference sessions below.

Tony Abate

Conservation Director, Groundswell Conservancy

Carol Abrahamzon

Executive Director, Mississippi Valley Conservancy

David Allen

Consultant, Development for Conservation

Charlie Carlin

Director of Strategic Initiatives, Gathering Waters

Mike Carlson

Executive Director, Gathering Waters

Terrie Cooper

Senior Land Protection Manager, Door County Land Trust

Meg Domroese

Director of Programs and Impact, Gathering Waters

Chris Gutschenritter

Director of Land Conservation Law Program, Gathering Waters

Kari Kirschbaum

Land Protection Director, Northwoods Land Trust

Mike Koutnik

Owner, Michael A. Koutnik Consulting

Sara Norman

Community Outreach Coordinator, Landmark Conservancy

MaryKay O’Donnell

Midwest Senior Program Manager, Land Trust Alliance

Matt Reetz

Executive Director, Madison Audubon

Rick Remington

Conservation Director, Landmark Conservancy

Jason Stein

Vice President and Research Director, Wisconsin Policy Forum

Kristin Thompson

Advancement Director, Landmark Conservancy

Ian Walker

CEO, PeopleFirst Leadership Partners

Angela West Blank

Executive Director, Groundswell Conservancy

Jennifer Wilson

Founder and Principal, New Leaf Coaching and Consulting

Creal Zearing

Director of Philanthropy, Gathering Waters

FAQs

The conference is designed for land trust staff and board members alike! Attendance is typically 75-100 people, representing land trusts and conservation partners from across the state. 

The schedule typically includes some sessions that are attended by the entire group, as well as “concurrent” sessions where you can choose between multiple topics scheduled at a given time. There is also plenty of time for networking over breakfast or lunch, between sessions, and in the evening.

The conference location changes from year to year. The 2023 conference was held at the Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in La Crosse.

The conference is held every other year in the spring. 

The dates and location of the 2025 conference have not been decided yet.

Registration for the 2025 conference will open in late 2024 or early 2025.

For questions about the registration process or cost, please contact Rhianon Morgan, info@gatheringwaters.org or 608-251-9131 X16.

We are able to refund 50% of the registration fee if you notify us you're unable to attend by a certain date. 

Conference sessions were not recorded. If you couldn’t make it, we hope to see you soon at other learning opportunities. 

Visit our Learning webpage to learn more.

Dress is casual and layers are recommended for your comfort. The event is mostly indoors, but we try to schedule an outdoor field trip as well.

This varies based on the location and timing of the event. Breakfast is typically included with your lodging if you are staying overnight at the hotel. Conference meals usually include lunch each day and refreshments at break times. Dinner is sometimes provided, or you'll have plenty of recommendations for where to go in town.

The Dessert Potluck Competition is a long-standing Wisconsin land trust tradition. Participants bring a dessert to share for the event. An expert panel of unbiased judges selects a winner. 😉

The winner of the 2023 competition was Becky Wadleigh from North Central Conservancy Trust. Congratulations Becky!

You can find all you need to know about conference sponsorship here in this packet.

Have questions? Contact creal@gatheringwaters.org.

Please contact Rhianon Morgan, info@gatheringwaters.org or 608-251-9131 X16, and we’ll do our best to provide you with an answer.

Venue &
Lodging

Stoney Creek Hotel - La Crosse

In 2023, we returned to Stoney Creek Hotel - La Crosse, where we held the 2018 conference. The venue offers rustic charm, meeting rooms, and lodging all in one location.

A block of rooms was available at Stoney Creek Hotel at a group rate of $105/night. Complimentary breakfast was included.

Reserve Online

1. Check that the webpage says “La Crosse” at the top.
2. Select “Add Code” and select “Group Attendee” from the dropdown.
3. Enter the block code: 0503LANDTRUST.

Reserve by Phone

1. Call the hotel at 608-781-3060 and press 3 to reach the front desk.
2. Mention the block name “Wisconsin Land Trust Conference” or block code 0503LANDTRUST when booking.

Thank You

2023 Conference Sponsors

Our sponsors play an essential role in the success of the Conference. If you would like information or to discuss particular sponsorship opportunities, please reach out to Creal Zearing, at 608-251-9131 x18 or creal@gatheringwaters.org

WILandTrusts.org is the services branch of Gathering Waters, serving member land trusts across the state. To become a member, or for more information, please contact us.