WI Land+Water 2020 Annual Report

Page 1

Annual Report


Locally Led Conservation


Contents 3




Lands, Waters, and People


Committee Highlights


Supporting Locally Led Conservation


Our Community


Protecting our land and water resources


Welcome Just days after WI Land+Water concluded its 67th Annual Conference on March 6, 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced immediate worldwide closures and quarantines, affecting every WI Land+Water county member, staff member, partner organization or agency, and more, in ways we are continuing to understand. We did not know at the time that it would be the first of several momentous events in our country that would make 2020 a difficult year, and one we are not likely to forget anytime soon. The combination of the pandemic, nationwide social unrest and calls for racial justice, and a bruising presidential campaign, left us unsettled as a country. All of this on top of the existing crises that the we continue to face around climate change and economic uncertainty in farm country. Few among us can recall a time our nation has faced greater questions about what the path forward looks like. So as we look back and take stock of our successes in an unprecedented year like 2020, alongside the usual metrics and statistics displayed in the following pages, we should also note the leadership, perseverance, and adaptation demonstrated by WI Land+Water members, and staff, that was necessary to get through such a year. Our member county land and water conservation departments and committees adapted their programs and services to continue to meet the needs of their communities, whether this meant conducting business masked in the parking lot, or through new physical locations or potentially challenging technologies that allowed for “virtual” meetings. In doing so, county LCCs and LCDs demonstrated how locally led conservation has always operated— adapting to best meet the needs of their communities. Our WI Land+Water staff pivoted to working remotely, away from the tight physical confines of our office. “Pivoting” was no small feat—it entailed completely re-thinking and overhauling well-established and successful planning approaches to trainings, events, and even meetings. We successfully engaged more people than ever through our “virtual” trainings and webinars, and even engaged members who we don’t typically see at our meetings. Additionally, we successfully hosted virtual county conservation meetings, one of which featured Lt. Governor Mandela Barnes, and found that despite the physical distance between remote attendees, we were able to continue to provide a way for our members to meaningfully connect with each other, and with our conservation partners. Despite its challenges, 2020 still had some bright spots. Notably, it was the first year ever that our Association enjoyed 100% membership from all Wisconsin counties. We are humbled by and grateful for this support. The strength of our organization has always resided in our membership, and by this metric, we are stronger than ever as we head into 2021.

Matt Krueger Executive Director


Lands, Waters, and People WI Land+Water uniquely serves Wisconsin—its lands, waters, and people—through our membership, public programs, leadership, and resources. We work at the center of Wisconsin’s conservation network, supporting the Land Conservation Committees and Departments in advancing our mission and vision for all communities.


Our Organization

Our Members

We have seven staff members in our Madison office, but the entire organization includes the Board of Directors, eight committees & Area Associations, as well as the broader network of public, private, non-profit partners, and volunteers across Wisconsin.

Our membership is comprised of all 450 members serving on county Land Conservation Committees and 370 county staff members of the Land Conservation Departments across Wisconsin.

Land Conservation Departments

Land Conservation Committees

All county governments in Wisconsin have a Land Conservation Department (LCD) responsible for carrying out programs and projects that locally conserve Wisconsin’s land and water resources. Through their leadership and expertise, LCD staff provide educational, technical, and conservation planning assistance in their communities as the boots-on-the-ground drivers of action.

Comprised of publicly elected and appointed county board members, Land Conservation Committees (LCCs) take a lead role in local land and water resource protection. They set the course for conservation in their counties and work closely with their respective LCDs to put planning into action.

Our Mission We work to protect, conserve, and enhance Wisconsin’s natural resources by advocating for and supporting county conservation efforts for current and future generations.

Our Vision We envision a future where our natural resources are valued and protected by informed, empowered communities advancing conservation at the local level.

Board of Directors & The Executive Committee WI Land+Water’s Board of Directors oversees our organization. The Board is comprised of eight LCC members and eight LCD staff members, representing each of the Area Associations. The Executive Committee fulfills the obligations and conducts the business of the Board between board meetings. The Executive Committee is also comprised of equal parts LCC and LCD members.

Advisers We work with federal and state agencies to collaborate on conservation programs and projects.

Standing Committees There are seven additional committees that help oversee different programs and components of WI Land+Water, made up of LCC and LCD members, WI Land+Water staff, and agency partners. See page 11 for committee highlights.

Area Associations Eight area associations streamline the common interests of county conservation efforts for the regions, facilitate information exchange, sponsor educational and training events, elect area representatives to the WI Land+Water Board of Directors, and draft area resolutions for consideration at the WI Land+Water annual conference. 5

Supporting Locally Led Conservation

Policy and Advocacy

We advocate for locally led conservation and champion policies to promote county-based conservation work in Wisconsin.

Legislative/Administrative Committee Advocacy efforts are informed by our Legislative/Administrative Committee. The committee promotes the values of local control and flexibility in implementing conservation programs, including regulatory and voluntary approaches.

We help shape urban and agricultural standards by utilizing the diverse expertise and experiences of our partners and team members.

Technical Standards

Standards Oversight Council The Standards Oversight Council is an

interagency collaboration to assist partner agencies in the development of uniform technical standards that protect Wisconsin’s natural resources. These standards are used by NRCS, DATCP, DNR, and counties in implementing urban and rural conservation

State Land & Water Conservation Board We elect three members to the state Land and Water Conservation Board that help to connect local and state governments on conservation and farmland preservation issues.

Area Associations Eight area associations are organized to further the common interests of county conservation programs in their areas, facilitate information exchange, sponsor educational and training events, elect area representatives to the Board of Directors, and provide area resolutions for consideration at the annual meeting.

practices across the state. Teams mixed with both public and private sector participants use available research, technology, and field experience to create and update technical standards. This interdisciplinary, collaborative forum helps provide uniform planning, design, and installation criteria. The SOC process encourages broad public input to improve the quality and implementation of conservation standards. SOC also supports outreach to build awareness and participation in the SOC process and helps coordinate training efforts at the completion of standards. needs through a coordinated and efficient

We build teams of approach for building a statewide team of well-trained conservation well-trained conservation professionals to professionals that teach cutting provide soil and water conservation. edge best management practices Annual Conference for soil and water conservation. Each March, we hold an annual conference

Conservation Training SITCOM The State Interagency Training Committee (SITCOM) is comprised of staff from WI Land+Water, DATCP, UW-Madison, Extension, Land Conservation Departments, DNR, NRCS, and the private sector. SITCOM identifies individual training


to provide networking opportunities and forums for discussing programs, practices, and new ideas. Breakout sessions also allow attendees to build technical knowledge and become inspired by others’ passion for conservation across the state. Our Professional Improvement Committee provides leadership in developing the conference agenda with support from the Technical Committee and SITCOM.

We teach and inspire Wisconsin’s youth to be the next generation of environmental stewardsthrough engaging educational programs.

Youth Education

Students compete in county and area competitions with the winners moving on to compete at the state competition at our Annual Conference. The first-place posters from the state competition represent Wisconsin in the National Association of Conservation Districts’ national competition.

Envirothon Wisconsin Envirothon is our state’s ultimate middle and high school environmental science challenge. Teams of four or five students participate in hands-on, outdoor field challenges designed by natural resource professionals and educators. The winning high school team moves on to represent Wisconsin at the National Conservation Foundation Envirothon.

“ Source Water Protection

Poster & Speaking Contest

We create strong local partnerships tasked with ensuring communities have access to clean groundwater and safe drinking water throughout Wisconsin.

Nitrate Initiative The nitrate initiative is a statewide effort

to incorporate source water protection into county planning by identifying nitrate trends and creating local partnerships with the shared goal of reducing nitrate in community drinking water through costeffective methods.

Conservation Camps Our conservation camps provide positive educational outdoor experiences, foster an appreciation for nature, and introduce a variety of careers in natural resources. Professionals from various agencies present programs on topics like wildlife, habitat water quality, fisheries, forestry, orienteering and canoeing.

Health & Conservation Partnership We facilitate a collaboration between county health departments and county conservation departments, which are recognizing their complementary roles in ensuring safe drinking water for their communities. This exciting partnership between members of WI Land+Water and the Wisconsin Association for Local Health Department and Boards (WALHDAB) is enabling counties and residents to make well-informed decisions, based on shared data and resources.

“ Communications

We share conservation from passionate private landowners and successes, innovative groups to improve our lands and waters. solutions, and the hard work Conservation News of local leaders to underscore Sent out biweekly, our conservation the impact of locally led news is a public resource organizing all conservation across Wisconsin conservation-related articles in one place.

Success Stories Success stories are in-depth articles that feature the projects and programs of county conservation department staff and supervisors. These stories highlight the relationship-building that is often required to successfully implement conservation on the landscape, as well as the engagement

Subscribing on our website is free, easy, and encouraged.

Outreach Committee The Outreach Committee works with the our Communications & Media Coordinator to develop the internal communication within the association and helps shape external messaging as well. 7

Policy and Advocacy Legislative Successes: • Worked to build bipartisan support for county conservation funding bill AB 790, which unanimously passed the Assembly 97-0. As the Senate did not reconvene to pass companion bill SB 723 (or any bill), the bill unfortunately died. Above: Matt Krueger, Dann Zerr, and Lt. Gov Mandela Barnes at the virtual County Conservation meeting in July. Below: Chris Clayton (DNR) discusses the Nitrate Targeted Perfomance Standard.

• Announced a partnership around clean water with Dairy Business Association, Clean Wisconsin, and the Nature Conservancy. These conservation and agricultural groups agreed to come together in support of clean water and resilient farms, and will be working toward joint action in these areas in the months ahead. • Created opportunities for members to engage on issues of importance with agency staff at the Natural Resources Conservation Service, Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources, and the Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection.

Youth Education Our Youth Education program continues to grow, with a record number of students participating in all three of our programs. Conservation Poster & Speaking Contests, Wisconsin Envirothon, and our Youth Conservation Camps. After our successful Conservation Poster & Speaking Contest the country shut down due to COVID-19. We were in the final planning stages of the WI Envirothon and with schools moving to online to finish out the year we had to unfortunately cancel the Wisconsin Envirothon. Our supporters and sponsors asked us to hang on to their donations and apply it to the 2021 program. Our students, advisors and sponsors were so understanding and we couldn’t have done it without their support. Ultimately, the NCF-Envirothon ended up cancelling their national event. We were hopeful our Conservation Camps would be held mid-summer, but with the state and country still shut down we also had to cancel our conservation camps. We were fortunate we were able to hold our annual conference in March and students were able to participate in the Conservation Poster & Speaking Contest. Teams across the state signed up to participate in the WI Envirothon before its cancellation

The Wisconsin Envirothon is made possible by the generous support from our sponsors: Outdoor Heritage Education Center • The Robert W. and Susan T. Brown Family Foundation • Cellcom • Conserve School • Smithfield Foods, Inc. • Wisconsin County Forests Assoc, Inc. • Advanced Disposal • WI Farm Bureau Foundation • Petenwell & Castle Rock Stewards • Pheasants Forever, Inc. - Outagame Chapter• Lands’ End • Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association • Southern Land & Water Area Association

To keep up with our programs, follow us on Facebook and visit our program’s website.

3,058 posters were submitted in the Conservation Awareness Poster Contest

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resource professionals and educators were signed up to volunteer for Enivronthon

students presented speeches at the State Conservation Awareness Speaking Contest

Technical Standards The Standards Oversight Council supported its partner custodian agencies—Wisconsin Dept. of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection, Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Conservation Service— in developing work teams, soliciting public comments, and spreading the word about publication of revised technical standards. • The DATCP 01 Verification of Depth to Bedrock standard was released for both expert and broad public review in 2020 and the SOC teamwork completed. This standard is expected to be published in 2021. This standard will be used in verifying and documenting depth to bedrock to dispute existing bedrock map information in support of implementation of s. NR 151.075, Wisc. Adm. Code. • Throughout 2020, a team of experts met regularly to review and update four NRCS conservation practice standards (CPSs) concurrently: CPS 395 Stream Habitat Improvement and Management, CPS 580 Streambank and Shoreline Protection, CPS 582 Open Channel, and CPS 584 Channel Bed Stabilization. The standard revisions will identify procedures for stream assessments and establish the hydraulic criteria for proportioning a stable stream channel, floodplain, and planform system.


revised technical standards published

397 53




These standards are expected to be out for broad review and then published in 2021. • The DNR 1010 Proprietary Storm Water Filtration Devices standard was published in 2020 with multiple training events to assist with implementation. This standard defines the criteria for predicting the reduction in total suspended solids and phosphorus, if appropriate, that are achieved by proprietary filtration devices. • The broad review was completed for DNR 1061 Dewatering Practices for Sediment Control. The updated standard was published in 2020 and SOC supported webinar training events led by DNR. • Throughout 2020, a SOC stakeholder team worked toward developing criteria for a new standard, DNR 1072 Horizontal Directional Drilling. This team began by reviewed existing research and contractor and engineering procedures and plans to minimize and respond to inadvertent releases. This standard is expected to be out for broad review and subsequently published in 2021. For a full report on SOC accomplishments, view the SOC annual report at www.socwisconsin.org.


total participants in SOC-supported trainings


different employers represented on active SOC work teams

Source Water Protection As 2019 was declared “the Year of Clean Drinking Water” by Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers, there was much public attention and legislative action directed towards the issues around local groundwater management. WI Land+Water Source Water Protection program and our Land and Water Conservation Departments have been active in this effort to improve drinking water across the state. We see success when our counties are empowered to lead their communities in improving drinking water through increased sampling, comprehensive resource planning, and targeted implementation. • Our public health partners were shifted to support COVID measures in their counties and the Health & Conservation Workgroup was put on hiatus. • Counties across the state increased their efforts to integrate groundwater into their local programs. They invested time and county funds, they connected with local and statewide partners, and they helped homeowners and farmers chart down a path to clean, safe drinking water. The first 9KE plan with integrated groundwater component was approved in Adams County, and a draft was initiated in Rock County.

• We continued to work with UWSP groundwater expert, Kevin Masarik’s to share new research and tools developed by UWSP, including the Leachable N Calculator and the Nitrate in Wisconsin’s Public Water Systems mapping tool. • Though groundwater protection legislation was stalled due to COVID, the NR151 technical standard for susceptible soils continued on. Pepin, Walworth, and Rock counties represented county interests through the revision process.


Conservation Training A Year of Learning WI Land+Water is committed to providing their members with high quality, relevant trainings to develop and maintain highly trained conservation staff and supervisors. This program is comprised of consistent learning programs that enhance skill development Annually WI Land+Water, along with members of the State Interagency Training Committee, identifies educational needs and collaborate to provide trainings. SITCOM is comprised of staff from WI Land+Water, DATCP, DNR, NRCS, UW-Madison Division of Extension, UW-Madison College of Ag and Life Sciences, Area Interagency Training Committees, Professional Improvement Committee, Technical Committee, and member at large-professional engineering practitioner. SITCOM went through a year-long assessment, and developed new operational guidance and processes. They conducted a statewide training needs survey for the first time in many years. More information about SITCOM can be found on our website. During the coronavirus WI Land+Water converted their trainings to virtual which substantially increased attendance and the number of trainings offered. When they meet the qualifications, our trainings offer Continuing Education Units (CEUs) and Professional Development Hours (PDHs). WI Land+Water continues to offer a robust training program as shown in the following deliverables:

2,286 541 40 162

2020 Conservation Award Winners Kevin & Carolyn Parr of Harmony Hills Farm Conservation Farm Family of the Year Seth Ebel, Outstanding Conservation Employee, Engineer Eric Fehlhaber, Outstanding Conservation Employee, County Conservationist Representative Katrina Shankland Friend of Conservation Zach Wilson, Iron County Brad Matson Youth Education Award

people attended 36 live webinars hosted by WI Land+Water. Webinar recordings are posted on our media website. people attended 3 in-person trainings offered by WI Land+Water Zach Wilson (second from left) received the first Brad Matson Youth Education Award

training sessions were offered at the 67th Annual coference with over 400 attendees members attended our County Conservationists meetings

In addition, we developed a prerecorded webinar series providing basic information about WI Land+Water and agency programs. These videos are less than ten minutes in length and can be found on our media site. WI Land+Water distributes a SITCOM Training E-newsletter twice a month to over 1,400 people. This e-newsletter offers a wide variety of training opportunities. Training opportunities and the most recent SITCOM Training E-newsletters are posted on the WI Land+Water website. To find out more, contact WI Land+Water Conservation Training & Membership Services Manager Penny Pohle at penny@wisconsinlandwater.org 10

Kevin & Caroline Parr of Harmony Hills Farm (second and third from left)

Membership Services WI Land+Water maintains an up-to-date statewide directory of county staff, conservation committee supervisors, and committee advisors on our website. The directory includes links to state and federal agencies, boards, and associations. WI Land+Water also maintains a variety of listservs which enable electronic information sharing with the following groups and committees: • • • • •

Conservation department staff Conservation committee supervisors and members County conservationists WI Land+Water Board of Directors All WI Land+Water committees

The Service Recognition Program recognizes county conservation staff for their years of services at certain milestones. The combined experience of conservation staff is around 4,970 years!

2020 Committee Highlights Great Lakes Committee The Great Lakes Committee (GLC) works to support, promote, and develop county land and water programming to protect, conserve, and enhance natural resources in the Great Lakes basin. • Adopted the Guiding Principles. • Held elections in June confirming Chair and Vice Chair (Greg Coulthurst / Ashley Vande Voort) • Sponsored a webinar on Prioritizing Contaminants in Natural Waters: Microplastics, PAHs, Flame Retardants and Other Organic Compounds • The annual tour postponed/canceled due to the pandemic. • Mini-grants approved for Douglas, Oconto, Shawano, and Sheboygan counties Legislative/Administrative Committee The Legislative/Administrative Committee reviews and takes action deemed necessary on proposed legislation, policies, or procedures that may impact our conservation programs. • Identified challenges with existing resolution process; proposed new process for vetting WI Land+Water resolutions, incorporating oversight and input on particular resolution proposals from committees of relevance and better integration into advocacy efforts • Identified challenges and opportunities related to nutrient management, informed by reps from land and water conservation departments, UW-Madison Division of Extension, Dept. of Natural Resources, and Dept. of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection Professional Improvement Committee The Professional Improvement Committee coordinates the annual conference, which provides high quality training and educational sessions for our membership and the public. • Helped organize breakout sessions and provided support for sessions at the annual conference • Provided support for the silent auction • Managed the member training scholarship program • Promoted and judged conservation awards

Public Outreach Committee The Public Outreach Committee assists counties with promoting programs and services, as well as helping develop a unified voice for the Association. • Further developed the Conservation Across Wisconsin mapping tool Technical Committee The Technical Committee manages technical issues and provides guidence for technical projects across Wisconsin. The Committee welcomed Tina Barone (Dunn Co.) and Ken Porzorski (Marathon Co.). There were also some departures from this Committee, and we would like to thank Paul Sebo (Washington Co.—10 years!) and Adam Groshek (Wood Co.) for their service. • Followed progress related to technical standards: DATCP Verification of Depth to Bedrock, DNR Proprietary Storm Water Filtration Devices, and the NRCS grouping of 4 stream protection and restoration-related standards • Continued to work on the development of the “Significant Discharge” Guidance Document for process wastewater • Coordinated technical sessions for the 2021 WI Land+Water Conference • Provided State NRCS Technical Subcommittee updates • Promoted the revitalization of the AutoCAD Users Group • Provided quarterly SOC updates (presented by the SOC Program Manager) • Promoted the WI Land+Water Technical Photo Gallery Youth Education Committee The Youth Education Committee coordinates all the youth programs - Poster & Speaking Contest, Conservation Camps, and Envirothon. • Awarded the first Brad Matson youth education award to Zach Wilson, Iron County • Increased county participation in annual conservation poster contest by over 800 posters submitted • Expanded the number of donations and support for our Youth Education programs through our Silent Auction • Continued support from counties through WI Envirothon dues

Budget Summary Expenditures

Revenue Revenue






4% 20%

Membership Dues


Events 19% 51%

State Grants


7% 36%

15% 12%

Federal Grants 17%

Policy Advocacy


Source Water Protection Technical Expertise Training


Youth Education NRCS Contribution Agreement 11

Our Community WI Land+Water Staff

Board of Directors


Matt Krueger Executive Director

Lake Michigan Ken Dolata, Oconto County Chuck Wagner, Kewaunee County

Executive Bob Micheel, Monroe County, President

Christina Anderson Source Water Protection Program Manager Kate Brunner Standards Oversight Council Program Manager Kristin Teston Communications Manager Penny Pohle Conservation Training & Membership Services Manager Chris Schlutt Training and Events Manager Kim Warkentin Operations Manager & Youth Education Director

Area Associations Lake Michigan Area Coordinator Ken Dolata, Oconto County Lake Winnebago Area Coordinator Chad Casper and Mary Koch, Winnebago County Southeastern Area Coordinator Gary Korb, Southeastern Wisconsin Regional Planning Commission Stephanie Egner, Washington County

Lake Winnebago Brian Haase, Waupaca County Mike Hofberger, Calumet County

Great Lakes Greg Coulthurst, Door County, Chair Legislative/Administrative Kurt Calkins, Columbia County, Chair

Southeastern Alan Barrows, Waukesha County, Treasurer Monte Osterman, Racine County, Chair/ Vice-President

Mississippi River Basin Rod Webb, Pierce County, Chair

Southern Amy Piaget, Dane County Melissa Luck, Richland County, Exec. Comm.

Professional Improvement Tony Reali, Calumet County, Chair

Western Bob Micheel, Monroe County, President/ViceChair Kathy Zeglin, Trempealeau County

Public Outreach Paul Backhaus, Washington County, Chair

Technical Matt Hanewall, LaCrosse County, Chair Youth Education Tracy Arnold, Portage County, Chair

West Central Chase Cummings, Dunn County Russell Rindsig, Barron County


Northwestern Ben Dufford, Bayfield County Craig Conroy, Burnett County

Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR)

North Central Carolyn Scholl, Vilas County, Secratary Bob Mott, Oneida County, Exec. Comm.

UW-Madison Divison of Extension

Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP)

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) Wisconsin Counties Association

Southern Area Coordinator Lynda Schweikert, Grant County Western Area Coordinator Gaylord Olson II, Jackson County West Central Area Coordinator Rod Webb, Pierce County Northwestern Area Coordinator Heather Palmquist, Iron County North Central Area Coordinator Steve Kircher, Forest County

Photo Credits The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources The Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade & Consumer Protection CC Attribution 3.0 Unported License Dave Hoefler (pp. 4-5)

wisconsinlandwater.org 131 W. Wilson St. #601 Madison, WI 53703 (608)441-2677 F: (608)441-2676